Carework as a shared social task and as a key to more egalitarian gender contracts
DISPO Department of Political Science and Sociology University of Florence FIRENZE, Italy
DISPO University of Florence FIRENZE, Italy
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.