Striving to achieve it all: men and work-family-life balance in Sweden and the UK
Journal article, 2013
Although there is a vast literature on issues of work-life balance, most of the research is grounded on the traditional view of work-life balance as a female-oriented entitlement. So far little attention has been paid to how men balance their work-life situations, especially the 'new men' who are keen to share the family care. We contribute to filling this gap by critically examining how male academics in construction-related departments at universities in Sweden and the UK construct their relationships with family and work. Narrative analysis was applied on in-depth interviews with seven academics from each country, who were at different phases in their careers. Three core narratives emerged from the data: family connected with partner; work as key priority; and desire to pursue personal projects, all of which competed for the narrators' sparse time. The narrative that by far received most space and most storylines in all the interviews was 'work as priority', implying that in spite of gender equality policies and campaigns, work-life balance remains a female-oriented concern. Both Swedish and British men in our sample found juggling family and life most challenging. This work-family-life triad left many feeling that they had no time to do a good job in any sphere and in Sweden in particular combination pressure was intense. Curiously, despite these tensions and increasing demands for many of our respondents work remains a positive construct, possibly because of the strong conceptual identification of 'self' as an academic.