9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Intergenerational Relationships Building II, Auditório B1.04

Carework as a shared social task and as a key to more egalitarian gender contracts

Several scholars recently underlined that the term Work/family balance, which substituted the former Work/Life balance in public discourse, has sensibly shifted its meaning, especially as concerns its policy implications (Lewis 2006; Lewis and Campbell 2008), involving in particular an important meaning shift in the EU policy recommendations (Stratigaki 2004; Blejenberg and Roggeband 2007; Jenson 2008; Schmidt and Redaelle 2004). Focusing on work-life balance, in the new concept extension, requires a more equal consideration of the care realm besides the work realm and opens to a more and more necessary social recognition of the care work inside and outside families, involving a more egalitarian gender order. The paper aims at describing the field of variation in aspiration levels which families and parenting couples or single parents deem acceptable in defining what a proper system of care of their dependants could be. The ways of using childcare services and organizing complex or one-dimension networks of help in granting steady and well-functioning care arrangements in substitution/support of parents, opens a wide sphere of combinations in which respondents tell very different stories illustrating the same conceptual topics: the usually define subjective boundaries and legitimize a compromise between "the possible and the preferred" (Lewis Campbell Huerta 2008, 25) concerning educational worries and boundaries of children wellbeing. But also of parents´ wellbeing and sense of self-fulfilment. Adopting a truly constructionist approach means often asking which kind of care of children or other dependants (at which level of quality considered necessary) mothers and fathers defining themselves adult workers-and-parents consider compatible with which kind of work commitment. The question, then, is what is taken for granted in both directions and how different may be mothers and fathers´ trade-offs.
The paper is based on the rich database of the Workcare project, collecting daily life narratives of 120 respondents from 7 different European countries (Austria, UK, Portugal, Poland, Italy Hungary and Danemark), analysed by N.vivo7. In our research the cross-national perspective is applied to in-depth narrative interviews adopting a life-cycle approach.