My Family Since 1946

 

by Jill W. Bishop

University of Minnesota ID # 1758728

AmSt1003/American Cultures

March 19, 1996

 


I. Introduction

Since my birth in 1946 I have been part of two distinct nuclear families, my family of origin and my present family. In this paper I will examine the two families, comparing their similarities and differences, especially regarding the impact of the post-war ideology of domestic containment on the three generations of women in our family: my mother in the first generation, my sister and myself in the second generation, and my two daughters in the third generation. While the men in my family, my father, brother, husband and son, are certainly a significant part of the whole picture of the women's lives in the family, I will be focusing on the women in our family.

In order to assess the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the five women family members, I interviewed them using a questionnaire I developed to determine their conformity to or deviation from the 1950s domestic containment ideology. The containment values I examined in the questionnaire include: strict gender roles regarding financial support, housework, and childcare; attitudes toward sexual expression outside of the "marital-heterosexual imperative;"1 marriage, childbearing, and the stigma of divorce; and working outside of the home after marriage and children. The questions were designed to test my supposition that my mother conformed largely to the containment ideology, my daughters are products of the women's liberation movement, and my sister and I are part of the transition generation. The results produced few surprises in the first and third generations; both my mother and daughters' views were consistent with the ideas in place for their times. But interesting contrasts appeared in the very different ways my sister and I handled our roles as women during the period of drastically changing values and attitudes. The questionnaire and results are at the end of this paper.

II. Family Structure and Practices

    A. The Nuclear Families

My family of origin consisted of my two parents, John and Dorine Williams, an older brother, Jack, born in 1944, myself (Jill), born in 1946, and my younger sister, Jean, born in 1949. We closely resembled the normative nuclear post-war family in very many ways. Jack was one of the "good-bye babies,"2 conceived just before the husbands were shipped out" to war. We lived in a residential neighborhood in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois, where most of the other families in the neighborhood were also nuclear families with no extended family living nearby. It was a typical suburban home, a "single-family dwelling ...completely surrounded on every side by [its] own plot"3 located on the periphery of Chicago, and very much like many other suburbs in its "economic and racial homogeneity."4 My father supported the family as a white-collar worker and my mother, although college educated, stayed home full-time to be a mother and homemaker. In very many respects we were a typical family in the 50's. One main exception was the presence of my maternal grandmother who lived with us, so there were six people living in our house.

My present family also consists of two parents and three children: Sara, born in 1974, Shannon, born in 1976, and Jefferson, born in 1979. The two nuclear families are very similar in many ways: we also have a breadwinner father, a college educated homemaker mother, three children, and live in a single dwelling home. Both families consist of parents 13 months apart in age that married at ages 21 and 22, both have two daughters and one son with a spread of 5 years from the oldest to the youngest, both my father and husband (named John) served in the military overseas after they were married, and in both families the father is/was the breadwinner, a republican, and a businessman, and the mother is/was responsible for the house and children. (It's sometimes almost spooky to acknowledge the similarities, particularly when thinking of my father's early death at age 52...my husband is now 50.)

 

    B. The Extended Families

In my family of origin, other than my grandmother who lived with us, all other relatives lived hundreds of miles away and we rarely saw them. Just as in most other households in the suburbs, my siblings and I grew up "in intimate contact only with [our] parents and siblings."5 Since my mother was an only child, there were no aunts, uncles or cousins to visit on that side of the family. On the other side there were paternal grandparents, one aunt and uncle, and cousins that our nuclear family (without Grandma) visited about once a year. There was little closeness with relatives outside our house. There were no pictures of ancestors up around the house, nor were stories told about family members outside of our house. We represented the "suburban ideal of the emancipated [from extended family] nuclear family."6

In my present family, there is somewhat more closeness to relatives outside our nuclear family, but there is still a significant distance between the nuclear and extended levels of family, physically and emotionally. Even though we live in a rural environment surrounded by many families who have extensive contact with extended families, we basically fit the 1950s model of the normal suburban family in our emphasis on the nuclear family, including contact with extended family. Until my mother-in-law's recent move to an assisted living facility in our town, my husband's mother and sister both lived fifty miles away in Minneapolis, and my mother, brother, and sister all live across the country. Both my father and father-in-law died in the late 1960s. Only occasional holidays have been spent with my husband's side of the family, and occasional visits in between. My side of the family has always spent a week together at Christmas, but that yearly visit is the only physical contact. The telephone has linked us during the year between Christmases, and e-mail has brought us even closer together.

 

    C. The Relationship Between Generations

In both my family of origin and present family the role of grandparents has been to be proud of accomplishments and concerned about health, but not directly involved in childcare responsibilities or decisions. The exception to that scenario was my grandmother who lived with us. She changed our diapers, taught us our prayers, and told family stories. Fears or pains in the middle of the night found me crawling into her bed at night, rather than my parents'. When I moved to the small, rural town of Annandale as a young married woman, I was surprised to observe the closeness of extended families and their active participation in raising children. Shannon once had to wait a very long time to be picked up after a junior high activity, and a boy near her also waiting to be picked up was amazed that she couldn't just call an aunt or uncle to come get her.

 

    D. What practices, values, and beliefs hold the family together?

The values that have held both my family of origin and present family together are similar. Both families are/were essentially child-centered, where the children's

interests and needs dictate the family's schedule, especially the mother's. Where the mothers' lives revolve(d) around caring for the children, the fathers' obligations as breadwinner are/were primary, with personal interests a higher priority than family. As my husband has changed slowly from being a self-professed "fifties kinda guy" to a more modern father, he has shifted the focus of his leisure time from his own outside interests to his children's lives, particularly his son's.

Both families value accomplishments, integrity, dependability, self-sufficiency as adults, and formal education. Conformity to societal expectations has been a theme in both households. I was told to adjust my behavior to be "nice" (as in "nice people don't do that"), where we have told our children that their reputation is valuable, so guard it carefully. In both households all children were confirmed as Protestants (Congregational and Methodist) but neither formal religion nor a spiritual orientation is/was emphasized.

Marital fidelity and stability has been valued in both families, although divorce has existed in other parts of the family; my only aunt and both my siblings have been divorced. Family friends in both generations were/are nearly all still in first marriages.

In both families the children were encouraged and supported in school activities. In my family of origin it was exclusively music, and in my present family the children have been very involved in a variety of activities.

Loyalty to the nuclear family has been valued in both generations, although the emotional bond between siblings is much closer in my present family than in my family of origin. Both John's and my mothers made it clear many years ago that joining our household in their older years (like my maternal grandmother did) was out of the question.

 

    E. What are the major conflicts?

In my family of origin there was little overt conflict. I never saw my parents fight or even argue. My siblings and I fought quite a lot, which was accepted by my parents but not by my grandmother. I never argued or talked back to my parents. A subtle undercurrent of dissatisfaction existed from my mother's resentment of my grandmother's presence in the house, and although it was never verbalized, it was very apparent to me even as a young child. My mother would have preferred a household consisting of just her nuclear family of procreation.

As with the KLS respondents and others in the 1950s era, my parents never expressed any regrets or disappointments with their lives. However, my mother's declared satisfaction with her life was questionable in the light of her back that "went out" regularly because of tension. With more support for my complaints about my role as a housewife (thanks to Betty Friedan and others) I am more overtly expressive of my dissatisfaction.

The conflicts in my present family are more straightforward. Our children have rarely fought with each other, though they sometimes bicker. But aside from teenagers' protests of restrictions on their freedom, the greatest conflicts have been over conflicting gender role ideology between my husband and myself.

At the beginning of our marriage I shared gender ideologies with my mother and husband, believing that my first responsibility was to the house and family. Early in our marriage, before we had children, I considered becoming a veterinarian, but my self-imposed rigid definition of my duties at home held me back.

Arlie Hochschild's description of the dilemma in Evan and Nancy Holt's marriage strongly parallels ours. During the twelve years I worked with preschool children my existence was similar to Nancy Holt's. Nancy's husband Evan, like mine, was the primary breadwinner, and she also worked outside the home and received very little assistance from Evan with housework and childcare. They too had a "...conflict in their two gender ideologies."7

But unlike Nancy Holt, I did not "grow up bound ...not to be like [my mother]."8 That came much later, after our marriage had operated as a traditional marriage for six years. I didn't see the need for "...a similar balance of spheres and equal power"9 until we had been married a number of years, and by then it was too late to change.

The turning point in my attitudes occurred in the spring of 1974 during college Human Relations class. In that class I became aware of the inequality and injustice inherent in the traditional gender roles ongoing in my life, roles that I had modelled after my own family of origin. My feminist consciousness was not just elevated, it took a gigantic leap. My new perception of injustice and inequality caused great dissatisfaction with my traditional role, and with the birth of two daughters soon after that, I became and remained committed to the idea that their lives should not follow the pattern that my mother and I had. There should be and could be more for them. They have grown up with that attitude, and despite my continued example of a traditional homemaker (I still do all the shopping, cooking, laundry, etc.), they have a strong sense of gender equity, taking for granted unlimited opportunities and ambitions for rewarding careers.

During our greatest periods of conflict, I shared with Nancy Holt a "...determination to forge an independent identity as an educated, middle-class woman for whom career opportunities had opened up..."10 Hochschild says that "Across the nation at this particular time in history, [the] emotion work ...[of] trying to make and keep everything "fine" ... is often all that stands between the stalled revolution on the one hand, and broken marriages on the other."11 Like Nancy Holt, when "forced to choose between equality and marriage [we both] chose marriage."12 And like the KLS respondents of forty years ago, John and I both "...believed in marriage ... [and] stayed together through sheer determination."13

But Nancy Holt and I solved our problems of inequality in marriage differently. She developed an elaborate program to enable her to live with it. I caved in and quit my job, reinforcing the inequality of gender roles. My husband's far superior earning ability and refusal to do housework coupled with my frustrations experienced as an overworked supermom have resulted in the traditional roles now firmly in place.

Now, like Nancy, I try to "...keep up [my] gracious resignation [and] focus on the advantages of losing the struggle."14 I hire help with the housework and develop my personal interests almost extravagantly, with a free conscience, as a trade-off in an attempt to gain or regain the personal identity I abandoned when I became a "wife" 28 years ago, back when my stationary said "Mrs. John Bishop." My mother didn't need to do it. She believed in her "...homemaker role as significant, important, and fulfilling."15 My daughters won't have do it. Only Nancy Holt and I and others in this transition generation are in this position. As an educated woman relegated to the role of full-time homemaker I "feel frustrated and bored because [my] desire for intellectual and creative work, which had been sparked in college, ...[has remained] unfulfilled."16 Such is the primary conflict in our family and its resolution.

 

    F. Social Forces at Work

The social force that propelled me into the change of attitudes was clearly the women's liberation movement. The forces that delayed my adoption of the new attitudes until 1974, and delayed John's acceptance of gender equality even longer, was our living in Annandale since our early married years.

Following John's two years in the Army, our eighth move as a married couple was to Annandale, Minnesota, a small, rural town west of Minneapolis, where, in 1970, we built a house, the same one we live in today. With a real house to "keep" I dove into my new life with strong reinforcement of my mother's gender role expectations all around. Annandale was and is a provincial town, and changes come slowly. Conversation with women was all about crafts and recipes and sewing, and even most of the working teachers and nurses took at least a decade or two hiatus to raise their families. Although it was nearly a decade since Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique, I perceived none of the "widespread disenchantment among women who struggled to conform to the prevailing familial norm"17 in Annandale at that time. The women I encountered kept themselves busy and apparently happy with church bazaars, children's activities, and seeming acceptance and satisfaction with the domestic containment ideology. They complimented my mother's teachings perfectly.

Most of the women in Annandale that served as my models of married women when I first moved to Annandale were not college educated. They weren't "seeking that something more out of life"18 or participating in the "consciousness-raising groups all over the country [that] challenged the gender division of labor in the home"19 Their roles strongly included support of their husbands in numerous ways. They encouraged their men to go on lengthy hunting and fishing trips while they stayed home with small children, and many of them handled the books of their husbands businesses at home in the evening. Not all, but more than one would go through the food line at a social gathering filling their husbands plates before going through again to fill their own. It's no wonder that John, like all his Annandale men friends, agreed with Evan Holt that any change that would result in a "...loss in [their] standard of living."20 was worth resisting.

In Annandale, values and practices are more provincial and less in tune with changing norms as demonstrated in the media. I attribute the Annandale interpretation of gender roles, coupled with my mother's model, to my late (1974) realization that the traditional gender roles were not the only role available to me.

 

III. Gender Role Expectations of Three Generations of Women

    A. The Questionnaire

My observation of the difference between my mother's and daughters' interpretations of their roles as women prompted me to create the questionnaire included at the end of this paper to confirm or deny the perceived differences between all three generations of women in my family. It examines family gender roles regarding financial support, housework, and childcare, and relative containment of sexuality, including premarital sex, cohabitation, sex partners, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and having children.

I first sent out the questionnaire to all four other female members of my family via e-mail. After they looked over the questions, we talked on the phone and I wrote down their answers, encouraging expansion on the more open-ended ones. I then e-mailed them my version of their answers asking for confirmation or clarification and received revised answers from Sara and Jean. None of them were aware of each other's answers until all were in. For myself, I just wrote down my answers and included them in the compiled version of the questionnaire.

Many of the questions include comparisons between values held during teenage years to values held in later adult years. These questions were designed to check out my presumption that Jean's and my values have changed significantly from our teenage years to adult years, representing our position in the transition generation between domestic containment for women in the postwar years (my mother) to liberated females in the present (my daughters). I anticipated little change in my mother's and daughters' values during their lives. My daughters are only nineteen and twenty-one and presently in college, so while they still have strong opinions of their roles as women, they have not been adult women very long, nor have they had the opportunity to try out their assumptions of what their lives will be like as wives, mothers, homemakers, and working women.

 

    B. Results of the Questionnaire

Most of my presumptions were correct, according the results of the questionnaire. My mother's values did indeed closely fit Elaine May's depiction of the 1950s when "...policymakers [and] ...the creators of the popular culture ...pointed to traditional gender roles as the best means for Americans to achieve the happiness and security they desired."21 and my daughters are truly liberated females of the 1990s. But an interesting contrast between Jean's and my values showed up. My stronger adherence to the traditional values was apparent even in our teenage years, and far more so as we became adults. As teens my mother and Jean and I all expected to follow traditional gender roles regarding financial support, housework, and working outside the home after marriage. In those areas Sara and Shannon expect equal roles with their husbands. However, in the areas of sexual containment, Jean and I parted ways as she sided with my daughters and I agreed with my mother. It caused me to reevaluate my relatively late conversion to modern values as more than just a result of life in provincial Annandale. A mere three years older than my sister, I am basically a more conservative person, then and now. Her transition occurred earlier and more thoroughly than mine.

The contrast between us is also illustrated by a comparison of our present lifestyles. I live with my husband of 28 years in the house we built 25 years ago in the rural mid-west. She has been divorced twice and presently lives with her legal domestic partner just outside of San Francisco. I do not work outside the home, she supports the household. I don't color my graying hair, she just got a face-lift. (Despite all these differences that we laugh about regularly, we are very close to each other.)

 

    C. Traditional Mother, Liberated Daughters

Numerous answers on the questionnaire illustrated the contrasting values between my traditional mother and liberated daughters. For instance, as a young woman my mother disapproved of premarital sex and cohabitation, my daughters did not.22 My mother's views corresponded with "...the power of postwar taboos against premarital sexual activity for women ...during a time when the sexual containment ethos was in full force."23 And while my mother considered the only appropriate relationship with a sex partner to be marriage, Sara found love and a committed relationship to be satisfactory, and Shannon considered the issue to be one of safety (disease, rape, pregnancy) rather than a morality.24 My mother believed the only justifiable reasons for divorce to be infidelity, abuse, or a criminal act, but my daughters considered unhappiness or unwillingness to resolve conflict to be sufficient. Only my mother considered infidelity a reason for divorce. Like other women at that time she was far less tolerant of sexuality ourside of marriage than any of the other four other respondents who said "it depends"25 in response to the question about infidelity as sufficient cause for divorce.

My mother consistently expressed her belief in the value of traditional gender roles, and my daughters consistently rejected them. Where my mother did not expect to work outside the home after marriage, although she did because "it was wartime,"26 my daughters assume they will. They expect to also work outside the home after having children, where my mother did not. Only later did she work and then only "because of the college bills"27 because rightfully the financial responsibility is "entirely [on] the male."28

My mother agreed with woman in the KLS who "... found the community activities one gets involved in (PTA, Girl Scouts, League of Women Voters, Women's Club, Church) keep you as busy as a job and are equally stimulating."29 She saw a working wife in the 1950s as a social stigma and a sign that the man of the house was incompetent in his role of supporting the family, because women were expected to channel their talents into volunteer work in local organizations. When my mother read the initial draft of this paper she was satisfied that it portrayed an accurate picture of our family with one exception: she wanted it known that she didn't just sit around the house all day; she was very busy with Scouts, PTA, chauffering us to music lessons, and all the other community activities. I know she will be pleased to learn that those aspects of her role were added to this final draft.

 

    D. The Transition Generation: One Conservative Sister, One Liberal Sister

Jean and I clearly illustrated our place in the transition generation by answering so many of the "As a young woman...." questions differently than the "In later years..." questions. The other three respondents showed more consistency. In our early years, we both expected to be financially supported by a man, responsible for housework and childcare, and not work outside the house after marriage -- like our mother.

In matters of sexuality, however, she became liberated before I did: When we were teens she was accepting of premarital sex, cohabitation, and divorce, but I was not. "During the post-war years, sexual values as well as sexual behavior were in flux."30 We represented very different stages in the transition from contained to liberated sexuality. I have mellowed with age, however, and as an adult, I have changed my views to be acceptable of premarital sex if "in an exclusive relationship"31 and cohabitation "whether for convenience or in a serious relationship."32

"After the war ...the increasing visibility of gay men an lesbians ...brought a wave of officially sponsored homophobia."33 Apparently the wave never hit our neighborhood, because Jean's and my responses to the questions about acceptance of homosexuality when we were teens were "I had no attitude--it was beyond my imagination," and "I was clueless about its existence."34 Perhaps part of our family's success in fitting into the model family pattern included achievement of avoiding contact or awareness of elements that existed outside the mold.

Jean's adult values reflect her lifestyle. Regarding the question of financial support from a man Jean said, " I will always be able to support myself. Why? Because I can, and because if a man supported me then I would lose power to make my own choices."35 I, on the other, hedged on my answer regarding financial support from a man, "no, well, partially"36 because of my powerlessness to make a significant financial contribution to the household relative to my husband's superior earning ability.

 

    E. Deviations from Expected Answers

Although the overall results of the questionnaire were close to what I expected, there were some surprises. In the entire questionnaire there was only one unanimous answer: All five of us expected to be primarily responsible for childcare, although Sara has since changed her mind because "my present potential mate would be a very good father, and in high school my boyfriend wouldn't have been."37 Shannon apparently found college men to be different from Annandale boys too: "When I was in high school I thought I might work while my husband stayed home because I assumed I'd earn more as an adult than any of the boys I knew then."38 As a younger person she had not expected to be supported by a man, and apparently now she allows for the possibility.

My mother has suspended her earlier disapproval of cohabitation, but mostly for older people. Apparently, however, it is a financial decision, not a moral one: "For older people it is OK in certain circumstances because pensions can be lost with marriage. For younger people, I prefer not, but I can live with it."39

Overall, my mother expressed conservative, predictable answers across the board. But she surprised me with her openness to cohabitation in older people and when she mentioned a woman's career as a reason to delay marriage to the late 20s now.40 So she is not clinging completely to sixty year old values and applying them to the present. Regarding unmarried mothers, she expressed her desire to be non-judgmental of present morals that are different than hers: "No, well I prefer not, that is, I don't criticize those who do. It's OK for other people, but not for me or mine."41

Although everyone except my mother expressed an increased acceptance of homosexuality, no one admitted to the presently politically incorrect attitude of outright disapproval of homosexuality earlier in their lives, other than my mother who "thought it was humorous"42 in college.

 

IV. Conclusion

Both of the nuclear families that I have been part of in the last fifty years have been structurally similar and provided their members with emotional support and the tools necessary to send basically normal, well-adjusted adults out into the world. My family of origin was more typical of its time, and the present family is far less typical, particularly in the presence of a full-time homemaker wife.

The biggest difference in the two families was seen when comparing the attitudes of the women of the three generations regarding their roles as women in a family and in society. My daughters' expectations are significantly different than my mother's, and the paths that my sister and I took as the transition generation were quite different.

My mother taught her daughters that very clear and separate gender roles were the key to a successful life. She believed that that worked for her and wanted us to share in the American Dream as she saw it. Her truisms to live by agreed with Elaine May's post-war domestic containment ideology, and in the early years of my own marriage I accepted these values.

As the dutiful oldest daughter, I adhered to the containment role in external form.

Marrying two weeks after I graduated from college I took the huge leap into my new role as a wife, putting my personal identity behind me. I embraced my new role and found reinforcement all around in the values in my rural surroundings. But my initial conformity to the containment ideology, staying home to run the household, proved to be unsatisfactory. My mother had only worked as a married woman "because of the college bills"43 because she was satisfied in her role as a housewife and willing to "accept [her] ...domestic role as the center of [her] ...identity."44 In my case, however, "An awakened feminist consciousness sent me to work; I felt unfulfilled at home. Then exhaustion as a supermom caused me to quit and stay home with the children."45

 

My sister and I were wedged between generations that were/are far more sure of the rightness of their roles as women in society, and the experience of being part of the transition generation took its toll on our lives in different ways.

Jean started her rebellion against the restrictions of domestic containment earlier than I did, but it was not an easy road. Now in recovery from chemical dependency and in a stable relationship following multiple marriages and serial relationships, she just recently took large steps toward career advancement and started a program to continue her formal education (a bachelor's degree) at age 46. As part of Jean's initial rebellion against the containment ideology, she did a particularly good job of disregarding the "...stigma associated with premarital sex..."46 But then in later years she became more conservative, narrowing her views to consider sex to be part of "...a relationship rather than just fun."47

 

Sara and Shannon have values that deviate significantly from those my mother lived by and taught her children. They are quite sure of their future roles as women, and it doesn't include being contained to the house and children and a marriage if it isn't satisfactory. Their clear and sure responses to my questionnaire for this paper give me hope that their expectations for their roles as adult women will become a reality. My mother's did, to her satisfaction. Mine did, to my dissatisfaction. And now, theirs will be revealed as the years unfold. I have high hopes for them because I want my daughters to "grow up in a society where [they] will have a comfortable and important place,"48 and I hope that they can "follow new paths ...[despite my] ambiguous role model."49

 

 

NOTES

1 Elaine Tyler May Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1988) 73.

2 Kenneth T. Jackson, "The Baby Boom and the Age of the Subdivision" America Since 1945, Marcus and Burner, eds. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991) 54.

3 Jackson 61

4 Jackson 62

5 Jackson 63

6 May 25

7 Arlie Hochschild, "Joey's Problem: Nancy and Evan Holt" America Since 1945, Marcus and Burner, eds. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991) 351.

8 Hochschild 351

9 Hochschild 348

10 Hochschild 356

11 Hochschild 356

12 Hochschild 363

13 May 186

14 Hochschild 361

15 May 53

16 May 81

17 May 209

18 May 210

19 May 220

20 Hochschild 352

21 May 90

22 Questionnaire III & IV

23 May 115

24 Questionnaire IV

25 Questionnaire VI & VII

26 Questionnaire IX

27 Questionnaire IX

28 Questionnaire III

29 May 85

30 May 116

31 Questionnaire IV

32 Questionnaire IV

33 May 94

34 Questionnaire V

35 Questionnaire I

36 Questionnaire I

37 Questionnaire III

38 Questionnaire I

39 Questionnaire IV

40 Questionnaire VI

41 Questionnaire VII

42 Questionnaire V

43 Questionnaire I

44 May 87

45 Questionnaire IX

46 May 114

47 Questionnaire IV

48 May 213

49 May 217


 QUESTIONNAIRE

Date(s) ___1-17-96 to 1-21-96_____

These questions were designed to be asked of the five women in the three generations in my family. The intent was to compare similarities and differences regarding different aspects of family life between individuals and generations and the changes in attitudes/expectations from teen years to later adult years. Interviews to collect answers to these questions took place over the telephone between January 17th and 21st, 1996.

Respondants:

        First Generation: Dorine, born 1918, age 78

        Second Generation: Jill (me), born 1946, age 49

        Jean, born 1949, age 46

        Third Generation: Sara, born 1974, age 21

        Shannon, born 1976, age 19

 

A. Gender Roles

    1. Financial Support:

a. As a young women in your teens, did you expect to be financially supported by a man in your adult life?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: no

        Shannon: no

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding financial support from a man?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: no, well, partially

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: no

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Jean: I will always be able to support myself. Why? Because I can, and because if a man supported me then I would lose power to make my own choices.

        Sara: It may be OK to be supported by a man while in school.

        Shannon: When I was in high school I thought I might work while my husband stayed home because I assumed I'd earn more as an adult than any of the boys I knew then.

 

    2. Housework:

a. As a young women in your teens, did you expect to be responsible for the housework in your future home?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: no

        Shannon: I don't know. It depends on the man.

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding responsibility for housework?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: no

        Shannon: It depends on the man.

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Jill: It should be shared.

        Jean: Ideally, all duties should be a partnership. In reality, changes occur over time with each person sometimes doing more at one time and sometimes doing less another time. However, I have always felt like the one responsible for seeing that there's enough soap in the house and so forth. What I would LIKE, if I could afford it, is a man who would handle the housework while I went off to work each day.

 

    3. Childcare:

a. As a young women in your teens, did you expect to be primarily responsible for the care of your children?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: yes

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding responsibility for childcare?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: yes

        Jean: no

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: yes

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Jill: shared

        Sara: If you are living with a man, then it should be dual responsibility. Why a change of mind? Because my present potential mate would be a very good father, and in high school my boyfriend wouldn't have been.

        Shannon: Someone should stay home with the children, but it's OK if it's the man or the woman. Why did I change my mind? It didn't occur to me earlier.

 

    4. General Responsibilities:

a. What do you consider appropriate division of responsibility between spouses for financial support, housework, and childcare?

        Dorine: Financially, entirely the male. Housework, the man should do things where strength is required, otherwise the woman handles the rest. Childcare, the man provides companionship to the children, but the woman does the work relating to the children.

        Jill: Each spouse should work at a job they choose, with either earning a greater income than the other. Housework should be shared equitably, as should childcare. This has not been a reality in my life for two reasons: his far superior earning ability, and our traditional expectations set early in our marriage that have been impossible to change.

        Jean: Responsibilities should be fifty-fifty, though maybe one partner would do more in one area while the other does more in another area. [ Is/was this a reality in your life? Why or why not?] Since Rex is my domestic partner and not my husband, and since he is not my child's father, it is a different situation as far as childcare. Even though Michelle is not his child, we are a family unit.

        Sara: Either spouse could provide greater financial support. Any division of housework is OK if it is agreed upon ahead by both partners. Any childcare arrangement is OK as long as it is agreeable to both and one doesn't feel overly burdened.

        Shannon: Ideally, financial support should be from the one who makes more or likes his/her work more. But the primary financial responsibility should be from one and childcare responsibilities primarily from the other. Splitting it 50-50 is difficult. Both financial support and childcare are full time jobs and not easy to split. For housework: get a cleaning lady for the heavy work, and the one who works outside the home should do the shopping, and the one at home should keep track of the needs in the house.

 

B. Sexual Expression/Containment

    1. Premarital Sex:

a. As a young women in your teens, did you regard it to be appropriate for a woman to remain sexually inactive until married?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: no

        Sara: no

        Shannon: OK, but not necessary

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding premarital sex?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: no

        Shannon: no

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Jill: -acceptable now in an exclusive relationship

        Jean: I now have a better understanding of what sex means, namely a relationship rather than just fun. Why have I changed my attitude? Maturity and circumstance.

 

    2. Cohabitation:

a. As a young women in your teens, did you regard it appropriate for a woman to live with a man (cohabitate) before marriage?

        Dorine: it never came up

        Jill: no

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: yes

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding cohabitation?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: no

        Sara: no

        Shannon: no

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Dorine: For older people it is OK in certain circumstances because pensions can be lost with marriage. For younger people, I prefer not, but I can live with it.

        Jill: It is acceptable now whether for convenience or in a serious relationship.

 

    3. Sexual Partners:

a. As a young women in your teens, what did you consider an appropriate relationship status with a sexual partner? (eg, married, engaged, living together, in love, physically attracted to each other)

        Dorine: married

        Jill: married only

        Jean: at least engaged

        Sara: in love/committed to the relationship

        Shannon: Choice of sexual partners is more of a safety issue than a moral issue. Safety from disease, rape, pregnancy. So a sexual partner should be one you can trust, including emotional safety.

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding appropriate sexual partners?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: no

        Shannon: no

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Jill: Serious, exclusive relationship, if both parties are single.

        Jean: Choice of partners should depend on depth of emotional involvement, though not necessarily a committed relationship. Committed meaning committed to certain promises to each other, whatever the two people agree upon together.

 

    4. Homosexuality

a. As a young woman in your teens, were you accepting or unaccepting of homosexuality?

        Jill: I was clueless about its existence.

        Jean: I had no attitude--it was beyond my imagination.

        Sara: accepting

        Shannon: acceptable, but it didn't affect me

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitude regarding acceptable sexual orientation?

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: yes

 

c. If so, changed how? d. Why?

        Dorine: I didn't even know homosexuality existed until college, and then we just thought it was humorous. We didn't know or even know of any homosexuals. But some PE majors were so mannish that I didn't want to go in the showers with them. [Why?] Because they seemed so much like men that it seemed inappropriate to be in the showers with them.

        Jill: I'm accepting of a homosexual relationship if it's an exclusive relationship.

        Jean: Now it is perfectly acceptable to me, the same as any other relationship.

        Sara: more accepting, less homophobic

        Shannon: even more accepting

C. Marriage/Divorce/Having Children

    1. Marriage

a. As a young woman in your teens, did you expect to get married?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: no

 

b. As a young woman in your teens, what did you consider to be the ideal age for a woman to marry?

        Dorine: 20-23

        Jill: 22-23

        Jean: early to mid 20s

        Sara: early 20s, 23-24

        Shannon: for me, 40, for other women, late 20s

 

c. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding ideal marriage age?

        Dorine: yes, older now, maybe 25-30, to start a career

        Jill: yes, early or late 20s ideal

        Jean: yes, now I'd say mid to late 20s

        Sara: no

        Shannon: yes, now for me, late 20s or 30, for others, it depends on their maturity

 

d. At what age did you get married?

        Dorine: 21

        Jill: 21

        Jean: 25

        Sara: na

        Shannon: na

 

e. If different from your ideal, how? f. Why?

        Jill: I was in love and had graduated from college.

 

    2. Divorce

a. As a young woman in your teens, how acceptable/unacceptable did you consider divorce?

        Dorine: -totally unacceptable. I didn't know any divorced people.

        Jill: I didn't consider it much, but it wasn't too acceptable.

        Jean: It was beyond my life experience.

        Sara: -didn't think about it

        Shannon: acceptable

 

b. In later adult years, have you changed your attitudes regarding acceptability of divorce?

        Dorine: yes. Now it is regrettable but acceptable.

        Jill: no

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: no

 

c. What do you consider to be appropriate reasons for divorce?

        Dorine: Definitely unfaithfulness. Nothing else. Well, maybe a criminal act, or abuse. You should work out problems.

        Jill: Physical or emotional abuse.

        Jean: Prolonged unreconcilable unhappiness, mental or physical abuse, incompatibility if you are miserable, financial irresponsibility.

        Sara: physical abuse or unwillingness to resolve conflict

        Shannon: Divorce is acceptable if people are unhappy and will stay that way because they are married.

 

d. What do you consider to be reasons that may be problems in a marriage, but not sufficient cause for divorce?

        Dorine:

        Jill: Different values and goals.

        Sara: not getting along for a long time.

        Shannon: problems that can be fixed

 

e. Is infidelity sufficient reason for divorce?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: It depends.

        Jean: It could be, it would depend.

        Sara: It depends.

        Shannon: It depends if trust has been permanently destroyed.

 

    3. Having Children

a. As a young woman in your teens, did you expect to have children?

        Dorine: yes

        Jill: yes

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: no

 

b. As a young woman in your teens, how many children did you consider to be an ideal number?

        Dorine: 6--because I am an only child.

        Jill: 3-4

        Jean: 1 or 2

        Sara: 2

        Shannon: for others, 2-3

 

c. How many children did you have?

        Dorine: 3

        Jill: 3

        Jean: 1

        Sara: na

        Shannon: na

 

d. If the number is different than you regarded as ideal in earlier years, why is it different?

        Dorine: because Daddy knew it was financially a drain, that is, that we wouldn't be able to do for them what we wanted to, namely put them through college.

        Jill: husband wanted fewer (even the 3rd was a surprise)

 

e. What is the ideal age to start having children?

        Dorine: 25-30

        Jill: when you are ready and want them and can provide for them

        Jean: 26-27

        Sara: The ideal age to start having children is when you are both ready, financially and emotionally. Age and marital status are less important, tho preferably not a teenager, and it is preferable to be married. Ideal number of children? Not sure. Zero or 1 or more than two, but only as an American or someone who can afford to support more children. It is important to be able to support a child if you have one, and in developing countries that is often not the case because of less general affluence. Also, in developing countries women often don't know how to prevent having children.

 

f. Is it acceptable to be a single, never married mother?

        Dorine: No, well I prefer not, that is, I don't criticize those who do. It's OK for other people, but not for me or mine.

        Jill: only if you can support them

        Jean: yes

        Sara: yes

 

D. Working Outside the Home After Marriage

a. As a young woman in your teens, did you expect to work outside the home after you got married (before children)?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: I don't remember.

        Jean: no

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: yes

 

b. As a married woman, did you work outside the home before you had children?

        Dorine: yes, but it was wartime

        Jill: yes, some, sporatically

        Jean: yes

        Sara: n a

        Shannon: n a

 

c. As a young woman in your teens, did you expect to work outside the home after you had children?

        Dorine: no

        Jill: no

        Jean: no

        Sara: yes

        Shannon: I didn't expect to have children.

 

d. Did you work outside the home after you had children?

        Dorine: yes, but later, for college bills

        Jill: Yes, then no. I worked 12 years with preschoolers, then quit when the children were 6,10, and 11.

        Jean: yes

        Sara: n a

        Shannon: n a

 

e. If your teenage expectations of being a working wife or mother were different from your actual adult life, why was this so?

        Dorine: because of the college bills

        Jill: An awakened feminist consciousness sent me to work; I felt unfulfilled at home. Then exhaustion as a supermom caused me to quit and stay home with the children.

        Jean: necessity

        Sara: n a

        Shannon: n a


NOTES

1 Elaine Tyler May Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1988) 73.

2 Kenneth T. Jackson, "The Baby Boom and the Age of the Subdivision" America Since 1945, Marcus and Burner, eds. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991) 54.

3 Jackson 61

4 Jackson 62

5 Jackson 63

6 May 25

7 Arlie Hochschild, "Joey's Problem: Nancy and Evan Holt" America Since 1945, Marcus and Burner, eds. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991) 351.

8 Hochschild 351

9 Hochschild 348

10 Hochschild 356

11 Hochschild 356

12 Hochschild 363

13 May 186

14 Hochschild 361

15 May 53

16 May 81

17 May 209

18 May 210

19 May 220

20 Hochschild 352

21 May 90

22 Questionnaire III & IV

23 May 115

24 Questionnaire IV

25 Questionnaire VI & VII

26 Questionnaire IX

27 Questionnaire IX

28 Questionnaire III

29 May 85

30 May 116

31 Questionnaire IV

32 Questionnaire IV

33 May 94

34 Questionnaire V

35 Questionnaire I

36 Questionnaire I

37 Questionnaire III

38 Questionnaire I

39 Questionnaire IV

40 Questionnaire VI

41 Questionnaire VII

42 Questionnaire V

43 Questionnaire I

44 May 87

45 Questionnaire IX

46 May 114

47 Questionnaire IV

48 May 213

49 May 217