What is the "Face" of Your Work/Family Conflict?
Work/life balance. It's a phrase that gets bandied about by the media and by various experts. We lament. We juggle. We all try to figure out how we can keep things running in our lives -- maybe not always smoothly, but at least without too many bumps.
There are those who like to remind us of the saying -- you can have it all, just not all at the same time. And maybe that's true to a certain extent, but I hate when people use it to suggest that women shouldn't expect to be able to work full-time and have our employers understand that the realities of families today are a whole lot different than when our parents were raising families.
Except they should. We all should. Not because we want a favor, but because the face of working in America is radically different today than when the current workplace structure became the norm back in the 1950s. I don't know anyone whose family resembles the Cleavers, yet the workplace, for the most part, is still designed to deal only with that model -- where there is only one working parent and the other stays home to deal with after-school activities, sick children, and aging parents. That just ain't the way things are anymore, yet we're all expected to work that way and are often penalized when real life intrudes.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a new study called The Three Faces of Work/Family Conflict will start making the rounds and find its way onto employers' desks. It focuses on the three different kinds of families out there working and shines a lot of light on the one group that can't even hope for flexibility in the workplace --
Lost in the shuffle between the professional mothers praised for staying at home, and poor mothers criticized for doing so, is a much broader group that Harvard University sociology professor Theda Skocpol aptly calls the “missing middle.” Skocpol finds “puzzling” that “our policy debates deal so little with the fate of working families of modest means, the people who put in long hours to earn a living and make a decent life while coping with rising pressures in their workplaces while trying to raise children in solo-parent or dual-worker families.”
That is the big problem. But what's the answer? Well, the answer is we need more than one answer. The problems can't be solved just by "flexibility" in the workplace and legislation won't help everyone either. It's going to take a little bit of both to help families survive, especially in this economy. It's a complicated issue, which is all the more reason we need to get moving on finding as many ways as possible to convince employers that it really is in their financial interests to take a look at something different than the Ward Cleaver model of working families.
If anyone is looking for some food for thought, there are some great podcasts at Fem 2.0 that have been recorded over the last two weeks as part of an effort to really look at how we can change how work life and family life intersect and finding the "balance" that will help everyone.
Joanne was lucky enough to host one of the work/life podcasts and is looking forward to hearing the rest of them when she's not hanging out at her place, PunditMom, or trying to finish her book on political motherhood.Original DC Metro Moms post.