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The Best of Both Worlds?: Combining Work and Motherhood on a 24/7 Planet

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posted on 10.07.2017, 13:56 authored by Tracey Jane Leghorn
Adopting feminist methodology, this research explores the work and motherhood choices of female paramedics with the aim of adding to knowledge in the area of ‘women and work’. Primarily, it aims to investigate the difference of opinion between Hakim (1996, 2000) and Crompton and Harris (1998) about the extent of the determinative effect of lifestyle choices. Paramedics have a well-evidenced high level of work attachment. This provides a unique, distinctive and original means of testing their respective views. The research finds that contrary to Hakim, work attachment or orientation to work is not a sole determinative of women’s workplace position to the extent that they ultimately have absolute free choice (Hakim 1996, 2000) as constraints exist which serve to limit this (Crompton and Harris 1998). Secondly, exploration of the respondents’ narratives necessarily provides insight into the role of their husbands/partners. Adding to knowledge in the area of modern parenting and its impact on women’s choices, the research finds that in contrast to the somewhat limited adoption of ‘new fatherhood’ and ‘shared parenting’ in households found in other research (Bittman 2004; Bianchi et al 2006; Fox 2009), my respondents tended to epitomise the ideal model of ‘50-50’ in the fullest sense. Lastly, undertaking this research in the ambulance service setting where 24/7-365 working is required of all paramedics has provided the unique means of exploring whether women’s work choices now extend beyond 9-5. The research found that shift work is not a barrier to women’s workplace position but in fact an enabler of it. The research concludes that despite assertions to the contrary, women do have more choice than previously if they want it enough and can overcome the constraints. The ‘best of both worlds’ is potentially more viable today, if that is what women want.



O'Connor, Henrietta; Goodwin, John

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Centre for Labour Market Studies

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University of Leicester

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