A generation or more ago, it would have been impossible to envision the life of the American worker as it is lived today. A flood of women into the workforce has fundamentally changed the face of employment, largely for the better. Families are better able to increase their household income, and companies have benefited from the ability to tap female talent. But at home, working Americans have a dwindling amount of time to spend with their families. The parent who was home in the afternoon when kids came back from school, or cared for family members--young or old--who fell ill, is now hard at work. A snow day now creates a parent's Hobson's choice: leave a child alone or call in sick and maybe risk losing your job.
The stress over how to strike a balance between work and family worries parents. A 2002 report by the Families and Work Institute found that 45 percent of employees say that work and family responsibilities interfere with each other, and 67 percent of working parents say they do not have enough time with their children. But it's not a problem limited to individual families--the work-family puzzle concerns their fellow Americans as well. Last year, pollsters Anna Greenberg and Bill McInturff found that more than three-quarters of likely voters feel it is difficult for parents to earn enough and still have time for their families; 84 percent agreed that children are shortchanged when their parents have to work long hours.