A less disturbing strategy, and one compatible with any other, is seeking outside help. Some couples who could afford to hired a housekeeper. When they could, working-class women called on their mother, mother-in-law, or other female relatives for childcare though in many cases these women worked as well. Surprisingly few parents in this study called on their children, as Ray Judson did, to share house cleaning or care of younger children.
The main outside help, of course, came from baby-sitters. Sometimes mothers tried to make the baby-sitter “part of the family” or at least to create a strong friendship with her, unconsciously perhaps to assure her loyalty and goodwill. Carol Alston left her six-month-old baby with a “wonderful baby-sitter” for eleven hours a day, and gave the sitter a great deal of credit: “My son should call her mother.’ She’s earned it.” Carol often invited her sitter and husband to dinner and on outings and exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts. ‘But it was hard for Carol to allay the sitter’s doubts that she had been befriended only because she baby-sat the children.
Finally, most women cut back on their personal needs, give up reading, hobbies, television, visits with friends, exercise, time alone. When I asked her what she did in her leisure, Ann Myerson replied, “Pay bills.” When I asked a bank word processor about her “leisure,” she answered that it was “time at my terminal.” I interviewed no working mothers who maintained hobbies like Evan Holt or Robert Myerson. It was part of the “culture” of the working mother to give up personal leisure, and most did it willingly.
Over time, most women combined several strategies—cutting back (on paid work, housework, the marriage, child care, or personal needs), seeking outside help, supermoming. There was a big divide between wives who urged their husbands to share the second shift (like Nancy Holt and Adrienne Sherman) and wives who found other ways to do the work (like Nina Tanagawa and
Ann Myerson). Typical of women who urged change on their husbands, Nancy Holt embraced egalitarian views on marriage. Reinforced by her dread of becoming a depressed housewife like her mother, she embraced the feeling rules that often go with the new model of marriage: “If you love me, you’ll share.” Like a good many wives who urge husbands to share, Nancy suffered through an emotional storm, lost, gave up, and resented it.
Typical of women who avoided urging their husbands to share and avoided conflict with them over it, Nina Tanagawa liked the idea of sharing “on the surface” but felt ambivalent about it underneath. She embraced the feeling rules that often go with a transitional marriage: “If you love me youll care but sharing is not in the bargain.” Having changed their initial bargain in so many other ways already, she didn’t quite dare change it again. Like Ann Myerson, many women flip-flopped between feeling and acting like Nancy Holt and Nina Tanagawa.