LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What are the issues faced by employed people who care for dependents?

• How do partners view the division of household chores?

• What is work-family conflict? How does it affect couples’ lives?

J

ennifer, a 38-year-old sales clerk at a department store, feels that her husband doesn’t do his share of the housework or child care. Her husband says that real men don’t do housework, and that he’s really tired when he comes home from work. Jennifer thinks that this isn’t fair, especially because she works as many hours as her husband.

One of the most difficult challenges facing adults such as Jennifer is trying to balance the demands of occupation with the demands of family. Over the past few decades, the rapid increase in the number of families in which both parents are employed has fundamentally changed how we view the relation between work and family. As the photograph shows, this can even mean taking a young child to work as a way to deal with the pushes and pulls of being an employed parent. In over half of two-parent house­holds today, both adults work outside the home (U. S. Department of Labor, 2009). The main reason? Families need the dual income in order to pay the bills and maintain a moderate standard of living.

Work-family conflicts may result in mothers taking their very young children to work with them as a way to deal with being an employed parent.

As you will see, dual-earner couples with children experience both benefits and costs from this arrange­ment. The stresses of living in this arrangement are substantial—and gender differences are clear, espe­cially in the division of household chores.