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The Big Answer


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The Time Bind

a book by Arlie Russell Hochschild

(our site's book review)

She says that the time bind concept refers to the blurring distinction between work and home social environments. The attitudes about these two have reversed.

The author reports that “women who work outside the home have better physical and mental health than those who do not, and not simply because healthier women go to work. Paid work, the psychologist Grace Baruch argues, ‘offers such benefits as challenge, control, structure, positive feedback, self esteem... and social ties.’”

Work offers benefits like challenge, control, structure, positive feedback, self esteem, and social ties
Work offers benefits like challenge, control, structure, positive feedback, self esteem, and social ties

People generally are in better moods at work and have more fun than at home, says Hochschild. She did an extensive research project for a family-friendly company called Amerco, and much of the information from her book The Time Bind was generated from this project. Fathers report more positive emotional states at home; mothers report more positive emotional states at work. This held true for every social class. Fathers relaxed more at home; while mothers did more housework there so felt less relaxed.

Fathers relaxed more at home while mothers did more housework at home so they felt less relaxed
Fathers relaxed more at home while mothers did more housework at home so they felt less relaxed

Often, working parents feel more at home while they are at work because they come to expect that emotional support will be more readily available at work than at home. Almost half report having the most friends at work—only a sixth had the most friends in their neighborhoods.

Interestingly, parents applied themselves to evading the time bind created by two-parent working families, and so avoided facing it. Three strategies were common:

Parents earning minimum wages generally found relatives or neighbors to care for kids as they worked, but, paradoxically, professional and managerial parents often left their kids home alone (latchkey kids), citing a child's need to be self-sufficient.

Professional and managerial parents often left their kids home alone (latchkey kids), citing a child's need to be self-sufficient
Professional and managerial parents often left their kids home alone (latchkey kids), citing a child's need to be self-sufficient

The author has dreamed up a “time movement” idea that tries to fix some of the inequities and unfairness and lack of balance in the current situation of long hours, two-parent working families, very little support for child care, sexist realities, kids getting poor childcare, income inequality, lack of flex time, etc. But it’s only that—a dream. Labor unions are losing power and not really looked at as family saviors, although they do have their uses. People are focused on jobs and the economy, and give short shrift to activist crusades these days.

Hochschild documents the ways in which workers of all kinds, from assembly line workers to managerial workers, spend more time on the job. A variety of issues are raised in the book which academics will enjoy debating, especially the trend of people spending more time at work and less time at home—and liking it.

There's a trend of people spending more time at work and less time at home—and liking it
There's a trend of people spending more time at work and less time at home—and liking it

After reading a book like this, which does a fine job of presenting the time bind problem, we can only marvel at how perfectly the MC (microcommunity) movement fits into the discussion.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

See Why Register for an MC?. Although babysitting co-ops would ameliorate the time bind situation, MCs would all but fix it entirely. They would fix these problems: