I’m a few more chapters into Arlie Hochschild’s The Time Bind (see last Sunday’s entry) and I’m even more horrified, which is saying quite a lot. I’ve been reading about managers and executives and their attitudes toward work time versus family time, and how those attitudes manifest themselves in company policy. It seems to translate into this: the amount of time you put into your job is indicative of your commitment to the company, and if you don’t show that you have as much or more “commitment” than your peers, then the company doesn’t need you. What the hell!
I get so angry reading about this. Why is work everybody’s top priority? Especially in this kind of work atmosphere, why does no one ever seem to value family or free time over work? It can’t just be that we all need money to survive (alas). Hochschild agrees that there are other factors involved here. One is that people accustomed to a work environment are often much happier there. Crises at work are much more controllable than those at home, and work provides recognition that is rarely forthcoming at home. This makes sense. Our culture is earmarked by a desire to take the easy way out whenever possible. If eating out costs $20 but cooking takes 20 minutes, we’ll still eat out to avoid exertion (I do this myself, all too frequently). Watching TV requires less thought than reading a book. And if home gets too chaotic, we just spend more time at work.
Another problem here, though, is that work and home and the possibility of escape are not the same for men and women. So many men escape to work because there’s a wife at home taking care of things. This much we know already. But Hochschild brings up some other points about men and work. As she describes it, a corollary to “work time equals commitment” could also be that, for men, “work time equals commitment equals ambition.” Men are judged on their ambition, and those who demonstrate less–by spending more time at home–face a lot of criticism from their fellow men. The same goes for women, in a slightly different way. For any woman to survive in any non-home setting in our society, she is forced to prove to the men in charge that she can do the job as well as a man. I hate this, but it’s true, and if you don’t recognize it you’d better take off those rose-colored glasses. What this means is that a woman who wants career and family is going to have to try even harder to prove that her work is important, maybe that it’s even more important than her family. I say again, what the hell is wrong here?
This is starting to turn into yet another feminist rant about how it’s all men’s fault, but there’s definitely some of that in Hochschild’s book. I don’t know what to make of that. Is it her bias, or is it true? Blaming it all on the men has become such a cliché that it’s hard to tell anymore whether people are saying it because they can, or whether it really does happen to be true as often as it gets said. That said, she describes quite believably the old-boy style that permeates the (generally male) executive offices of the company she studies. These men have been working for the company for decades and don’t see anything wrong with spending tons of time at work and little at home. Probably their fathers were the same way. Now young parents are demanding things like flextime and more parental leave, and these men are bewildered by the changes. They got by without “family-friendly policies” and arranging them is so much trouble, and they see it all as the doing of women in the workplace. Plus, as I’ve been complaining for years, so many men think that as long as there’s food and shelter and the kids aren’t killing each other, and as long as they spend a few hours with the kids every week, then their job is done. This has been a father’s job for centuries, and it really does seem that few men question this role.
I always hate to sound like a raging feminist, not because I’m not one, but because I’ve learned that people don’t actually listen to raging feminists. It has been hard, really hard, for me to accept that men and women are different and really don’t see things the same way. It’s so unfair, because it means that as long as men are in charge and women have different ideas, those ideas will be dismissed as just some kind of female thing. And, as my mother is always cautioning me, it’s useless to try and explain this to men. But reading about what work is doing to family life just makes me so upset. There must be a better way. I don’t know what it can possibly be. My mommy is a stay-at-home mom, and I had a wonderful childhood. I’d like to provide that for my kids, but I know it would make me crazy. I have everything I want in my apartment, and even then, if I don’t do anything outside of it for a day I go nuts. As time goes on, I confess, I don’t even want kids as much as I used to, because I’m just so afraid it won’t be possible to work and still raise them the way I’d like to. But I’m not an escapist. I know I will eventually have kids, and I’ll just have to find some way to make it work.
On a different note, living at home for the summer is definitely making me nuts (and progressively crankier), but this is a story for another time.
currently sipping: suco de banana e abacate, a refreshing Brazilian smoothie made from 1/2 large ripe avocado, 2 bananas, 1c crushed ice, 1T sugar and 1/2c milk
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]