Work and family balance is still differentiated along gender lines. Men are traditionally viewed as providers, and are expected to support the family economically. At home, men are deemed aggressive and task oriented; they are the unrivaled instrumental leaders and have minimal involvement in housework even when the spouses are working. Women were traditionally expected to stay at home, carrying out housework and nurturing the young; they are the expressive leaders (Wallen, 2002). A present day working woman has to grapple with the responsibilities of maintaining a home. Girls grow up knowing that it is their responsibility to take care of the home and children while the boys gain the mentality that they are the sole providers and, therefore, should not involve themselves in any housework (Calhoun et al., 2002).
Working parents are nowadays resorting to different childcare arrangements to reduce absenteeism at work. Workplace policies, like those prohibiting the use of company resources for family-related issues, were introduced to draw the boundaries between work and family lives. However, there is a significant integration of family and work life in some cases, effectively eroding the work-personal life boundary. The family set-up has substantially changed thanks to the division of labor and the shifting family composition (Wallen, 2002).
Using the conflict theory, Wallen (2002) analyzes the conflicting nature of the roles played by men and women in the workplace and in the family. Traditionally, a man’s wage was given primary importance as opposed to the woman’s wage. Employment of women accords them greater decision-making ability, setting the stage for marital conflict. Men do not take an equal share of responsibility at home, and the women bear the greatest responsibility (Wallen, 2002).
Work and family represent competing interests of various parties involved. It has been shown that among dual couples, one may take work-related stress of his or her partner personally, leading to marital conflict. Presence of extended family members may also cause conflict, as they compete for attention and articulate their demands. There may be a conflict in the workplace between the employee and employer when the former tries to balance the obligations at the workplace with impromptu family needs (Wallen, 2002).
Symbolic interactionalism theory derives the meanings that people attach to work and family, and how the meanings shape their daily interactions. A significant number of people regard work as interference, reducing the time they spend with their families, causing fatigue, irritability, and lack of energy. Women abandon their traditional housekeeping role to seek employment in order to supplement or provide income for family sustenance. Men with working wives assist them in chores around the home, easing the pressure on them (Wallen, 2002).
Functionalist theory explores how each individual is part of a whole, and that whole is an interrelated system of parts, each having a role to play. At work, one may play a certain role that may either conflict or complement his or her role in the family. The individual may adopt multiple strategies to ensure the smooth running of the family. At work, the skills acquired while carrying out of one’s roles and attitude towards the roles may either complement the roles in the family or cause problems in the family (Calhoun et al., 2002).
Social, economic, and technological changes in society negatively affect the individual by bringing about unprecedented occurrences. At the workplace, a worker might be unable to take up the new roles expected of him or her: causing a breakdown in the work life. At home, the individual might be alienated from the family due to advances in technology and increased economic pressures which he or she cannot accommodate (Wallen, 2002).