Work and Family Commitments of Low-Income and Impoverished Women

Work and Family Commitments of Low-Income and Impoverished Women : Guilt is for Mothers with Good Jobs

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Conflict between work and family life is an all too familiar experience for many Americans. The difficult choices facing women who combine paid work with childcare are the subject of a deluge of books and articles in addition to an ongoing public debate about how women and men should balance their work and family commitments. Although we know a great deal about the social and cultural environment fueling these contradictions among middle-class and upper middle class women, we know little about the forces that influence poor and low-income women. Work and Family Commitments of Low-Income and Impoverished Women addresses this omission and gives voice to women in poverty as it traces the moral and cultural structures that help shape the meaning and value of paid work and motherhood among a group of mothers who rely on welfare or a combination of low-wage work and welfare to provide and care for their families. This portrayal of poor women's lives rarely enters the work-life debate over women's choices, generally characterized as between mothers who have to work versus those who choose to. Judith Hennessy puts low-income women front and center to shed light on less explored aspects of the moral and cultural foundations of contemporary work and family conflict from interviews and survey data of a group of low-income and poor mothers on and off welfare. Hennessey explores the paradox in American society where combining paid work with caring for children continues to generate considerable ambivalence (and often guilt) on the part of married middle-class mothers for devoting too much time to paid work and supposedly neglecting their children. While poor and working class mothers who might otherwise rely on welfare are relegated to working at low-wage jobs outside the home in fulfillment of their family more

Product details

  • Hardback | 190 pages
  • 154.94 x 226.06 x 20.32mm | 430.91g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 9 tables
  • 0739186795
  • 9780739186794

Review quote

Noting the paradox that professional, well-educated, married, upper- and middle-class women are praised for trading career for the 'mommy track' and staying home to care for their children, poor and impoverished mothers can gain moral worth only if they work outside the home, the author seeks to examine family and work balance for these mostly overlooked women. Based on 39 in-depth interviews and over 200 survey questionnaires with a diversity of poor women, young and older, married, divorced, and single, the analysis follows several cultural schemas organized around work and family commitments. Sociologist Hennessy examines welfare policy in light of negative stereotypes associated with women on welfare as they navigate the welfare bureaucracy to fulfill work requirements in order to stay on public assistance. The largely qualitative study, built around poignant life stories, is complemented by a quantitative analysis of welfare data. The study concludes with implications of the findings for work and family study and public policy, including a plea for more sensitive approaches to studying poor women, as well as greater appreciation for the complexity of their lives ... the author finds that all mothers, poor and affluent, desire meaningful work without having to sacrifice the well-being of their children. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. CHOICE Hennessy provides an informative and careful examination of terrain often neglected in studies of work-family balance. Her nuanced research on the gendered moral and emotional forces shaping poor and low-income women's experiences greatly expands our understanding of work and family obligations. -- Jill Weigt, California State University San Marcosshow more

About Judith Hennessy

Judith Hennessy is associate professor of sociology and social services and director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Central Washington more

Table of contents

1.The Paradox Women's Work and Family Choices Opting Out Welfare Assistance and Work and Family Decisions Divergent Values Devotion Schemas Poor Mothers' Schemas Work Commitment Schema Family Commitment Schema The Study Overview of the Book 2.Historical Context From Mothers' Aid to Personal Responsibility Maternalist Welfare State ADC to AFDC The War on Poverty-1960s Work Incentive Program The Family Assistance Plan Retrenchment Family Support Act Ending Welfare As We Knew It: PRWORA The Cultural Contradiction in PRWORA 3.Work Commitment: Learning to Love Labor Theorizing Work and Family Conflict through Cultural Schema Work Commitment Work Commitment Defined I Never Give Up Rewards From Working Outside the Home Personal Rewards Character Examples for Children Working for Family Working Mothers Are Not Welfare Mothers Mothers Need to Work Job Quality Work and Family Trade-offs Giving up on June Cleaver Work or Family? 4.Family Commitment: Guilt is for Mothers with Good Jobs Family Commitment Schema Family Commitment Defined Competing Schemas Paid Work and Caring for Children Are Two Opposite Things Family Commitment: The "Natural" Gendered Schema The Social Costs of Mothers' Work outside the Home Actually It Is Freedom of Choice "Mommy Wars" Family Values I Just Thought I Would Take Care of the Children Conclusion 5.Work and Family at the Welfare Office Nobody Likes Welfare Welfare Mothers We'll Give You Help, but Not a Gravy Train They're Not There to Help You Paying the Daycare but Not the Moms? They Want You to Work You Can't Just Throw Somebody into a Job Support for Educational Goals Penalties for Work and Family Choices What if Your Kid Gets Sick? Sending Three-Month-Old Infants to Daycare Conclusion 6.Survey Findings Descriptive Findings Regression Analysis Independent Variables Dependent Variables OLS Regression Findings Compatibility of Paid Work and Childrearing Traditional Family Values Welfare to Work 7.Conclusion Work and Family Paradox Why Study Low-income Mothers? Gendered Schemas The End of Welfare Work Commitment Family Commitment At the Welfare Office Public Policy Meeting the Needs of Families Appendix A: Methods and Data Interview process Survey Design and Sample Survey Instrument Administering the Survey Quantitative Analysis Dependent Variables Independent Variables Referencesshow more