Women's Two Roles: A Contemporary Dilemma

Women's Two Roles: A Contemporary Dilemma

Women's Two Roles: A Contemporary Dilemma

Women's Two Roles: A Contemporary Dilemma

Synopsis

Moen addresses the following central questions: What are the major implications--for society, families, husbands, children, and women themselves--of the substantial and progressive movement of American women into the labor force? The dominant focus is on employed mothers of young children (those under the age of six) since it is these women who have experienced the greatest change and who encounter the greatest difficulty in reconciling employment demands and family responsibilities. An overriding theme is the unevenness of social change: American mothers of young children may be moving into the labor force in unprecendented numbers, but husbands, employers, and public policies are slow to accommodate this emerging reality.

Excerpt

All women, for whom that marriage-and-childbearing "destiny" used to be the main source of identity, prestige, financial support, have suffered an apocalyptic change in their being. They can't escape that change.

(Friedan 1981:316)

As early as the 1940s sociologistMirra Komarovsky(1946, 1953) recounted the "cultural contradictions" of educated women. Society, through husbands, friends, and kin, sent mixed messages: Be career oriented but also be a paragon of domesticity. Women today--at all educational levels--still confront these conflicting expectations (Gerson 1985, 1987;Hochschild 1989). the quandary they face is not employment, but combining employment with motherhood. Since women continue to be the principal caretakers of children, how do they mesh work and family roles over the course of their lives? Are contemporary women--juggling these two, as well as other, roles--better or worse off than the traditional full-time housewives of the 1950s?

Managing work and family roles over the life course

The decade between age 25 and 35 is when all lawyers become partners in the good firms, when business managers make it onto the "fast track," when academics get tenure at good universities, and when blue collar workers find the training opportunities and the skills that will generate high earnings. But [this] . . . is precisely the decade when women are most apt to leave the labor . . .

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