A man's work is never done

An interview with Arlie Hochschild, author of The Time Bind.

Published May 20, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

arlie Hochschild is a sociologist at the University of California's Berkeley campus and the author of "The Time Bind." Salon spoke with her recently.

The New York Times review of "The Time Bind" observed that your "calm, understanding tone" tended to disguise your book's
alarming message. Were you alarmed by your findings about work and home?

Let me put it this way. I felt that there was something going on that
we haven't clearly understood. I think the book itself is a story book.
There are a lot of different personal stories, and all of these are about
parents really trying to strike a balance. These are involved
parents. One single father described himself going to work and said it's
just like a caffeine high, going from one meeting to the next until it got to be 5 o'clock, and finally he could sit down to his
real work. But it meant he couldn't pick up his child until 6 or 6:30.
He said he felt like he wasn't living his values. He moved me
tremendously; here was a good man and a good father, but he was caught in an imbalanced

I guess I am a little bit worried, but not in the way the media has framed it. There was a horrible article on the cover of
U.S. News & World Report. That really threw
me back. I wrote a letter of protest to the editor. It introduced a very
accusatory tone. I felt it was a women-bashing tone.

Are you concerned that
your book is being interpreted as part of the backlash against feminism? Is there an implicit message that women should go home?

Am I concerned that it could be used that way? Yes. Is that what it
is? No, absolutely not. I see it as a call for an open, gentle, respectful, public conversation about what
steps we need to take to get a family-friendly workplace, more like they have in Sweden or
Norway -- a 35-hour work week, work-sharing and so on. Motorola has done that in Arizona. In a way, this is crashingly
moderate. I am simply saying, look, knock two hours off on a Wednesday.
It would make it so much better for family life. That would be huge. Why not? Why can't
we have that?

The "news" in "Time Bind," as the New York Times put it, "is that growing numbers of
working women are leery of spending time at home." Does this message, that more women are abandoning the home for work, let men off the hook?
Should we be more pointed in saying that men need to be more
responsible for the domestic maintenance of a family?

Yes, we do need to be more pointed about that. I think that is
exactly the direction that the conversation needs to take and actually
surveys show that children report that they want more time with their
fathers a lot more than they report that they want more time with their
mothers. Something like two-thirds
of kids say that they'd like more time with their fathers, and half of
them say they want more time with their mothers.
Let's shape this article that way. Write about men. It really is true.

Do you think your book could have been more direct in pointing out men's domestic responsibilities?

Yes, I think I could have.

Why didn't you?

I wanted to end up with a non-gendered book. In a way this whole
family-friendly project is informally coded as a women's project.
I wanted to de-gender it. Why I didn't single out men is because I did
that in volume one of this study. "The Second Shift" is really all
pointed at men. Maybe I should have pointed at men twice, but in this
one ... I could have probably made more of the men thing.

The time bind is in fact more a
man's issue than a woman's, because men have subtracted more time from
the home than women have but women are the ones who feel it.
They are expected to protect the home more. But all of us, men and women, have
to get ourselves out of what I call a "talk bind." We can't talk about
this without being guilt-tripped.

I think we really have to establish a safe, public place to
talk about this honestly. I would ask right-wing guilt-trippers to lay
off and detoxify this conversation, because it is an important one to
have in a safe, exploratory, non-guilt-trippy way. We are not alone in this.
It is a cultural issue.

By Kate Moses

Kate Moses is the author of "Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath" (St. Martin's.) She was the co-founder, with Camille Peri, of Salon's "Mothers Who Think" site, and she and Peri also co-edited the award-winning book "Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenting." She lives in San Francisco.

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