Working Couples

Working Couples

Working Couples

Working Couples

Excerpt

This is a book about married couples who both hold paid jobs. We call such families dual-worker families. The contributors have studied the experiences of dual-worker families and have considered some of the issues confronting them. They discuss how some of these issues have arisen and analyse how they are being dealt with in a number of contexts.

Working couples, in meeting the challenges they face, are subject to constraints of various kinds and there are many who reject the pattern on these grounds. But, there are others who find and create devices for making the pattern work. We are concerned with discovering and clarifying some of the generic issues confronted, and learning which resolutions have been found satisfactory.

Why do working couples present any special issues? In pre-industrial times both men and women generally worked for the family subsistence; and even today it is normal in some occupations and professions to find husbands and wives working in close partnership. The reason it is a new issue is that many families outside the range of 'special cases', such as the small family shop or restaurant, are now attempting to operate this pattern and in new ways. The wife is no longer necessarily her husband's helpmeet, counter-clerk, receptionist, hostess or whatever. She may have an independent job or career, and her earnings may be not only independent of his, but larger and more reliable. Five per cent of wives in intact marriages at this point earn more than their husbands, and if one considers couples where earnings are at a par -- say within a category one way or the other -- the current estimate is 20 per cent of couples in the USA. Many of these couples are finding that the new patterns do not fit very well with the way they were socialised, or with the way our society is organised.

Our society has evolved, as a dominant lifestyle, a 'conventional pattern' of sex-roles and division of labour between home and work. This conventional pattern, developed with industrialisation, has been characterised by a specialised division of labour in which only men have been defined as 'working'. A woman's place has been seen as in the home, removed as far from the workplace as the logistics of housing and transport allowed.

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