The Blame Game: work-family topics are in the spotlight, but real issues often ignored

As a work-family scholar, I’ve been delighted to see how many times work-family issues have made the national news this year. From the Atlantic to the New York Times to Newsweek to Time, the national media has devoted significant print to issues related to work-family conflict, women’s pay, breastfeeding, and healthcare coverage for families. Yet, some of the most prominent of these articles seem to be playing the blame game, suggesting that women are at fault for their continued experience of work-family conflict. These articles suggest that if only women wanted less, weren’t perfectionists, asked for more help, breastfed longer (or maybe shorter), then their lives would be significantly easier. One of the main problems with these arguments is that they tend to focus on how individuals could change their behavior to fix what is actually a structural problem. In other words, many of today’s institutions continue to operate under the outdated assumption that there’s someone at home who is taking care of the kids, cooking dinner, and doing the household chores. Yet dual-earner families and single-parent families are now the norm, not the exception, making up over two-thirds of all households with children. When everyone is working, it’s not always clear who can be home when a child is sick or a boss adds a mandatory overtime shift. So, there’s a mismatch between what institutions expect (workers who don’t need to worry about families) and the reality of most workers’ lives.

Read the whole story in the Huffington Post.

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