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The Second Shift

Creating happier couples

by Kory Stone/Business Manager

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The Second Shift is centered on the idea of gender inequality at home.
Second Shift can be purchased online through amazon.com

The month of February is a month for couples. I wanted to pick a book dealing with this subject in which could benefit you, the reader. Though the book more specifically relates to heterosexual couples, singles and homosexuals can still take important lessons. The book I choose, The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home authored by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, is centered on the idea of gender inequality at home –a form of culturally unconscious sexism. I say “unconscious” because it is not really thought or talked about within our society. Culture has shifted in some ways that allow for a fair gender equality, but without shifting in others.

As more and more women began to join the work force, becoming part-time or full-time employees and students, their responsibilities at home regarding housework and child care remained about the same. What this equals out to is women, with or without children, end up working what would be the equivalent of  a “second shift” at home after getting off of work. This work equals out to about an extra month a year for women leaving less leisure time and resulting in more unnecessary stress.  Though the book was first written in 1989 and we have come more fair since then, there is still some areas to grow in. According to research conducted  by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research – which has been a continuous study since 1968 – found in 1976 that with dual income earners,  women who were already full-time employees also worked at home on average over 25 hours a week compared to men who only worked around five hours. Today women work around 16 hours compared to the 12 men work. So things have gotten a little better right?  Well yes and no. UMISR also found that single women without children worked on house hold chores on average just over 10 hours a week, but once women get married (without kids), they now work on average 18 hours a week at home. Men on the other hand, single or married, maintain about seven or eight hours of household work – just adding a man to the equation adds seven hours of work to the women’s load. According to sociologist Dr. Medley-Wrath, a teacher here at Lake Land College, “Women tend to do chores that are never-ending and repetitive: feeding the family, bathing children, checking homework, laundry ect. Men are more likely to do chores that appear bigger – and might be more time consuming in the moment – but are sporadic: shoveling snow, taking out the trash, cleaning the garage, mowing the lawn ect.” Women, backed by our patriarchal culture, often see this extra load as a personal problem and not the social problem it really is. This leads them to internalize it without really vocalizing it.

It is a social problem for many reasons. One specifically is the stress it causes on households and families that is a foundation of our culture. As the saying goes, “happy wife, happy life” holds true. What it comes down to after one is aware of the issue is opening up and honestly communicating each other’s goals, dreams and expectations within the household and outside it. According to Hochschild, there is nothing wrong with having a traditional relationship were the women is the homemaker and the husband is the bread earner if both can afford it and are happy with it. For the many dual income families out there things have to change, though. The more stable and happy we can make the household the better our well-being is as individuals, family and humanity.


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