Spring 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

A Major Challenge: Balancing Work and Family


William H. Reid
Head, Extension Family
Cooperative Extension Service
Auburn University
Auburn, Alabama

Patricia Tanner Nelson
Family and Child Development Specialist
University of Delaware

Extension personnel are often asked to speak on topics such as time management, child care, household maintenance, parenting, family relations, and changing roles of men and women. In addition to having to be experts on these topics, they are expected to incorporate this knowledge into their daily lives. Balancing family and work is a major challenge facing most of us.

Soon, nearly half the work force will be women. As increasing numbers of women take jobs outside the home, it's assumed their husbands will be helping out more around the house. True?

Researchers1 repeatedly conclude that women continue to shoulder most of the homemaking tasks, and that the amount of time they spend on these tasks has remained fairly constant over time. Burden found that when the hours for paid employment and homemaking tasks are combined, working mothers spend about 80 hours a week and fathers about 65 hours a week in their combined roles. The amount of time spent in paid employment and homemaking is considerably greater for parents than for nonparents. Those with the greatest time demands are the mothers of young children.2

When data are analyzed by decades, researchers find that men have shown no significant increase in the minutes a day devoted to either housework or child care. Despite popular beliefs, class variations seem to have little bearing on men's involvement in domestic work. Income, education, and employment status don't seem to influence the amount of time men devote to housework or child care.

Programming to strengthen family well-being is thus a priority issue for Extension in the future. The disparity between men's work/women's work must be addressed. To be successful in our jobs and our family lives, we must grapple with this dilemma on a personal basis. Footnotes

1. D. S. Burden, "Single Parents and the Work Setting: The Impact of Multiple Job and Homelife Responsibilities, " Family Relations, XXXV (January 1986), 37-43; S. Coverman and J. F. Sheley, "Changes in Men's Housework and Child-Care Time, 1965-75, " Journal of Marriage and Family, XLVI II (May 1986), 413-22; and M. Sanik, "Division of Household Work: A Decade Comparison-1967-77, "Home Economics Research Journal, X (December 1981), 175-80.

2. Sanik, "Division of Household Work. "