Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

Themes of The Second Shift include work and life balance, marital relationships, and gender inequality.

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Work and life balance is the main theme in The Second Shift. Each couple is trying to balance two careers with the demands of the family. Hochschild interviews them to determine how they split the tasks at home. Often, the distribution is not equal. One thing that Hochschild found is that the economic status of the family affected how they felt about the way that the work-life balance should be maintained. Families with a higher economic status tended to want a more traditional work-life split, with the woman doing most of the work at home while the man earned the money.

Marital relationships are another theme in The Second Shift. The distribution of work greatly affects how marriages function. People get resentful toward their spouses when they have to ask them to take on work at home. This resentment can show in tone. In one example, a wife asked her husband to do a chore in the kitchen and her tone of voice sounded angry. This made him feel on edge, because he did not understand why she was upset. The quality of marital relationships can improve or decline depending on how each partner feels about the balance of work at home.

Gender inequality is an underlying theme throughout the book. Often, women get the majority of the work that happens at home—even if both partners are working equal hours. Since women have more contact with their children, the children are more likely to want their mother rather than their father. This leads to women doing more of the work. One thing that Hochschild found while doing research was that women tended to move about the house more in the evening, while men did less movement and stayed in one location.

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