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The Blurring Borders between Work and Family

50 years ago, the link between work and family was a very obvious one. But while years ago the pattern was always of a men leaving his family to work for either short or long terms in order to support his family, nowadays this pattern shifted dramatically. The nuclear family no longer necessarily contains of a husband and a wife, because many families are of single parents, divorced, etc. The working place has changed much as well - much more women work in all areas, in different working hours. How do all these changes affect the link between work and family? How can a family support itself, alongside taking good care of its children in today’s situation?

In an article by Suzanne M. Bianchi, “Changing Families, Changing Workplaces”, she examines the balance between family and work, in view of the recent changes in both work and family. The first main difference she notes regarding the family is the increasing number of mothers that need to work to support their family. The second is the increase in family instability and single parenting. Regarding the changes in the field of work she mentions especially the change in working hours - much more people work at nonstandard hours, or don’t even have fixed hours. Hence, the once distinct borders between “work” and “family” are now becoming blurred, thus creating tensions in family life.

Bianchi stresses one main point: the balance between work and family life is sometimes impossible because of the way in which the problem is viewed. She claims that unlike how many see it, the problem of balancing work and family cannot be seen as one dimension problem, but should be seen as a multiple problem. This is because families vary from one another. While some need to increase their income by working more in order to support themselves, other families need the possibility to stop working when needed because of certain family occasions - like a loss of a family member or a child birth. Only when it will be understood that the link between family and work is more complex than many think, will it be possible to create a real balance that will improve the commitment of a worker to his working place, while allowing him to be with his family when needed.

It can be seen from the article, that the reciprocity between work and family is a very complex one. If in the past the task of the father was to support and the task of the mother was to take care of the house and family, nowadays there is no clarity at all about who is responsible to what. This is because often both parents must work to sustain their family, not to mention single parents or divorced families. In an era when information technology allows people to work partly of fully from their homes, this complexity only increases. The challenge of the next decade will be to find the golden path that will enable creating the exact right balance between work and family.

Based on: Bianchi, S.M. “Changing Families, Changing Workplaces”. The Future of Children 21/2, (Fall 2011), pp. 15-36

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