Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Constructing Family-Friendly Careers: Mothers' Experiences. (Research)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Constructing Family-Friendly Careers: Mothers' Experiences. (Research)

Article excerpt

Numerous cultural forces have contributed to a modern polarization of work and family roles. Historically, women s work and family roles were defined primarily by male power structures, leading to a perception that work performed by women was less valuable or less prestigious (Raabe, 1996). As the United States became industrialized, work and family roles were further separated by the trend of men working away from the home and women staying at home to care for children. This trend perpetuated the power differential and minimized the potential work opportunities for women (Fowlkes, 1987). However, since the mid- 1900s, the number of women working away from their homes has increased. In particular, during the last 30 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of employed women in the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1996). Simultaneously, the average number of hours couples in the United States spend working has increased (Cornell Employment and Family Careers Institute, 1999).

Because the prevailing employment paradigm expects individuals to work approximately 40 hours per week to be considered a legitimate employee, most women work full-time (Rubin & Riney, 1994). Considerable research has demonstrated that these women, who are full-time employees, continue to perform the bulk of the child care and household duties (Barnett & Rivers, 1996; Betz & Fitzgerald, 1987; Moen & Yu, 1997; Scarr, Phillips, & McCartney, 1989). Thus, many women find themselves with the equivalent of two full-time jobs. This workload often leads to frustration, stress, and some degree of dissatisfaction with both jobs (Moen, 1992). Some of these studies have investigated the apparent reluctance of men to share more fully in homemaking tasks. Although some evidence indicates that men are becoming more involved in child care and, to a lesser degree, other housework, a large gap remains between the amount of housework and child care performed by employed women and that performed by their employed spouses (Fitzgerald, Fassinger, & Betz, 1995; Shelton, 1992). Although understanding this disparity and making efforts toward equalizing the home workload is important, particularly to the mental health of women, equalization may be only part of the challenge.

Moen (1992) has suggested that even if a couple were to equalize the child care and homemaking work, a significant problem would remain. Instead of having one person with two full-time jobs, the family would have two parents, each with 1 1/2 full-time jobs. This 150% workload would arguably result in the same kind of stress and dissatisfaction--albeit more equally distributed between the parents. Accordingly, this research looked at the work overload dimension of the work/family dilemma. We explored the experience of women who had determined that they wanted more time available for child care and related homemaking tasks but also wanted to maintain significant involvement in their chosen career. To do this, we identified 26 women who were, by choice, working less than full-time in their chosen career and were reportedly committed to making time with their children a priority. These women were interviewed regarding their experience in identifying and constructing a "family-friendly" career. The results provide insights into the difficulties and benefits of challenging the prevailing system. As has often been the case in the study of women's vocational development, the results may provide some insights into the next wave of development for vocational counseling in general.

HISTORICAL EFFORTS TO UNDERSTAND WOMEN'S VOCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The history of efforts to describe women's career development has been inconsistent and incomplete. Early vocational theories largely ignored women's career development (Fitzgerald et al., 1995). Because many women, especially middle-class White women, did not formally pursue careers prior to World War II, women in general were ignored in accounts of career development. …

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