Queen's University

Busting the work-life balance myth

Catherine Krull addresses the family-work balance myth in her new book A Life in Balance? Re-Opening the Family-Work debate.

Sociology professor Catherine Krull and colleague Justyna Sempruch were both struggling to find a book for their students that accurately addressed the family and work balance debate — so they decided to write the book themselves.

Many books written for women address the difficulties of balancing family and work and the inequities that can arise from this struggle. The difficulty is that the majority of these books assume that ‘balance’ is a necessary requirement of engaging in both market work and household work, especially for people with children. To date, there has been no comprehensive study that debunks the idea of balancing family and work and addresses how Canadian family policies need to change to allow a more integrated and inclusive approach.

“The book is called A Life in Balance? because we’re debunking the idea that life should be balanced between family and work, and the deeply-rooted belief that it is up to individuals to learn such balancing skills if they are to be a successful parent and employee. It’s a re-opening of the family-work debate” says Dr. Krull, an expert in family sociology.

The idea of balance, Dr. Krull argues, is built on a number of assumptions. One assumption is that family and work are two irreconcilable spheres that are in need of balance. Another assumption is that the state or employers are not obligated to help Canadians cope with the demands of family work and paid work. However, this idea is contradicted by the presence of successful integrative family-work policies elsewhere in the world.

In addition to supporting the idea of integrating work and family life, Dr. Krull examines possible models that already exist in Canada, from indigenous approaches to managing household work and paid work to family policies already in place in Quebec.

“In my opinion, Quebec is the leader in Canada when it comes to family policy. They are miles ahead of the rest of Canada in terms of their policies aimed at integrating family and work,” says Dr. Krull. “A starting point for the rest of Canada would be to address the need for a state-subsidized national child care program, one that benefits all children.”

A Life in Balance? Re-Opening the Family-Work Debate is published by UBC Press.

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Last updated at 9:45 pm EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
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