Although working women's feelings of being overwhelmed is well documented, in some cases men are also often highly stressed by managing everyday household decisions and prioritizing the needs of family members. Travis, the father of two boys ages two and a half and eight, laments the constant demand of "managing someone else's needs," specifically, being unable to fulfill the "demands" of his wife, which often comes at the expense of his own health. He talks about his concerns as he spontaneously interviews himself in front of a video camera, which we provided to him for conducting a self-guided home tour:
You'll notice when I'm walking around the house that, um, there's basically very little respite for me. It's all about, um, managing someone else's needs most of the time, and admittedly, I'm not as strong and caring of my own needs, but I see that my own physical health is being compromised by not doing that, so, um, I'm starting to do more of that, which of course leads to aggravation from my demanding wife, um, by not paying attention to her and not fulfilling her needs.
So I think my house kind of represents, um, work. And my workplace kind of represents rest in a certain way.
This perspective on the workplace as a sanctuary reflects the phenomenon discussed by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, who found that for working parents one's job offered a less stressful environment than life at home.
Travis and his wife, Alice, discussed their perspectives on their domestic lives in an interview. Alice explained that she and Travis have different orientations to handling household tasks: she recognizes that she is an "accomplisher" who can be "domineering" and less "easygoing" than Travis. Alice then elaborated on the consequences of these differences:
I have to, like, I manage the household, and, like, I delegate what needs to be done, 'cause basically I'm the one in charge of seeing that—everything needs to get done. That's how I look at it. Anyway, so that's a real source of tension between both of us, I think. It's not like the trust thing. It's just that—that, um, it wouldn't be like Travis would walk into the room and go, gee, my underwear's on the floor; I guess I'd better pick it up. It'll be, like, Travis, pick up your underwear off the floor. I mean, it's like, basically for me, it's like having three kids in the house. Sorry, no offense. I love you very much.
From Alice's perspective, the need to push Travis stems from her belief that it is the only way to make sure that chores will get done. Alice and Travis expressed having divergent needs and expectations of what is necessary for running a household successfully. They have different ideas about how to organize their everyday lives, and they debate these approaches throughout the interview.
Travis: I mean, she's no—she's not a saint in terms of keeping the place clean and, uh, fixing stuff or—she doesn't fix anything.
Alice: No, but I cook meals. I just can't do it all. I don't. But I made you dinner tonight.
Travis: That's good.
Alice: There you go. I'm no saint, but I just can't do everything.
I can't buy all the groceries, cook the dinner—
Travis: I know, but just for the—don't you think that there's—you know that little board we have on the refrigerator?
Alice: Mm hmm.
Travis: Why don't you use that and, like, say, like, um, write me notes?
Alice: [I don't want to.
Travis: [Number one, dishwasher. Number two, rain gutter.
Alice: To be honest with you, I don't want to have to tell you to do stuff. I want you to figure out that the—that the dishwasher needs to be—that you need to figure it out that the dishwasher needs to be—
Travis: I did. Did you ask me to fix the dishwasher, or did I?
Alice: No, you ordered a part, and then six months went by and we don't know what happened to it. I don't want to be, like, micro-managing you. Anyway, that's a whole other story.
Alice's frustration is evident in the content of her utterances and in her demeanor during the interview. Her tone of voice is tense and defiant as she expresses her exasperation. In the first several lines, she emphasizes that she "can't do it all," repeating the words can't and don't want to throughout the excerpt. During this exchange it becomes clear that Alice does not wish to constantly remind Travis what to do around the house.
Perhaps as a way to distance himself from the nagging he experiences, Travis suggests that Alice post notes on the refrigerator, listing tasks that need to be done. She responds that she would prefer that he "figure it out," indicating, once again, her desire for him to take initiative without her constant input, or as she refers to it, "micro-managing," an approach that does not work for either of them. For Travis, Alice's micro-managing is problematic because it does not occur only when something needs to be done; it permeates almost every moment of his waking life. He comments on his wife's continual negative appraisals and states that there is a great deal of "punitive language coming my direction."