Globe article on work/family

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Registered: 03-27-2003
Globe article on work/family
15
Sun, 05-11-2003 - 11:38am


Increase in work hours hits

dual-earner families hardest



By Kimberly Blanton, Globe Staff, 5/11/03

While growing numbers of people are unemployed or underemployed, the lucky majority who still have a job are probably overworked. The time squeeze falls hard on two-earner couples juggling work schedules, day-care pickups, and children's sick days.

They probably don't need anyone telling them they're exhausted. But Barry Bluestone, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, recently provided data to legitimize their complaints. Bluestone, a panelist at the work-family conference in Boston last weekend - cosponsored by the Brandeis University Community, Families & Work Program, and by Boston University's journalism school - said America three years ago eclipsed Japan to become the world's most overworked nation. In most countries, work time has moved downward - but not here.



Mainly because of the influx of women into the US work force, the average hours an individual works annually has been on a steady upward trend since the early 1980s, rising about 180 hours, to more than 2,020 hours currently. Couples in which both partners work put in a total of 2,850 hours in 1965 and by 1997 were clocking 3,450 hours per year - that's 600 additional hours per couple.

What drives the workaholic trend is complex, Bluestone said, but falling wages through the mid-1990s are one explanation. Although wages picked up at the end of the '90s, early data indicate they have resumed their decline. ''If the boss offers you additional overtime, you take it,'' he said. He also blamed ''greater job insecurity,'' which drives people to work longer hours. For professionals, he sees pressure to earn one of the top salaries offered only to stellar achievers. ''The way you make it to the winner-take-all level is you work as many hours as you can,'' he said.

The release valve for many families is for one spouse, often the wife, to go part time or for parents to alternate shifts. While the goals are to minimize time pressures and the amount of day care needed, these self-designed solutions are hardly ideal.

Rosalind Barnett and Karen Gareis at Brandeis's work-family program studied 98 women physicians, half of them working full time and half part time. Their finding: Wives who work part time don't necessarily have better relationships with their husbands. The arrangement doesn't work if the wife becomes dissatisfied with the drudgery and household chores that demand her time and attention.

Barnett said many two-earner couples go into this sort of arrangement with the illusion that if the wife works fewer hours, it will solve their problems. What the research shows is if the wife makes the career sacrifice of going part time and then her husband works longer hours, she may be unhappy. She may feel he does not spend enough time with the children. ''Reduced hours do not necessarily have an impact on quality of life,'' she said. ''If he's happy with his work hours, she's not.''

On the other hand, if the wife likes her reduced work hours and uses it for activities she is not under time pressures to complete - say, gardening versus preparing dinner every night - then both spouses are happier. ''When both like their schedules then everyone's happy,'' she said.

Other couples may choose alternative shifts - with one parent working the evening or night shift - so one parent is usually home. But when husbands provide this type of child care, results also are mixed, according to Jennifer Glass, a sociologist at the University of Iowa. Other researchers have shown about one in four couples carried nonoverlapping shifts by 1990, and they reported lower marriage quality and a higher divorce rate.

To go deeper, Glass studied 309 white, middle-class women from northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan who worked at least 20 hours a week before becoming pregnant. She then looked at the 110 couples using alternating shifts and discovered changes happened, over time, in the father's role in care. Just over two-thirds of couples in which fathers took care of a 6-month-old during all or part of their wives' shifts were still doing so when the baby was a year old. Among couples relying solely on father care at six months, only half still did so by the time the baby was a year. ''There's a high drop-out rate,'' Glass said. And at 7 years old, the child's relationship with a father who provides at least 20 hours of care is better than the relationship with a father who provides less care.

Oddly, the more hours the mother worked the less the father contributed to child care and the greater the couple's reliance on day-care facilities or family and friends. Glass explained that while many fathers could help out for relatively short periods, it was difficult to sustain a commitment to full-time care.

When fathers did take care of the children, mothers rated their satisfaction with care as no better than other arrangements. Glass suggests various reasons: fathers may be ''reluctant'' caregivers or wives may be picky. It is also more stressful to patch together multiple sources of child care if the father is not on full-time duty, she said.

While some mothers were ''ecstatic'' over their husband's involvement in their children, others were not. It ''had a lot to do with the father's motivation and interest,'' she said. It may come down to ''how many dads wanted to do it and how many were badgered into it because they knew their wives thought it would be great or they felt they should be with their babies. Some fathers really underestimated how much work it was going to be to do this.''

While American fathers aren't always ideal caretakers in their wives' or researchers' eyes, they are standouts compared with fathers in other countries. According to a recent report by the Council on Contemporary Families, US husbands do more housework and childcare than men in four other developed countries: France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.






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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 6:51am
Why doesn't my life come even remotely close to any "study" that's produced? Who are they interviewing?

"Other couples may choose alternative shifts - with one parent working the evening or night shift - so one parent is usually home. But when husbands provide this type of child care, results also are mixed, according to Jennifer Glass, a sociologist at the University of Iowa. Other researchers have shown about one in four couples carried nonoverlapping shifts by 1990, and they reported lower marriage quality and a higher divorce rate."

This "study" goes on to show that the fathers have a high "drop=out" rate. (I guess these couples start using day care.)

So,I've been on the night shift (not evenings)for 18.5 yrs. We've been married for almost 17 yrs. DS is 15. DH, at this point, is doing most of any child care there is. (There isn't much for a 15 yr old.)

So how is it that my life never matches these "statistics". Someone in an older post quoted a "study" on moral reasoning. Apparently, if I didn't go to college and have managed to think beyond what "mommy said". I'm some kind of exception to the rule. If I didn't graduate from college and manage to make a living wage, I'm apparently an exception again. And, yet again, I'm an exception to the 3rd shift rule, since DH and I are happy and dh still wants to care for his own kid.

Is it that these people who don't think, can't find a good job, can't be bothered to take care of their own kids, and get divorced because they don't like the work hours are the norm?

I wonder about these "studies". When they *never* match my life, I doubt that they have any validity. I'm still waiting to see one study that actually reflects my life experience. These studies aren't even close! NOTHING in them is even remotely close.

Am I such and exception to the rule that no part of any study comes close to my experience? That seems just too ridiculous. IMO, these "studies" are bogus. They're good for debate fodder, but IRL, they're just useless junk.

Joan

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 7:18am
No study whatever the subject will have absolutely everyone fit in the catagory that the study is leaning to.

But you do fit in this one: "Other couples may choose alternative shifts - with one parent working the evening or night shift - so one parent is usually home. But when husbands provide this type of child care, results also are mixed, according to Jennifer Glass, a sociologist at the University of Iowa." The result are mixed does mean that it has worked well for some. "This "study" goes on to show that the fathers have a high "drop=out" rate." A high dropout rate does not mean that all dropout. Some do not.

If people with your experience were not covered at all then it would say that working alternative shifts has not worked for anyone. But it does not say that it, just that statistically it is difficult for many.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 8:50am
"When fathers did take care of the children, mothers rated their satisfaction with care as no better than other arrangements. "

This isn't talking about some. It says "mothers", not some mothers. And the emphasis is definitely on the negative. (I guess it wouldn't be interesting if it talked about how good it is. :-) ) Only 2/3 of fathers take care of their kids. By 6 moths, 1/2 of *them* don't bother. What's that? 1/3 of fathers taking care of their kids? This isn't what I'm seeing at all. Most, if not all (I don't know any that don't), fathers take care of their kids while thier wives work nights. (Ditto for the flip side.)

This study is so far off the mark. It is soooo contrary to my experience in working this shift for more than 18 yrs. NO ONE hires sitters for the over-night shift. NO ONE. Do you realize how silly that is? The kid is sleeping most of the night anyway. Night shift tends to start very late 11pm is probably most common.) Who in the world would hire a sitter to *sleep*?

My experience is that this just doesn't happen, that people don't get divorced over working nights, people don't hire sitters to sit over-night or even for late evenings.

And the person who is working nights to avoid using day care isn't going to send the kids to day care during the day so he or she can sleep. He or she would just get a day job.

(Someone who is "stuck" on 3rd shift might use DC to get some sleep,but this study was about those who do this to avoid DC.)

These things might be true of an evening job (2nd shift - start at 3 or 4 pm), but it makes no sense whatsoever about the 3rd shift.

We do call the 2nd shift the divorce shift. A lot of people who are married when they start working the 2nd shift end up divorced.

What do you make of studies that constantly put you in the "odd" category. How unusual can my life be? lol

Joan

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 9:11am
You're right no one hires childcare to work the mid shift (unless of course they are a single parent) but also the parent that is AH during those hours is not taking care of hands on parenting so I do not think that they are really talking about those in the study. Most most mid shifts are when the child is sleeping anyway so there is really no childcare issue. They may work that shift to avoid paying childcare but the AH parent is not actively providing care while the other parent is at at work.

"We do call the 2nd shift the divorce shift. A lot of people who are married when they start working the 2nd shift end up divorced."

That is the people this study talking about, and you are backing up what the study said.

The fact that you work mid shift already puts you in the "odd" catagory. When you count all of the workers those working mid are the smallest catagory so that alone makes your life not fit the "norm". When you add in the fact that you are a female working the mid shift I think that that puts even more into the "odd" catagory.


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Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 11:29am
Here's what I don't get .... "to more than 2,020 hours currently". They act like that's a lot of OT or something. And its not. Considering 50 work weeks in a year (2 weeks of vacation), 2020 hours in a year is only 40.4 hours a week. WOW! .4 hours of OT! How exhausting.

"Couples in which both partners work put in a total of 2,850 hours in 1965 and by 1997 were clocking 3,450 hours per year - that's 600 additional hours per couple. " That's still only 34.5 hours per week per person. Obviously thats a substantial increase from the 28.5 in 1965, but its still not overwhelming, IMO. That standard FT work week has been 40 hours since forever. And the statistics in this article don't show that people are working more than that, so what's the point?

I didn't really read the rest of it ... the numbers grabbed my attention. Obviously, we'd probably all like to make FT wages at PT hours. Who wouldn't? But the numbers here simply don't show me that anyone is working any kind of absurd or abnormal hours, so what's the point of the stats?

Hollie

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Registered: 03-29-1999
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 11:41am
Yep. I wonder about that too.

I've almost always had Salary positions, but I think a lof of hourly workers typcally work 7.5 hour days. They run 3 eight hour shifts. Or they work 12's and only work 36 hours a week. Plus, I know of a lot of factories that shut down for two weeks in the summer and one week at Christmas (for retoolint) and the employees get vacation time on top of that.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 11:45am
But they say that they are talking about people who work 3rd shift.

And not all 3rd shift workers start as late as 11. There is some child care before bed and before the worker gets home in the AM.

I need to find a board for 3rd shift workers. The general public just doesn't "get it". We're too "odd". :-)

I think that that's probably the problem with this study. The people doing it didn't stop to think that what they were asking makes no sense for 3rd shift workers. If the questions make no sense, the study is bogus. It's like asking a hockey player how many baskets he's scored. See, playing hockey on ice is bad for your free throw stat. lol

Joan

Avatar for outside_the_box_mom
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 12:06pm
I think this is the same article I read in the Globe yesterday (haven't checked yet). But what grabbed me (of the article I read) is the reinforcement of how we've become a "work-aholic" culture. I agree that 40 hours is a standard work week, but how many people actually take an "unplugged" vacation? I know so many people who pack their cell phone, lap top, etc, and do work while on vacation because they are afraid for their jobs. And who takes a full two weeks anymore? When I worked for an international company, it seemed all of Europe checked out for the entire month of August. But here in America, we work, and work, and work, and work. I think that is the point of the comparison with Japan.

My DH didn't take one vacation in ten years. And whenever he did take a day off here or there, he *always* had his cellphone. Being unemployed has been the best thing that's ever happened to him -- he is finally rested. He's losing weight, exercising, and even napping during the day. He's a changed man. I have never seen him so relaxed.

outside_the_box_mom

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Registered: 04-01-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 1:25pm
this is where you don't know everybody... I personally know two divorced couples who state that the main thing they did wrong in their marriage was to work alternating shifts. One became a lifestyle difference and in one case the couple just didn't see each other enough to maintain a relationship... In both cases it was done to "keep their kids out of daycare" So, while it may have worked for you, It doesn't work for everybody. (And.. I think that working 1st and 2nd may be harder than 1st and 3rd because of the fact that the parent working 1st is most likely sleeping while their kids are sleeping so they can see their spouse a bit during second shift.) My dh and I happen to facillitate a marriage prep class and this very topic came up during the discussion as to "why marriages fail"... Just my 2 Cents. Mary Beth
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Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 05-12-2003 - 5:00pm
I did not read it that they are talking about mid shift.

"Other couples may choose alternative shifts - with one parent working the evening or night shift - so one parent is usually home."

I took it to mean the other parent was working second (afternoon) shift in a place that runs three 8 hour shifts since that usaully runs into the evening or working part time in the evenings.

BTW I only used the word odd in my post because you used it in yours. Although I have not done it regulary I have worked a few mid shifts. I don't consider it odd but there are many less people working that shift then any other. I think that it is a shift that you ever love or you hate.

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