February 21, 2005

Arlie Russell Hochschild's The Time Bind

I remembered skimming a NY Times Magazine article years ago, long before I ever thought about having a kid of my own someday, that revealed that many parents actually (secretly? unconsciously?) prefer and choose work over home.

The rewards of office work--camaraderie, more direct feedback, decisionmaking with immediate or rapid results--were the exact corollary of the challenges of parenting--limited peer relationships, frustrating repetition with little or no apparent impact, incredible amounts of time yielding (possibly) results only years later. It was a meme that stuck with me, but I couldn't remember or find the source.

Then Judith Shulevitz mentioned Arlie Russell Hochschild's 1997 book The Time Bind in her review of Perfect Madness. She was refuting the alleged dangers of overparenting:

For all its excesses, overparenting is still preferable to its alternative, which was depicted with quiet sadness by the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in her 1997 book, ''The Time Bind.'' Hochschild studied a Fortune 500 company with exemplary work-life balance policies for both men and women and discovered that few mothers and almost no fathers took advantage of them. Some were afraid of losing their jobs; some couldn't cope with the fear that they'd be diminished in their bosses' eyes; some wanted overtime pay; but a majority eventually admitted that they liked life in the office and even on the plant floor better than life at home. Work was orderly and companionable. Home crackled with the anger and acting-out of children cycled through jury-rigged baby-sitting arrangements and yanked through their lives like tiny factory workers keeping pace with a speedup.
Buy Hochschild's The Time Bind at Amazon. [amazon.com]
Shulevitz's NYT review of Perfect Madness

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