For this assignment I have interviewed my grandmother Joyce to find out about the division of labour in her household between herself and her husband Jon. I will be asking her about her roles in the home and finding out why she carried out these roles. I will also be evaluating how conjugal roles have changed over generations and looking at what factors have produced these changes. Joyce was born in 1930 in Richmond, Surrey and met my grandfather Jon during the war at her friend’s house.
Joyce married at the age of 18 and Jon was 26. James: After you married Jon, did you work? Joyce: I wasn’t allowed to work full time because Jon believed that he should be the provider and that I should be at home caring for the children and looking after the household. James: So Jon was main the breadwinner? Joyce: Jon was the only breadwinner. That was essentially his role. There was no equal pay as men were paid a lot more than women so financially there was no other choice really. James: Did this change trough out the years?
Joyce: I eventually got to work but Jon wasn’t happy. It was only a Saturday job but he made it quite clear that he didn’t like the fact I was working so I stopped. James: Were there any roles in the house shared? Joyce: No, None at all. It was not like nowadays. Jon made the fire up, looked after the fire. He would cut the grass and tackle D. I. Y but I did up the house and looked after the children. He would come home from work and I would shush the children because he was home and let them know he wanted to put his feet up.
James: Did you believe that it was your responsibility to keep the household and why? Joyce: Absolutely, because he went to work and provided so it was my job to provide a nice clean and tidy home and I always made sure I was drop dead gorgeous for him. James: Did you believe your roles in the house were fair? Joyce: Yes, I enjoyed my role as a housewife and felt we had a good balance. James: If Jon did the housework how would you of felt? Joyce: It probably would have felt like he was undermining my role and capabilities.
James: How would of that be perceived in the neighbourhood? Joyce: He would have been laughed at as a stand up joke. In fact it would probably have been kept quiet. James: Was you leisure time spent together and what did you do in this time? Joyce: Oh yes, always. I worked hard at making time for us to spend quality time together. I was aware of divorce as my mother was divorced Three times and made sure that when he came home, the kids were ready for bed so we could listen to good music and have a drink together.
I was aware that although Jon loved the children, he didn’t have much time for them emotionally so I had to get the balance right for being there for him and the children as well. Joyce married in 1949 just after World War II. Not only did Jon not want her to work but at this time women were being made redundant from jobs that they were employed in, due to the end of the war. The government opened up jobs for the men returning from war, which essentially forced women back into the home.
With the reliance of women’s labour in the absence of men, the government opened up nurseries to allow the women to work every day but when the war ended the nurseries were closed. This meant without care for the children and only men being considered for most employment opportunities, women had little choice but to take up the role of housewife. These factors may have been why Joyce accepted this notion from her husband, with the government creating this male working society, Joyce was not in any position to argue a case for work and why would she?
The majority of women were not working in her society. This was also the case before the war according to Anne Oakley (1974). She argues that from 1819 onwards a number of Factory Acts restricted child employment; this meant that children had to be supervised day to day and the role fell to women as in 1841; male workers demanded a gradual withdrawal of female labour in factories. Then came the Mines Act in 1842, banning women from the mines and excluding them from a new Trade Union movement. Gradually women became excluded from various industries and became restricted to the home.
Without a source of income, women and their children became dependant on men. This economic dependence and restriction to the home meant that the mother/housewife role became the primary role for women. (http://www. lexden-publishing. co. uk/resources/samples/9781904995043. pdf). I also asked Joyce who was the breadwinner. The answer was obvious in terms of the unavailable work for women however Joyce also raises the point that if she was the parent that went out to earn while Jon stayed at home with the children, it was not economically feasible.
The wage that she would have brought home would not have been as high as her husband’s, as men were paid a higher salary for exactly the same labour. The equal pay act 1970 was introduced so that women were entitled to the same pay if they are doing the same or broadly similar work. (Haraloumbus, 2008, pp122). This was a society where one parent was able through work, to provide more for their children than the other so there wasn’t any other way to live other than way set by government.
It was around this time in the mid to late 40’s that people who may have been persecuted in the past, were able to speak out and organise a movement to produce changes for their rights. What this led to however according to Devine (1992) was that having gained equal wage and equal employment, women were still responsible for housework and childcare. (http://www. lexden-publishing. co. uk/resources/samples/9781904995043. pdf). When I asked Joyce about housework she made it clear that she was in charge of every domestic task in the house, with Jon making the fire and keeping it going.
The only role he had was to fix something or maybe cut the grass, his primary role was to bring in an income. Having looked at the Young and Willmott (1974) Symmetrical family and the family stage theory, the roles in the house were very much segregated roles similar to the family 2 stage, suggesting that the marital roles of husband and wife were largely segregated and there was a clear division of labour in the household, with no real help for Joyce in raising the children (Haraloumbus, 2008, (pp497).
This was confirmed in my last question with Joyce stating that he wasn’t involved as much in caring for the children. Young and Willmott (1974) also suggest that this segregated role extended to leisure time with women associating with female friends and neighbours and the men with his workmates (Haraloumbus, 2008, pp 497). This was not the case with Joyce and Jon as they wanted to spend as much of their free time together as they could. It’s clear that the conjugal roles are segregated but with some similarities of an asymmetrical family.
Talcott Parsons Functionalist theory that; in the modern nuclear family it is essential that one parent, usually the father, provides the instrumental role of provider while the mother performed the expressive role of giving psychological support and taking responsibility of the children (www. ecclesbourne. derbyshire. sch. uk/ecclesbourne/content/) is evident in this family. Over the years there has clearly been a shift of labour in the household with men helping out a lot more and it is highlighted in research, with a survey finding that 72% of men doing housework carried out by Young and Willmott (1974).
Oakley’s research argues however that their claim of increasing symmetry within marriage is based on inadequate methodology. Although their figure of 72% sounds impressive, she makes it clear that it is based on one question only and points out that if men were to do a small bit of housework, they would be included in the 72%. (Haraloumbus, 2008, (pp497). Mary Boulton (1983) also argues that the studies which focus on the allocation of work in the home exaggerate the extent of men’s involvement with childcare (Haraloumbus, 2008, (pp498).
The Young and Willmott theory was developed in the 70’s and argues that roles in the house were becoming more equal and that family life improved because of this. In summarising my interview it’s clear that this was very much a successful functionalist family, with the marriage lasting until my grandfather passed away. Having asked Joyce if she considered her role as fair she agreed, not because tasks in the house were split but because society sent Jon out to work and she believed her work was to be done at home.
Oakley (1974) argued that housework led to alienation, monotony and lacked value without pay (http://www. lexden-publishing. co. uk/resources/samples/9781904995043. pdf. ) In a modern day society with choices for women brought about by a feminist movement, Oakley’s viewpoint would very much be the case. But in this period women like Joyce were proud women, whose role was vital in bringing up children and keeping a home for her family.As there was little choice for women there was little there was nothing to compare to and this enabled her to lead a happy life.
Bibliography Haraloumbus, (2008) Sociology Themes and perspectives, London: Harper Collins Publishers Limited Thane, P, (2009) History and Policy control. [online]. Available at http://www. historyandpolicy. org/papers/policy-paper-99. html Haraloumbus, M, Langley, P (2008) Sociology In Focus Second Edition, East Lothian: Scot print.