There was a time a few years back when I was holding my full-time corporate job while simultaneously completing my doctoral dissertation and planning my wedding. I was so proud of myself for finding a way to exercise, see friends, spend time with my future husband and overall lead a balanced life in spite of the workload. Now I look back and it seems like it was a piece of cake! I'm still working full time, but I'm not planning a wedding or doing dissertation corrections. I am a working mom.
Sociologist Arlie Hochschild coined the term "second shift" to refer to the household work and childcare work that mothers who work outside of the home for income routinely do. The second shift, she finds, is there even for moms whose husbands are actively involved and cooperative. The second shift is full of subtle responsibilities that, when considered alone, may not seem important. When considered as a whole, however, they can be quite a challenge. Some of those responsibilities can be things like being responsible for the children's grooming, such as clipping nails and trimming hair, and managing their ever-revolving clothing, such as buying what they need, mending what is torn, putting away the too-small, and storing what will fit a younger sibling in a while. It can be about being the one who buys present's for other kids' birthdays, or being responsible for planning meals, or keeping track of cleaning supplies or toilettries and buying them as they run out. It can be about researching summer camps, after-school programs, pediatricians or babysitters. It can be about opening and paying household bills and managing the household budget. It can be about being the one who manages the appearance of the home, including touch ups, clean up, replacing worn down items.
My second shift is probably ligher than that of many other working moms, as my husband is an involved dad. I'm sure he could write a post about the dad's version of the second shift. I often admire at our human capacity to adapt, especially when change is gradual, and still thrive.
What are your experiences with the second shift?