Men And Women Balancing Work And Life Responsibilities

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Larry Meiller talks with the Wisconsin authors of a new book that looks at the different challenges that men and women face in trying to find a healthy work-life balance. They also examine how that effort is portrayed in popular culture, and whether that matters.

Featured in this Show

  • How TV Shows Today Might Be Helping Change Male Gender Expectations

    Movies and television shows can reflect the reality of work life and family life, and the difficulties in finding balance between the two. But two authors say that popular culture can also be aspirational by depicting how those roles may be able to fit well together.

    Ellyn Lem and Timothy Dunn teach at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, and are the authors of “The Work-Family Debate in Popular Culture: Can Women and Men ‘Have it All’?Lem said that women can suffer from maternal guilt for allocating time and energy to their job.

    For men, she said, there can be a similar response in feeling that they are slighting their work in favor of their family.

    “We live in a ‘time macho’ culture. For men, we often see in popular culture that in order to be a breadwinner, you have to be at the office at the crack of dawn. It’s selling them short, and taking away the possibility of them having a more engaged family life,” said Lem.

    Dunn said that in contrast, there are some recent TV programs that show men in nurturing roles — and further, that show men as competent at filling those roles. The program “Louie” is one example. The popular FX show stars the comedian Louis C.K., and speaks to his experiences as a divorced dad.

    “When programs show men doing those things, especially men who are in other ways perfectly ‘masculine’ and good role models for other men, I think that’s a positive sign. And it makes it easier for men to say, ‘Well, why can’t I do the same?’” Dunn said.

    A strong masculine character who embraces fatherhood and acts as an equal marital partner can be found in a different, perhaps unlikely program: “Friday Night Lights.” The show, which aired between 2006 and 2011 on NBC, features a Texas high school football coach who is immersed in the macho world of competitive sports, but who also prioritizes and prizes his role at home.

    “On the show, (Coach Taylor) says ‘I’m a man that takes care of his woman.’ And what that means is, for example, that he encourages her to go to the book group while he takes care of their infant child. And we just think that that’s a message that men need to see — that taking care of your wife means letting her have time away from home for pursuing pleasure, not just for work,” Lem said.

    Lem and Dunn said it’s also important for pop culture oriented toward young people to send those same messages. Lem pointed to the animated show “Adventure Time” on the Cartoon Network. One episode in particular features one of the main characters, Jake the Dog, playing a paternal role.

    “There’s an episode called ‘Jake the Dad’ and he’s just taking care of his babies. And you see the nurturing and the care, so that taking care of children does not belong to one gender alone,” Lem said.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Ellyn Lem Guest
  • Timothy Dunn Guest

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