Double burden

Double burden

Double burden is a term describing the workload of men and women who work to earn money, but also have responsibility for unpaid, domestic labor.[1] According to studies done dealing with a stressful environment chronically, such as a stressful job or household due to overwhelming responsibilities, is likely to increase the secretion of stress hormones within the body. [2] This phenomenon is also known as the "second shift," as in Arlie Hochschild's book of the same name. Since an increasing number of women began having careers in addition to taking on their motherly responsibilities in the Western hemisphere, and parts of the Eastern hemisphere, there has been an effort made to document the effects of this double burden on parents placed in such situations. [2] Many studies have been done tracing the effects of having the "double burden" of raising children while having a part-time or full-time job, and in most cases there was a notable difference between men and women who are placed in these circumstances and those who are not.

In heterosexual couples where both partners have paid jobs, the woman often spends significantly more time on household chore and caring work, such as childrearing or care for the sick, than the male partner. This outcome is determined in large part by traditional gender roles that have been accepted by society over time. Cathy Young argues that rather than men being uninterested in child-rearing resulting in an unequal burden for women, women barring men from taking on paternal responsibilities may sometimes be at fault.[3]


History of Double Burden

Pre-Modern Day

The idea of double burden is not a new one [4]. Seeing how traditional roles between men and women have become cemented throughout time, the out pouring of occupations in the early 1920's regarding women acquiring occupations such as "cafeterias, nurseries, laundries and other facilities seemed to release women from domestic chores and free them to participate fully in the sphere of production." [4] This migration of women into the workforce certainly shook the traditional ideology of roles, but most importantly it was the catalyst to the double burden becoming more and more noticeable [4]. The roaring 30's "encouraged women to fulfill what Stalin termed the "great and honorable duty that nature has given" them [4]. Urban women thus found themselves assuming the "double burden" (also known as the "double shift") of waged work outside the home and the lion's share of unpaid labor within it." [4] The economic struggles alongside the fragmented labor distribution in the home seemed to pull many women into this role or burden so that their family's may remain balanced on all sides [4]. This caused the expectations for that time for each gender to be altered and roles to be both tested and re-assigned for the incoming decades [4].

Modern Day

Now in modern times, the idea of the double burden still brings a default idea into one's mind, but it is more evolved with the times concerning both sexes and their new found roles [2]. The role of a provider as well as a caregiver is sometimes expected on any women, but more and more women enter and make their presence known in the work force, an 'independent' ideology seems to take effect and forces some women to choose a life of liberation and freedom with their career or a life of children, dirty laundry and school plays [5]. Some may choose strictly one of the other, others may choose to carry the burden of both lifestyles while enduring the new stress that these times bring [5]. But one cannot forget that the burden in today's society effects the men as well [2]. As some men trade traditional roles with the females, the burden of being the innate provider for the family while tending to home life creates a new challenge [5]. Some modern "men tend to believe in the principle of equal sharing of domestic labor, but actually to live up to that belief." [5] The constant tug of war regarding one's time and where it could, should but will be placed creates a new speed bump that is a little bit higher that the previous ones [5]. Modern times illuminate how many children need their fathers in there life while also emphasizing how financial stability is a necessity for a healthy family relationship[5]. The burden of encompassing both ideologies plays a tole on both sexes in today's societies [5].

Health Effects of the Double Burden

When faced with the double burden of having to deal with the responsibilities of both a career as well as domestic duties, sometimes a person's health is effected. Many people faced with these circumstances have a higher chance of being sick since health and stress seem to go hand in hand. In fact stress has been implicated in up to eighty percent of all illnesses, as found by a report done by the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. [5] In an article that was written by a team of researchers it was found that both men and women faced with a "spillover" of work and family issues were 1.5-1.6 times more likely to have an absence due to sickness than others. [2] Men and women in these situations have also been proven to be more likely to be faced with psychological stress and even see themselves as unhealthier than their colleagues who are not in their situation. [2]

In a study done by Rosamund Weatherall, Heather Joshi and Susan Macran of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1994, the research presented suggests that women presented with the double burden have a lower mortality rate than the women who are simply housewives.[6]The women who were observed that had part time jobs had a mortality rate lower than the women with full-time jobs and children.[6]The study also suggests that women who have young children are less likely to die than women who have no children or have older children.[6] Although this evidence can not be strictly attributed to the double burden of having children and a career field, it can give a good indication of a trend in society. Also, this study was conducted in multiple countries including England, Wales, and the United States which gives the information presented from the study a more global perspective on the double burden.

In another study done it was seen that absences due to sickness for women are far greater than men. [7] When investigating as to why this could be a study done in Sweden found that half of the difference between genders can be dismissed if you take out the days missed by pregnant women.[7] When taking into account the health effects of double burden, child birth is always a possibility for mothers who already are faced with taking care of children and having a career and effects them and their health. In many studies people have tried to relate the difference in sickness absences directly to the double burden effect, and it has been somewhat done proving that women who are faced with work during sometime of the day and then faced with taking care of children have been known to request more sick days than men in the same situation. [7] It has been seen that working wives with children have twice the absence rate as men who are placed in the same position in work family conflicts. [5]

Gender Differences

"A mother that works and raises a family has to be pretty strong, very strong. I feel sorry for the mother with the little kids- have to bundle them up in the morning and take them to the daycare centre and pick them up again at night. I wouldn't go through that again that way. It's too hard." [5]


Many studies have been done in the past that have tried to relate the different effects of the double burden on different genders, and more specifically on the gender roles played by a variety of people worldwide. In most studies done it was found that when both parents are faced with a full-time job, the women is faced with a higher amount of a domestic workload than the males will be faced with. [2]

A very helpful study that can show the difference between the effects on the double burden is a book entitled The Canadian Family in Crisis written by John Fredrick Conway. In Conway's studies he discovers the physical, emotional, and psychological differences between men and women faced with the double burden in Canada.[5] In these studies it was found that women who are raising children and also in the workforce are more prone to have anxiety and many other stress related effects than the women who are just faced with one of the two burdens. [5]

This added stress can be attributed to the added workload around the house for the mother in some cases. In a study done by Statistics Canada's General Social Survey of 10,000 households the average man spent under two hours a day dealing with childcare and house work while women on average spent more a little more than three. [5] Also shown in this study is the scarcity in equal work for both partners in these situations. Of the people surveyed, under fifteen percent of the couples agreed on doing around the same amount of work in the house.[5] In this study it was also shown that about eighty-three percent of women participate in housecleaning and food preparation compared to only fifty-one percent of men who were surveyed. [5]

This stress can also be attributed to a loss of sleep that may come along with the responsibilities of maintaining raising children and having a career. In traditional gender roles it is usually the mother who is the one to get the family going in the morning as she fixes breakfast and takes the children to school before she goes to her own job. At night the mother cooks and does various other activities around the house that cause her to be the last person to retire for the night as well. Although this is merely just a few gender roles that are not set in stone, they may hold to be true. It was found that working women sleep twenty-five minutes less a night due solely to their responsibility for domestic work. [5] Though this seems like no time at all it does add up in no time. Applying this statistic in larger scale leads to the assumption that women on average loose up to roughly thirteen hours a month of sleep due to domestic duties around the house. If applied to an even larger scale it can be assumed that it is possible for an average woman to lose up to one hundred and fifty-six hours of sleep during a year because of domestic work and motherly duties.

Although women faced with double burden usually have more stress than most women in today's society, it was proven that in most cases they are psychologically healthier than women who are not faced with these circumstances, for either being a stay at home mother or for being a working woman without children to take care of. [5]


Even though the effects of raising children and having a career simultaneously are mostly seen in women throughout many societies, the men in such situations are effected greatly as well. These effects are not seen all of the time in males because how males are effected differ greatly from how females are effected by this extra responsibility. In The Canadian Family Crisis the author suggests a reason for these effects to go unnoticed in most studies and surveys.[5] The reason that the effects on men go unnoticed is because women's stress can be seen through direct labor consisting of housework and career where as men's stress, in most cases, comes from decision making and work/family conflicts. [5] The male's stress in these situations derive from work/family conflicts most of the time when situations arise where the male must make the best choice for the future of his family. Situations that could involve a work/family conflict include things such as workload, overtime hours, shift decisions, and even accepting a promotion or a transfer. [5] In these situations the man is forced to make major choices that will effect the entire family, which brings on much stress. The effects on the male in these situations also go unnoticed since in traditional gender roles the male is supposed to be the backbone of the family and in the past it would have been seen as weakness for the male to display his emotions to the rest of the family. [5] In survey's and studies done, most males would not like to be seen as too weak to handle his responsibilities as the role of the adult male in the household, which in the past has consisted of being the major economical supporter and physical figure for the family, so it is very possible that some may have lied when surveyed about these topics.

Types of Double Burdens

Work vs. Family

Parenting is a large task within itself, and when a parent has a career, as well, it can cause a double burden, or work–family conflict. Strains begin to develop between these two roles when women, and men, find that the demands of their family are conflicting with the demands from their job. [2] When one is faced with a double burden like this, it effects how decisions are made within a career and in a family; this burden could potentially effect when a couple decides to have children. [7] 75% of all women who have jobs are in their childbearing prime. [8] When the conflict between one's family and work presents itself, the unpaid work that is being done in the home may be cut down, because of the certain health effects, or as a solution to deal with the greater demands from the workplace. [2] Social outings and visits, and family dinners are two of the firs things that get cut back on due to the Work-family conflict. [9] In a study by Ari Väänänen, May V. Kevin, et al. found that if a man put a higher importance on their family, were more likely to stay home from work in order to deal with extreme family demands. [2] Ways that the double burden can be lessened for is with hired help in the house, day-care facilities, and longer maternity leaves for women. [7] For instance, in Norway women are allowed the options of 10 months of maternity leave, where they will get 100% of their pay, or 12 months leave, where they will only paid 80% of their earnings. [7] Some companies are realizing the effect the double burden of work and a family is having on their empolyees and are offering flexible work schedules in order to help their empolyes cope. [8] Not only do these flexible hours help the empolyee deal with their stress, but i also benefits the company because workers are happier, less likely to be absent, more productive, and the turnover rate is lower for the company. [8] As Sophia Mwangi says, "Parenthood is a joy. Let us never be burdened by it but let's celebrate the joy that it brings. Celebrate those first steps or words, the first school play, their graduation day, passing those exams, landing their first job, getting married, making you grandparents. Whatever it is, let's celebrate our children. It's not easy, but the art of juggling can always be mastered!"[10]

Family vs. School

Raising a family is not an easy task, and deciding to go back to school while raising a family can be a monumentual decision for the family says Carol Jacobs of the Jewish Employ-ment & Vocational Service. Her advice to those considering going back to school is, "Talk to an educational consultant and people in the field you want to be in." [11] She adds, "This is a commitment and the decision should involve your family. Will you be available to go to your child's softball game or have time to cook dinner?" [11] There are many reasons why someone may put of going to school until their children are older, such as not wanting to leave them in the hand of a baby sitter constantly at such a young age. [12] However, once the children get older the parent persuing an education, may start missing school events that they would have normally attended. [12] The guilt of having to leave a child while attending to educational matters is less when the child is old enough to be able to ask questions about where their parent is and comprehend the response. [13] Even though pursuing an education while nurturing a family will have its cost, the benefits include getting a higher paying job, gaining more knowledge, and becoming more stable financially. [13] Most of the time this burden will include the person trying to balance a job along with their family and schooling, because they still need to work in order to provide for their family at the present moment. For people who have a hard time fitting classes into their schedule around the needs of their family, there are options where they will be required to do all of the work for a course, but it will all take place online. [13] For example, the University of Delaware and the University of Phoenix Online, has both Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing programs for people to complete online. [13]

Single vs. Married Parents

Single Parent Double Burdens

"Single Parents do not typically have the luxury of dividing tasks between two adults in the home."[14]

"The Parents in a married-couple family may be able to divide their tasks so that one parent specializes more in work-related and income-producing activities and the other parent specializes more in home-related, non-income producing activities." [14] Married parents have that option to split the workload, even though it usually does not happen, but single parents do not have the option of sharing the workload with anyone.

The double burden is usually view as a primary problem for single women or married women. People fail to recognize that men can and often do go through the same trials and hard times as a parent trying to balance work and the family. [5] Within the book The Canadian Family in Crisis, Conway addresses this issue with an argument from Eichler. Eichler says, "Social science fails to understand men" by tending "to downplay or ignore a potential conflict between work and home for men." [5] Married men can avoid the full impact of the double burden but single fathers are totally incapable of avoiding the double burden of family and work. Though single fathers face the same amount of problems that single mothers face, they have two advantages that play in their favor. Men usually have a higher income and have a shorter time of being single than women. [5] The thing is, until they are remarried or have a women to help them out around the house, men still must deal with the sexual and emotional frustration as a women does. They must deal with the balancing of work, childcare, and domestic responsibilities. [5] Single fathers are usually doubtful about their ability be a parent, and they are challenged psychologically. "The problems faced by the working single father are more than merely the logistical problems shared by all working parents. He has to change the way he feels about about himself as man." [5] A man being a single parent and feelings the affects of the double burden can and will interfere with his career just as it does with a single mother that has a career. A study showed that five percent of single fathers were fired form their jobs due to the double burden and another eight percent quit because the double burden became too much of a burden for them to balance both work and the family. [5] With that being said, single fathers feel the same if not more of the affect of the double burden as women do.

The double burden that single mothers endure really comes without much explanation as history has shown, women are likely to end up with this burden. Single mothers usually have higher rates of employment and children at home and have the highest levels overall of the double burden. Women also have less economic resources than men and have no partner to share the workload with. [14] Single mothers fall heavily under economic vulnerability and one reason is because women's wages are less than seventy percent of men's wages. Single mothers may face job discrimination and not earn as much so it will be even harder on her to maintain the double burden. Single-mother families tend to be creeping around the poverty line with a poverty rate that is twice as high of that for men. [14]

Married Parents Double Burdens

Because of women's expanded roles in the workforce have generally not been accompanied by any relaxation of expectations for their family and domestic activities, many women today face the "double burden" of home and work responsibilities. [15] Women take on the largest portion of the domestic obligations of the home, even when they are working full-time jobs. This describes how angry and frustrated women gets when they know that they are doing the majority of the housework on top of their careers. There have been said to be more reasons, other than gender roles, as to why there is a difference in the housework performed by men and women. Some theories have suggested that women's expectations for household cleanliness are higher than men's. Women feel like they must be responsible for the condition of the home in a way that men do not. [15] Men do invest most of their time in their careers, but women spend double that time caring for the children, state of the home and taking care of the domestic responsibilities. In a graph from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2004, that compare the work load of married men and women between the ages of 25-54, women are displayed as doing one hundred percent more housework than men do, and men are displayed as having more leisure time then that of women. [15] As the double burden increased in 1980, women became more critical of their marriages than men and wanted the men to do more around the house to ease the burden of a second shift. The double burden of women, that have jobs and still have to come home and shoulder the majority of the housework, leads to women filing or initiating divorce. [16]

This concept of the double burden with married couples is a worldwide phenomenon. Throughout different cultures of the world, women spend more total hours in work than men do. In Japan, once married, they are still expected to be devoted wives and mothers that give all off their effort to the home, even after a full day of work. Latin American women, now entering the work force in large numbers, still face what they call doble jornada, or double day's journey. [15] Although in the Latin American culture, men are starting to interact more with the children and helping around the house more, the main domestic responsibilities still fall upon the women of the house. Sometimes the women can be the primary wage earners and still do most of the domestic work. European men are more likely to play and interact with their children but not likely to participate fully in those children's daily care. They are also more likely to help their wives at home but not likely to tackle all domestic task equally. [15] The logic behind men acting this way is because men fail to live up to their belief of equal sharing of domestic labor. So they believe in an equal work load in the house but just do not follow through with their idea. [5]

See also


  1. ^ Phyllis Moen (1989). Working Parents. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 4. ISBN 0299121046. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Vaananen, Ari; May V. Kevin, Leena Ala-Mursula, Jaana Pentti, Mika Kivimaki, Jussi Vahtera (2004). "The Double Burden of and Negative Spillover Between Paid and Domestic Work: Associations with Health Among Men and Women". Women & Health 40 (3): 1–18. 
  3. ^ Young, Cathy (2000-06-12). "The mama lion at the gate -". Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "1968: The Double Burden".  [author missing] [date missing]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Conway, John Fredrick (2003). The Canadian Family in Crisis. James Lorimer & Company. [page needed]
  6. ^ a b c Weatherall, Rosamund; Heather Joshi and Susan Macran (1994). "Double Burden or Double Blessing? Employment, Motherhood and Mortality in the Longitudinal Study of England and Wales". Soc. Sci. Med. 38 (2): 285–297. Retrieved 10-28-11. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Bratberg, Espen; Svenn-Age Dahl and Alf Erling Risa (2002). European Sociological Review 18 (2): 233–249. Retrieved 11-3-11. 
  8. ^ a b c Landsman, Paige (1994). "JUGGLING WORK AND FAMILY FLEXIBLE SCHEDULING, AND CHANGING ATTITUDES HELP BALANCE DEMANDS.". Business Insurance: 16.,%201994. 
  9. ^ The Cambridge Reporter (2001). "Juggling work and family.". The Montreal Gazette: A4.,%202001. 
  10. ^ Mwangi, Sophia (2008). "Juggling that perfect 'art'; If you're a wife and a mother, if you're a mother on her own or if you're the husband, then you will identify with the 'art' that I am going to talk about. I hope we can all celebrate the joys this 'art' bestows.". New African: 78. 
  11. ^ a b Glicksman, Eve (Sep 12, 1996), "Juggling School and Family", Jewish Exponent 200 (11): 47, 
  12. ^ a b Ryan, Kathleen O. (Nov 9, 1994), "90s FAMILY Back to the Books Parents are taking to the classroom again-but this time, thet're juggling work, school and family", Los Angeles Times: 3, 
  13. ^ a b c d Weiss, Barbara (2004). "Back to school? Nurses say: you bet! Juggling work, school, and family is a long, hard journey, but many nurses who take this route find it well worth the effort.". RN 67 (7): 63. 
  14. ^ a b c d Ryff, Carol (1996). The Parental Experience in Midlife. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 658. ISBN 0-226-73251-7. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Sernau, Scott (2006). Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities. California: Pine Forge Press. pp. 158–161. ISBN 1-4129-1524-4. 
  16. ^ Young, Brigitte (1999). Triumph of the Fatherland. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. pp. 277. ISBN 0-472-10948-0. 
Cite error: <ref> tag with name "renamed_from_1968_on_20111117021333" defined in <references> is not used in prior text; see the help page.

Further reading

  • Barbara Engel (2004). "Russia and the Soviet Union". In Bonnie G. Smith. Women's History in Global Perspective. University of Illinois Press. p. 171. ISBN 0252029909. 

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