Working Families: The Transformation of the American Home

Working Families: The Transformation of the American Home

Working Families: The Transformation of the American Home

Working Families: The Transformation of the American Home

Synopsis

The dynamics of work and parenthood are in the midst of a revolutionary shift in the United States. Focused around a major factor in this shift--the rise of dual-income families--this groundbreaking volume provides a highly informative snapshot of the intricate fabric of work and family in the United States. With selections written by leading scholars both inside and outside academia, "Working Families "offers intimate stories of how families manage and how children respond to the rigors of their parents' lives, as well as broad overviews developed from survey and census data. Taken together, these essays present an updated and integral view of the revolutionary changes in patterns of work and family life occurring today.

Using a broad range of methodologies, the contributors reach across gender, age, and class differences. They discuss working-class as well as affluent dual-career couples and work sites ranging from factories to offices. Straddling racial divides, the essays range from studies of white day care providers to a close look at a Mexican maid's daughter. The collection as a whole refutes the assumption that there is one normal type of family or workplace. These readable essays capture our attention as they build, cumulatively, to an absorbing picture of today's families and workplaces.

Excerpt

The family remains a controversial topic in American political life. Alarming stories of family dissolution, teenage mothers, and children abandoned by employed mothers and absentee fathers take center stage on talk shows and in glitzy promos for the eleven o'clock news. But controversy, like a magician, often misdirects our attention from the real action. In this case, the real action lies in the rise of dual-earner families and employed single mothers, not in imagined fears of the death of the family, loss of masculinity, or domination by women. The story that needs to be told involves a different kind of drama, one that centers on the development of new patterns of relationships among individuals, families, workplaces, and the larger social context.

Despite the enduring 1950s image of the happy suburban middleclass family with Dad as the breadwinner and Mom as the homemaker, not all U. S. families at the time lived in that world (Coontz 1992). As we enter the twenty-first century, family structure has become quite diverse, even for the white middle class. Not only is Mom more likely to be employed outside the home, but among married couples, dual-earner couples are now the modal family type. Families with same-sex parents have become more visible. More women are having their first child after the age of thirty. As a result, the life course is no longer standard: mothers of two-year-olds may be of different generations, live in different family structures, have different employment histories, and have conceived their children through different reproductive methods. Fathers'

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