Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, The

Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, The

Suzanne M. Bianchi
John P. Robinson
Melissa A. Milkie
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, The
    Book Description:

    Over the last forty years, the number of American households with a stay-at-home parent has dwindled as women have increasingly joined the paid workforce and more women raise children alone. Many policy makers feared these changes would come at the expense of time mothers spend with their children. In Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, sociologists Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson, and Melissa Milkie analyze the way families spend their time and uncover surprising new findings about how Americans are balancing the demands of work and family. Using time diary data from surveys of American parents over the last four decades, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life finds that—despite increased workloads outside of the home—mothers today spend at least as much time interacting with their children as mothers did decades ago—and perhaps even more. Unexpectedly, the authors find mothers’ time at work has not resulted in an overall decline in sleep or leisure time. Rather, mothers have made time for both work and family by sacrificing time spent doing housework and by increased “multitasking.” Changing Rhythms of American Family Life finds that the total workload (in and out of the home) for employed parents is high for both sexes, with employed mothers averaging five hours more per week than employed fathers and almost nineteen hours more per week than homemaker mothers. Comparing average workloads of fathers with all mothers—both those in the paid workforce and homemakers—the authors find that there is gender equality in total workloads, as there has been since 1965. Overall, it appears that Americans have adapted to changing circumstances to ensure that they preserve their family time and provide adequately for their children. Changing Rhythms of American Family Life explodes many of the popular misconceptions about how Americans balance work and family. Though the iconic image of the American mother has changed from a docile homemaker to a frenzied, sleepless working mom, this important new volume demonstrates that the time mothers spend with their families has remained steady throughout the decades.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-051-6
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Chapter 1 Parenting: How Has It Changed?
    (pp. 1-18)

    The cultural image of the American mother has changed from the cheery, doting homemaker to the frenzied, sleepless working mom. The conventional wisdom accompanying this change is that as today’s mothers juggle the dual roles of worker and family caregiver, they must spend less time with their children, and receive little help from fathers.

    Although family incomes have increased with higher maternal employment, social observers worry that this rise is offset by a decline in the quality of family life and in parental supervision and investment in their children. Concern about working mothers forced to endure a “second shift” of...

  6. Chapter 2 Measuring Family Time
    (pp. 19-37)

    This book takes advantage of a unique social science measurement technique for examining family change: the time diary. Most of what is known about changing family life is based either on small observational studies of unknown generalizability, or on surveys that measure market work but provide relatively little information on other spheres of life, such as family caregiving and leisure activities.

    These studies have left unresolved questions about time allocation outside the market. The answers require data that assess all productive activities, not just market activities. Time diaries cover all daily activities—market work and also leisure, personal, and family...

  7. Chapter 3 Changing Workloads: Are Parents Busier?
    (pp. 38-58)

    There has been considerable debate in the United States about what has been happening to work hours over the past two decades. On the one hand are those who argue that total work hours have expanded, driven by consumer aspirations, acquisitions, and debt, as well as by shifts in the economy. Juliet Schor’s (1991)The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure,argued that Americans were working more, driven by competitive pressures in the workplace and ever increasing demands for consumption in the home. The pressure on individuals to work longer hours to maintain living standards, Schor argued, was crowding...

  8. Chapter 4 Parental Time with Children: More or Less?
    (pp. 59-88)

    In 1999, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA 1999) estimated that parents today were spending 22 fewer hours in the home per week compared with 30 years earlier. The CEA arrived at the number by adding the average estimated labor market hours of mothers and fathers in the Current Population Surveys (CPS), reviewed in chapter 3, and comparing the two time points of 1968 and 1998. That 22-hour figure was featured in a May 1999 commencement speech by President Clinton to illustrate how increasingly difficult working parents were finding it to spend time with their children (Babington 1999).


  9. Chapter 5 Housework, Leisure, Personal Care, Relationships: “What Gives” in Busy Families?
    (pp. 89-112)

    For mothers to spend more time in child care (as well as in market work) since 1965, something has had “to give.” For example, many observers expect that the shift to more paid work has caused mothers to find fewer hours for precious sleep. Others surmise that to do it all, today’s mothers have had to give up free time.

    Yet the data in this chapter show that neither of these obvious tradeoffs—for sleep or for leisure—account for much change in mothers’ lives, on average. Less sleep and less leisure do distinguish employed from nonemployed mothers’ lives, however....

  10. Chapter 6 Gender Equality, Role Specialization, and “The Second Shift”: What Do Weekly Diaries Show?
    (pp. 113-124)

    Arlie hochschild (1989) has chronicled the long work days of mothers and the resulting strains in their relationships with their husbands. Working women, who devoted many hours to paid work, came home only to log in many more hours of unpaid work in the form of cooking dinner, meeting children’s needs, doing laundry, and the like. Hochschild documented how the women she interviewed faced the equivalent of a second job when they returned to the home after work. The existence of this arduous second shift raises the question of whether women’s movement into the labor force has been liberating or...

  11. Chapter 7 Feelings About Time: Parental Stress and Time Pressures
    (pp. 125-141)

    We have concentrated on the behavioral or activity component of time in working families—what parents report actually doing with their time. However, busy and overworked are also subjective classifications. How people feel about their time allocations—the meaning they give to their prioritization of activities—is also of great interest. We have become particularly fascinated with the apparent disconnect between what parents actually do with their time and how they judge the balance in their lives, much as Robinson and Godbey (1999) found for adults in general. We thus focus here on the subjective dimension of the time allocations...

  12. Chapter 8 Children’s Time Use: Too Busy or Not Busy Enough?
    (pp. 142-156)
    Sara Raley

    Our description of the changing American family in earlier chapters has almost entirely centered on adults. Although parents clearly play a major role in organizing and making decisions about family life, most observers would probably agree that from a very young age, children are also active participants in the rhythms of everyday family life. When they become teenagers, both their academic and extracurricular activities and their personalities are likely to influence how often, when, and where family time takes place (Lareau 2000). Yet the perspectives and activities of children tend to be overlooked in the mainstream literature on family (Thorne...

  13. Chapter 9 Multinational Patterns in Parental Time: How Unique Is the United States?
    (pp. 157-168)

    We have seen that the widespread hypothesis about parents spending less time with children is at odds with the picture of everyday family life that emerges from American time-diary surveys. Here we review parallel diary data from five other Western countries (three primarily English speaking) to see whether the results in previous chapters are unique to the United States. The basic results in chapters 4 and 5 are thus recapitulated for comparison with data from national-level diary studies of parents in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands, as well as partial data from Australia.

    Previous analyses by Philip...

  14. Chapter 10 Mothers’ Time, Fathers’ Time, and Gender Equal Parenting: What Do We Conclude?
    (pp. 169-180)

    The preceding chapters contain three basic claims from our time-diary evidence. Each is novel and will likely be controversial.

    First is that mothers are spending as much time interacting with their children today as forty years ago when they allocated far fewer hours to paid work. They do this by making children their top priority. They cut back market work when child care demands are highest, they privilege child care activities over other time expenditures (especially housework and time for themselves), and they include children in their leisure activities to maximize time with them. They absorb a higher workload despite...

  15. Appendix A Reliability and Validity of the Time-Diary Approach
    (pp. 181-184)
  16. Appendix B Additional Data Sources
    (pp. 185-189)
  17. Appendix C Multinational Data
    (pp. 190-203)
  18. Appendix D Tables
    (pp. 204-222)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 223-228)
  20. References
    (pp. 229-240)
  21. Index
    (pp. 241-254)