9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Work and Families II Building II, Auditório B1.03

Don´t put all your eggs in one basket! Strategies to cope with unstable work-life balance

Today, work-life balance refers to the harmonization of work and life, even though literature often talks about balance between work and family: if it were so, it should have been called "work-family balance", but this label has been abandoned during the last years. What is work-life balance about? It seems that private life has to do with what has left out as residual category after people have devoted their time to work and family.
The topic of work-life balance is always associated with the classical dichotomy between public and private life, even though these two spheres are not as separated as some literature suggests: public domains don't refer only to work, nor private space embraces just family. Time-based conflict is just one of the related conflicts that can be activated by these overlapped domains that can never be clearly separated. Work-life conflict depends on social expectations, arrangements of the distribution of domestic tasks, orientation, actions, capabilities, satisfaction and on many other factors that can be lead to cultural and institutional reasons. For example, it's very hard for parents to arrange daily life in a way that can free time for themselves as individuals independent from their family roles: they usually cope with precariousness by giving up time for themselves or for the couple, and offering an explanation that has to do with their "orientation" towards parenthood. At the same time, parents are constrained by gender organization of daily life that sometimes forces women and men in different and rigid categories, reducing their identities to those of mothers and fathers. This paper will show some insights about how parents manage their professional and their private life, trying to reconciliate time and space for family, for work and for private issues that can be beyond the scope of caring.
The empirical background of the research is based on 120 interviews focused on everyday life practices, conducted in seven different European countries (Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom) and analysed by N-Vivo7.