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How evening and night work affects women’s abilities to feed their families and socialize their children Carr, Susan Belinda

Abstract

The number of mothers entering paid employment, including shift work, has dramatically increased over the last half century. Current research suggests that working women still perform the majority of caring work at home, but does not specifically address how shift work affects women's roles and responsibilities in relation to feeding their families. The purpose of this qualitative study, thus, was to explore how evening and night-working women with young children feed their families and to describe women's perceptions and feelings about how the nutritional and socialization needs of their children are being met during their absences. Twelve participants were recruited through notices placed in community newspapers and on bulletin boards and data were collected through conducting semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed verbatim; data analysis occurred concurrently with data collection. Various hardships and inconveniences were associated with evening shifts, including complex childcare arrangements, extra work feeding their families, and dissatisfaction with the mothers' own eating habits. Evening shifts resulted in less time for women to feed their children while the effects of extreme fatigue affected night-working women's abilities to feed and socialize their children. Women were concerned about their families not eating together frequently enough and their children's table manners and meal time conversations. Most women were embedded in feeding work associated with traditional gendered roles of "mothers;" varying levels of understanding and acceptance of this role were shown. Support networks, the age of children, and the shift and number of hours worked were all factors that affected women's abilities to combine shift work and the feeding and socializing of their families. Senior females were considered to be the preferred caregivers when mothers worked over meal times. The findings suggest that while shift-working mothers are coping with feeding their families, some children, in particular school-aged children of evening working women, were identified as being at most risk of less desirable nutrition and socialization practices due to the absence of their mothers.

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