Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Children's Experiences of Time When a Parent Travels for Work

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Children's Experiences of Time When a Parent Travels for Work

Article excerpt

Everyday lived experience is important for what it reveals about family life (Daly, 1996, 2001; Ochs & Kremer-Sedlik, 2013). This study focuses on how family members experience time and has, at its nucleus, children's experiences of time. Children's voices provide a refreshing and unique view of family life, especially when connected with the viewpoints of their parents (Clark, 2011). There is little qualitative work on children's experiences with family life in general, much less related to parental work, an important gap to address (Clark, 2011; Gibson, 2012). The bidirectionality of the parent-child relationship has been widely accepted in child development and family studies literature (Harach & Kuczynski, 2005; Maccoby, 1992), yet little work examines how children feel about time with parents and family time beyond parents' perceptions and worries (Daly, 2001; Galinsky, 1999). Incorporating multiple points of view about time from within the family are challenging but necessary steps in understanding time in families.

The larger literature on work and family life documents that North Americans today perceive a time crunch or speed-up (e.g., Jacobs & Gerson, 2004). This project sampled families who were highly likely to experience time challenges (Jeong, Zvonkovic, & Acock, 2013), that is, families who had at least one parent who traveled frequently for work. Although there is literature on the consequences of high work hours and high job demands in general (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007; Bakker & Geurts, 2004; Hochschild, 1997; Voydanoff, 2005; Wharton & Blair-Loy, 2006), there have been few studies of work travel and its impact on individuals and families. Recent research on workers' feelings about their jobs since the recession indicates that workers perceive that their jobs are unstable and they therefore are likely to acquiesce to high work demands, including travel, to present themselves as dedicated workers (Pugh, 2015; Zvonkovic, Lee, Brooks-Hurst, & Lee, 2014). This study adds to the growing need to understand how work demands impact families by assessing the experience of time within families with children. This study explores not only how children experience time but also how children's experiences of time converge or contrast with other family members by using a grounded theory methodology from qualitative interviews with children and parents, discussing how they make meaning of their time with each other. Families who experience work-related travel were chosen for this study because the intermittent coming and going from the household has the potential to evoke nuanced thoughts regarding family time.

Time Pressures for Today's Families

Family members' backgrounds, expectations, and experiences get played out in time, inclusive of both long spans of time as well as daily events. Mattingly and Sayer (2006) demonstrated how gender differences in feeling pressed for time operated for married couples as they articulated the connection between objective free time and the perception of time pressure, such that women's time pressure increased significantly over time, but men's did not. In addition, more free time reduced men's, but not women's, perceptions of feeling rushed. One study of how upper-middle-class children experience time, from the vantage point of nannies, illuminated that there can be different views of how much interaction time with parents occurs and different views on the importance of that time with children (Brown, 2011).

Bianchi, Robinson, and Milkie (2006) made the point that, although parents increasingly feel the pressure to devote more time resources to children, parents are in fact directing more time, resources, and attention toward their children than 30 years ago. Especially among parents with higher socioeconomic status, parents have been found to provide more resources, on average, to a child during childhood and adolescence than parents in lower socioeconomic conditions (Fingerman et al. …

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