An in-depth examination of what happens in heterosexual, dual-income marriages with kids under six, The Second Shift is a fascinating read that should be approached with thoughtful caution. If your family falls into the category described above, you might think twice about planning to read it while waiting to pick up the kids or while in an endless line. You may not recognize your own experience in these studies of families trying to work and raise kids while keeping their marriages intact, but if you do, it could be an emotionally difficult experience. We found it to be enlightening and at times infuriating, so we advise reading with care. If you have a book club, this might be a good title to work through with a group of friends. That’s how we chose to do it and it inspired a bevy of impassioned phone calls and text messages.
“When millions of couples are having similar conversations over who does what at home, it can help to understand just what’s going on outside marriage that’s affecting what goes on inside it.”
The Second Shift was originally published in 1989, revised in 2003 and again in 2012. I graduated high school in 1990 (don’t bother with the math, I’m 45 as of this writing). The 1980’s and 90’s were the height of the supermom myth and it was a very difficult era for many women. Arlie Hochschild, the author and a sociologist at UC Berkeley, talks of a “stalled revolution” being at the center of why so many families struggle with how to manage careers, housework and the raising of young children. For Hochschild, the stalled revolution is the women’s movement of the late 1960’s and 70’s. The revolution earned women many rights and responsibilities, but it also left a lot of questions unanswered. One of the biggest questions was how exactly did men fit into the new lives women were leading? Additionally, when unprecedented numbers of women entered the workforce, what did it mean, not only to the women, but also to the men who were married to and raising families alongside them?
The Second Shift attempts to shed light on the personal aspects of this common problem. If you’re as interested in the notion of unpaid labor, as we are, we highly recommend this read.