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Women's work has changed, but leisure time is still scarce


"Man may work from sun to sun, but woman's work is never done."

This old rhyme holds as much truth today as in the past.

With the opportunities and technology available in the 1990s, many women believe they should have more time for themselves. They expect their lives to be dramatically different from that of their grandmothers. Unfortunately, change has been slow.

Women face many of the same time constraints as men. For many women, however, time management is a growing concern.

But this is nothing new. Challenges in balancing work, family and personal interests historically have been a problem. The need to juggle time, however, has become more visible in contemporary society where "equal rights" are expected.

The frustration that women feel in not having enough time to meet all expectations often results in stress. Much has been written about the effects of stress on physical health, not to mention how it diminishes quality of life and the possibilities for leisure experiences.

Many women have numerous roles associated with work and family and each takes time. Not only does balancing paid work, housework, community service and family care take physical energy, but it also requires emotional energy. No wonder many women feel tired and pressed for time.

Although many of the roles remain the same for women today as for women in the early and mid-1900s, many modern women believe they ought to have more choices about work and family. With the recognition that women have rights related to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," women are scrutinizing their use of time and its apparent inconsistencies with how many men use their time.

A frustration many women have experienced is the invisibility of their work, whether it is paid or unpaid. Women's efforts often have been discounted and unnoticed.

When a mother, for example, is "on call," 24 hours a day, it is difficult to segment life into work and leisure. The devaluation of "women's work," whether in traditional female occupations or in the home, connotes the need to work more or harder to be noticed. This effort results in less time for other pursuits.

Change is needed in attitudes as well as structures. A recent Canadian study, for example, found that if paid work hours were reduced, men said they would pursue their personal interests while women suggested it would allow them to "catch up" at home.

Models of time management will need to address how attitudes about care giving, entitlement, household work and invisible work are understood and addressed in the 1990s if women are to live satisfying lives. The standard of living in society has improved for women, but the strategies for balanced living require continual effort.

Karla A. Henderson is a professor in the Curriculum in Leisure Studies and Recreation Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is co-author of a book, "A Leisure of One's Own: A Feminist Perspective on Women's Leisure," and is currently conducting research on leisure constraints for women in various life situations.


Do you feel harried, overwhelmed? Call Time Saver. Our panel of time-management experts and people who have just plain been there might be able to help. In future columns, we'll offer some solutions to your professional, home or leisure time-management problems. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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