One of my absolute favorite academic books on family politics and policy is Arlie Hochschild's The Second Shift. Hochschild and her assistants sat in the homes of families with two working parents and observed the family dynamics.
She found that after putting in a full day of work, women came home to a second shift. They took care of the kids, they made dinner, they did laundry, they vacuumed, and they made the lunches for school the next day. The men came home, sat on the sofa, and picked up the remote. Even though they had taken on the traditional male role of bread-winning, they still retained the traditional female role of housewife.
Part of what I love about this book is the unspoken conclusion of the book. As Hochschild describes tearful good-byes at the daycare center and the chaos of home life after work, she clearly feels that the long and grueling work days of the two parents have put a lot of stress on family life. As a good academic, she holds back on a full condemnation of capitalism and focuses on conclusions that can be observed, ie the balance of housework and caretaking between the spouses.
We've discussed this book and our own divisions of household responsibility quite a few times on this blog. No need to revisit those discussions. However, a new study finds that even among highly educated women and their presumably highly educated, liberal spouses (likes do tend to marry likes) that the division of labor is still out of whack.
The Chronicle of HIgher Education discusses a new study on housework and women scientists. They found that female scientists do twice as much housework as their husbands.
A new study from the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research
at Stanford University has found that female scientists do 54 percent
of their core household tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and
laundry—about twice as much as their male counterparts. (Paid help and
children made up some of the difference.) The results reinforce the
findings of other studies. Most important, they indicate that women
often have more obligations at home and lower retention rates in their
This imbalance clearly leads to career obstacles for female scientists. You can't write papers, if you are doing the laundry.
Interestingly, the article ends not with a lecture to men to do more at home, but with a call to universities to offer benefit packages to their faculty that would enable them to hire more help at home.