The world of work has changed drastically over the decades and over the years. It used to that only men went to work and women stayed home to take care of all the domestic issues such as cleaning the house, grocery shopping, and taking care of the kids. However, today both men and women go to work.
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A woman joining the workforce was great for her financial and professional life; however it might not have been so good for her personal life. This is due to the fact that a woman that works outside of the house is expected to hold down two jobs and do them exceptionally well. These two jobs involve her profession such as doctor, baker, professor, or writer and taking care of the household which includes caring for at least one child. It is very clear that taking care of a household, children, and marriage takes much work that requires balance, patience, and teamwork.
The book called The Second Shift examines how working parents try to balance both their professional and personal lives. This book illustrates some of the difficulties that can and do come up in marriages. The purpose of this paper is to summarize some of the more important chapters in The Second Shift.
The modern woman is seen as a woman who can and does balance everything with a smile. She seems to juggle childcare and her profession, frills and business suits, and male and female culture without complaining. Therefore, modern women often get labeled as “superwomen.” However, the label of modern women as “superwomen” is often very misleading. According to Hochschild, many of the women that she interviewed for this book claimed that they could do and that they did do many things on a daily basis; however, they seemed to shy away from being labeled “superwomen” (1989:1).
Many people who are single or are happily married might wonder why modern marriages often suffer setbacks and tension. It seems as if modern marriages experience trouble due to unrealistic expectations. According to Hochschild, problems within most marriages usually occur due to the friction caused by faster changing women and slower changing men (1989:11). She goes on to state that the struggles that come out of marriage don’t simply stem from who does what in the marriage. The struggles in most marriages come from the giving and the receiving of gratitude (Hochschild, 1989, 18).
Marriage is about cooperation and teamwork. Therefore, it seems as if both halves of a married couple need to appreciate what each partner brings to the marriage and thank each other for their contributions to it every now and then. In addition, the reason that there are many problems in marriages today is because there is too much criticism and not enough communication in modern marriages.
Many of the chapters in The Second Shift focus on actual stories of couples that are dealing balancing the second shift. Balancing home life with a professional life isn’t very easy. In fact, as a few of the couples illustrate trying to balance both their professional lives and their personal lives can be a rather daunting task. Moreover, it seems as if trying to do this causes tension in their relationships.
Evan and Nancy Holt are married and have a four year old child named Joey. They view the major problem in their marriage involves Joey’s displeasure going to bed at night. Evan and Nancy think that complete exhaustion dealing with Joey’s sleep anxiety is the reason that they have stopped relating to each other as a couple. However, the main issue in the Holt’s marriage has very little to do with Joey and more to do with their inability to balance the second shift effectively.
According to Hochschild, it seemed as if Nancy was nagging Evan into doing more housework and Evan resented Nancy doing that. Plus, Hochschild claims that Nancy nagged Evan to get more involved in the second shift because of her childhood. In her childhood, Nancy mom was treated like a slave by her dad; therefore Nancy felt that if she didn’t nag Even to do more around the home, including childcare, Evan would treat her like a servant (1989:40).
Another problem in the Holt’s marriage involved Nancy always comparing her marriage with other people’s marriages (Hochschild, 1989, 54). Comparing other marriages to your marriage doesn’t help in fixing what’s wrong with your marriage. In fact, comparing your marriage to other people’s marriage might just make your marriage worse. This is because all couples are different and what works for one couple may not work for another couple. In the future, Nancy needs to concentrate on her marriage only and not be concerned about other people’s marriages.
Another couple having trouble balancing the second shift is Peter and Nina Tanagawa. Hochschild claims that the Tanaagwa’s and the Holt’s and very different couples as far as trying to balance the second shift. Nancy wanted to balance herself and Evan equally between home and the work world; however, Nina wanted to focus more on home than the work world. But, she had a job (1989: 75). The problem with Nina’s and Peter’s marriage involves the fact that Peter’s belief that emotional support is more important than actual involvement in the second shift (1989:87).
Peter’s belief seems to stem from a common myth that women are born being natural domestics and caregivers; therefore, Nina is naturally more interested in both housework and childcare, at least in Peter’s mind. But, of course that isn’t the case. So, Nina tries to get Peter’s more involved in home activities; but fearing porce is forthcoming if she pushes the issue, Nina backs off. Then, Nina attempts to cut back on her job; however she feels that she isn’t doing enough at her job which she loves (Hochschild, 1989, 91). The moral of this story seems to be that working parents can be stretched very thin no matter how hard they try to balance the second shift.
The last couple that will be discussed is Barbara and John Livingston. Barbara and John are equal partners in their marriage. This is due to the fact that they both share the household chores and childcare. However, they also both have jobs; therefore, Barbara and John have no time for them. They have no time to communicate about either their professional lives or the personal lives with each other. In other words, they have no time to work on their marriage. The moral of this story is that balancing both the first and second shift is hard. This is even true if parents are equally partners. This couple needs to establish a date night.
It used to be very simple women took care of the house and children and men went to work and brought home the bacon. However, times have changed because today both men and women have jobs and they both have kids. But, it still seems as if women are expected to take care of most of the household chores and childcare while having a career. The Second Shift examines how parents try to balance the second shift and what problems arise from trying to do this. Perhaps, we should lighten up the expectations that we have for both men and women. It might be better still to change the expectations of men and women so that balancing the second shift could be easier.
Hochschild, A. (1989). The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. Penguin Books: Viking Press.
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