Academic journal article Communication Studies

The Everyday Accomplishment of Work and Family: Exploring Practical Actions in Daily Routines

Academic journal article Communication Studies

The Everyday Accomplishment of Work and Family: Exploring Practical Actions in Daily Routines

Article excerpt

Social science research investigating the challenges of managing work and family has been extensive over the past 30 years. Recently, scholars have examined work and family issues from a number of communication perspectives (for a review see Kirby, Golden, Medved, Jorgenson, & Buzzanell, 2003). This study contributes to the growing body of communication scholarship by problematizing everyday work and family routines. In doing so, it richly explores the micro-practices of navigating and negotiating daily work and family life. The purpose of this study is to delineate the actions and interactions embedded in and constitutive of work and family routines at the level of daily practice. This study allows us to see the taken-for-granted daily activities so intimately connected to, indeed constructive of our experiences of balance and conflict. It is argued that meticulous investigation of everyday actions and interactions is essential to communication studies of work and family because it allows for an examination of the relational work embedded in such routines. Further, it demonstrates the fundamentally communicative nature of managing work and family.

First, a review of communication scholarship on work and family issues is presented to situate and provide further rationale for the present investigation. Next, a brief explanation of practical action and commonsense rules per Garfinkel (1967) is presented as sensitizing concepts that guide this study. Results are reported from a study of 34 women's accounts of their daily work and family routines and conflict situations including the detailing of three superordinate practical action clusters. Finally, a discussion of these findings is provided along with study limitations and future research directions.


Two areas of communication scholarship both inform and provide the point of departure for this study: the dual-career couple communication research and investigations of workplace interactions related to work and family issues. Although this review focuses primarily on scholarship published in the field of communication, key sources from the broader work and family studies literature will also be integrated. The review of literature below demonstrates there is a convincing need to explore work and family routines at the level of daily practice and thus, to examine how we carry out the taken-for-granted nature of managing work and family.

Dual-career couples. Communication researchers have created empirically-based typologies of dual career marriages (Rosenfeld, Bowen, & Richman, 1995), explored their decision making patterns (Kruger, 1986), argued that limited research with a communication focus exists across the dual-career literature (Heacock & Spicer, 1986), and speculated about the role of internal structuring in the maintenance of dual-career marriages (Wood, 1986). Levels of self-disclosure (Rosenfeld & Welsh, 1985), along with influence strategy use in dual career couples have also been studied (Steil & Weltman, 1992). Alternatively, Golden (2000) takes a discourse-oriented approach and empirically explores dual career couples' work and family arrangements through interview data. Through an analysis of interpretive repertoires, Golden concludes that participants' accounts contain a noticeable absence of structural rather than personal explanations for work and parenting arrangements. Thus, her findings compel researchers to consider the differential meanings or ideologies underlying work and family accommodations to better inform organizational policy makers.

While this body of research reports that dual career couples engage in various patterns of interaction and that their discourse is revealing of important underlying assumptions, it does not extend our focus to the everyday interactions of dual career couples that comprise daily work and family routines. It also fails to fully explore the nature of such interactions. …

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