Housework and Child-Care Responsibilities

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Housework and Child-Care Responsibilities
1bday. over 50 percent of all marriages in the United States are dual-earner marritlges marriages in which both spouses are in the labor force. More than half of all employed women hold full-time. year-round jobs, Even when their children are very young. most working mothers work full time. For example. in 2005 more than 60 percent of employed mothers with children under age 6 worked full time (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). Moreover. as Chapter 11 points out. many married women leave their paid employment at the end of the day and then go home to perform hours of housework and child care. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild (1989.2003) refers to this as the second shiftthe that employed women perform at home after they complete their workday on the job. Thus. many married women today contribute to the economic well-being of their families and also meet many. if not all. of the domestic needs of family members by cooking. cleaning. shopping. taking care of children. and managing household routines. According to Hochschild, the unpaid housework that women do on th- second shift amounts to an extra month of work each year. In households with small children or many children. the amount of housework increases. Across race and class. numerous studies have confirmed that domestic work remains primarily women's work (Gerstel and Gross. 1995). Hochschild (2003: 28) states that continuing problems regarding the second shift in many families are a sign that the gender revolution has stalled: TIle move of masses of women into the paid workforce has constituted a revolution. But the slower shift in ideas of "manhood; the resistance of sharing work at home. the rigid schedules at work make for a "stall" in this gender revolution. It is a stall in the change of institutional arrangements of which men are the principal keepers. As Hochschild points out. the second shift remains a problem for many women in dual-earner marriages. In recent years. more husbands have attempted to share some of the household and child-care responsibilities. especially in families in which the wife's earnings are essential to family finances. Overall. when husbands share some of the household responsibilities. they typically spend much less time ill these activities than do their wives. Women and men perform different household tasks. and the deadlines for their work vary widely. Recurring tasks that have specific times for completion (such as bathing a child or cooking a meal) tend to be the women's responsibility; by contrast men are more likely to do the periodic tasks that have no highly structured schedule (such as mowing the lawn or changing the oil in the car) (Hochschild, J 989). Men are also more reluctant to perform unde- . sirabJe tasks such as scrubbing the toilet or diapering a baby. or to give up leisure pursuits. Couples with more-egalitarian ideas about women's and men s roles tend to share more equally in food preparation, housework, and child  are (Wright et al., 1992). For some men. the shift to a more-egalitarian household occurs gradually, as Wesley, whose wife works full time, explains It was me taking the initiative, and also Connie pushing, saying, "Gee, there's so much that has to be done." At first I said, "nut I'm supposed to be the breadwinner," not realizing she's also the breadwinner. I was being a little blind to hat was going on, but 1got tired of waiting for my wife to come home to start cooking, so one day I surprised the hell out [of] her and myself and the kids, and I had supper waiting on the table for her. (qtd. in Gerson. 1993: 170)

In the United States. millions of parents rely on child care so that they can work and so that their young children can benefit from early educational experiences that will help in their future school endeavors. For millions more parents. after-school care for school-age children is an urgent concern. Nearly five million children are home alone after school each week in this country. The children need productive  and safe activities to engage in while their parents are working. Although child care is often unavailable or un affordable for many parents. those children who are in day care {or extended hours often come to think of child-care workers and other caregivers as members of their extended families because they may spend nearly as many hours with them as they do with their own parents. For children of divorced parents and other young people living in single-parent households, the issue of child care is often a pressing concern because of the limited number of available adults and lack of financial resources.