Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood

Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood

Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood

Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood


This book examines changes in family practices and paid work in the 21st century. Focusing principally on highly qualified women who combine the mothering of very young children with employment, it makes a valuable contribution to current debates. Unlike other books in the field that focus on one gender only, this innovative book also takes into account the views of fathers, making it a rounded study of family practice in the new millennium. The first part of Hard Labour provides an up-to-date, comprehensive and readable overview of the literature on motherhood, fatherhood, family practices, and women in employment. The second part draws on a qualitative study of the lives of 20 mothers and their husbands/partners, each of whom is educated to degree level or above, and has at least one child under five. Key aspects of the family lives of the men and women interviewed are considered, for example how they manage their commitments to one another, their children and their professional work, and how they share out family tasks such as childcare and housework. At each stage, the empirical research is explicitly placed in the context of the literature referenced in the first part, and of the wider debate on career motherhood. Essential reading for students and academics in sociology, family policy, family studies, women's or gender studies and the sociology of management/employment.


The current educational landscape, while certainly consistent with, if not
inspired by, the agenda of the equality feminists, is not conducive to women’s
happiness [because] it creates the questing of women who feel that they
should not be fulfilled in their marriages and families … and that they should
be looking outside to the world of work for their happiness, even as they
doubt they can possibly find it there. To be honest, I am not sure I would love
domesticity as much as do the women I have quoted, let alone be any good
at it. But this … brings us back to the discussion of whether … [housework]
is equally as fulfilling for men as it is for women. Clearly, there are
gender differences in the way men and women respond to domesticity. The
unhappiness that many women clearly feel in being moved away from a
sphere that could be the source of their fulfilment, to a sphere that is clearly
not, creates the urgent need to find out what can be changed in society
and what may be harder to change if biologically grounded.

(Tooley 2002: 120)

Focus on:

Lone mothers, poor mothers and the diversity of family practices
Lived experience in a socially constructed world
An overview of key arguments

Overview of Part 1

Overview of Part 2

Before she had children, Sarah-Jane was a hospital consultant. It had taken her until almost the age of 40 to attain this position and she had devoted herself to medical work, to the exclusion of all else, until she reached consultant status. Sarah-Jane specialized in disorders of the blood. She dedicated herself to working with sick women, often those who were dying of leukaemia or breast . . .

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