Most people place a high value on family, work, and children. However, there are often serious tensions associated with juggling and accommodating these priorities. This book analyses these tensions, working on the assumption that it is through the effective sharing of associated earning and caring activities that families are made and maintained.
The focus on the conflict between caring and earning highlights the basis on which the family activities of women and men are similar and different. Much writing on families tends to accentuate crisis and conflict. But a study of total time spent on productive activities (paid plus unpaid labour) actually shows there are not large differences between the time expended by women and men, although differences do lie in the division of this work. Furthermore, some couples maintain more symmetry which suggests there should be new social policies to promote "new families" based on a different accommodation for the sharing of provider and parenting roles. Indeed, the book especially considers the Swedish model where social policy effectively creates an incentive to postpone child-bearing until careers are established, the result being that the cost of child-rearing is partially transferred from women to men and to the workplace.
Clearly, family questions are complex. The division of family labour was central to the writings of early modern sociologists and family questions remain central to our understanding of social class, stratification, and inequality. In taking a detailed look at the abundant data and analyses available on families through the lens of the "earning and caring equation," this book provides an excellent foundation for new understanding of the family. In so doing it alters our views on gender and inequality and offers new approaches to public policy and to human resource issues facing public and private organizations.