According to a new study, middle-income American parents work more hours than the wealthy or the poor. Almost 60 percent of middle-class households have both parents working outside the home. And we’re exhausted by it.
Our work/life imbalance has turned sleep into a luxury item few of us can afford, even when we do get our kids to sleep through the night. Over a third of parents are routinely sleep-deprived. And it’s no wonder, when our work and home lives fill up all the available time and then some.
The study, called Three Face of Work-Life Conflict, highlights differences between the way poor, middle-income and what they term “professional” families experience conflict around parenting and work.The study defines the poor as those in the bottom third of household incomes, making less than $34,000 a year. The professional class is those households making over $114,000 a year, in which at last one parent has a college education. Everybody else is in the middle.
These middle-class parents, whose annual household incomes range from $34,000 to $110,000, make up the majority of American families. Their living situations and needs get the least attention from media and policy makers, though. These aren’t the poor families struggling to scrape by on Food Stamps and a minimum-wage job, and they’re not the lawyers who get profiled in the New York Times about the hard choices they have to make between career and parenting.
According to the above-mentioned Times, most of the families in this income bracket are working “rigid, highly supervised jobs that often leave them one sick child away from being fired.” These are the nurses and technicians and bus drivers who make the world go round; but they do it on a knife’s edge between their demanding jobs and their homes and kids.
Parents in middle-income homes increasingly work opposite shifts so that they can juggle childcare and work responsibilities. Even with that dance, middle-income households pay a higher percentage of their income for childcare than any other economic bracket.
The study points out that American parents enjoy fewer legal protections and accommodations in the workplace than parents in any other developed country. They advocate for extending childcare subsidies to middle-income families, explicitly protecting workers from job loss due to child or elder care needs and providing paid family leave to employees.
What do you think? Should the government step in and give middle-income parents a hand? What does your family need to make a work-life balance work? Do you and your partner both work outside the home, or do you have a full-time stay-at-home parent in your household?
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