What is 2nd Shift? Clocking Out of Society's Expectations

Written by Connie Sifuentes
Graphic Design by Emmanuel Garcia

What is 2nd Shift? Clocking Out of Society's Expectations

If someone were to ask you, “What’s 2nd shift?” how would you respond? For some, you may think of your work schedule reflecting that dreaded first or third shift you didn’t want. Maybe you think about the time frame of each scheduled shift block you have this week. You may think about rush-hour traffic while driving to your scheduled split shift at a second job. Whether you’re updating your work calendar or availability, most define the 2nd shift as time committed to work-related duties. What exactly is time, though? Within the hours of a given week, we often place greater control over maintaining our schedules. We attempt to beat the clock, using time as the measuring unit of our success. Within work, the time we spend on tasks determines how we measure our accomplishments. That’s why today, we will discuss the 2nd shift as the metaphoric shift of household and domestic labor.

The Revealing Reality Of Metaphoric Shift Hours

You wake up to the sound of your alarm clock’s terrible ring. Still half asleep, you drag yourself out of bed to prepare for the day ahead. After completing the tasks in your morning routine, you hop in your car and drive to your job. After a busy day of tasks and projects, you begin to feel the aftermath of physical and mental exhaustion. 

After clocking out, you drive back home until realizing you left your children at daycare. Back into rush hour traffic, you speed to the school and pick up your children, who end up being fine, mostly.

Finally getting home, you spend the next two hours cooking dinner, then set up a bath for the children to prepare for bed. After stories and snuggles, you commit the next hour to laundry duties that somehow doubled in size from the day before. You then return to clean the kitchen after forgetting about the pile of dishes from dinner.

After a few more hours of tedious tasks, you start on a ‘to do’ list since you have the time. You then climb into bed, preparing for the process again tomorrow. Congratulations. You completed your second shift.

Paid and Unpaid Labor: A Perspective on Family Members

The 2nd shift is a term within the field of sociology that refers to the care of children and household labor. In her book, The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home (1989), Sociologist Arlie Hochschild explains how expected household labor and childcare duties strain working families. Household labors are often unbalanced since most working mothers and women take on the tasks. This causes gender inequity and inequality to reinforce the gendered division of roles.

Many women and working mothers are the main household “employees” in many families. The gendered division of labor pins women and mothers with a “2nd shift” or “split shift” work schedule, causing them to maintain household stability, especially with small children. Even after a tiring work day, working women and mothers remain responsible for the home. They often struggle with a healthy work-life balance. 

In a similar view, working fathers and men tend to balance the pay scales and maintain full-time work schedules to provide household finances and resources. While women and mothers also work, they often earn less than men. Paid work is preferred over unpaid work. So what about household labor? Society influences us by shaping our foundation. Starting in our homes as children and continuing as we become adults. 

Women point to being the typical household “employee,” working the unpaid labor of the 2nd shift. With a growing number of women in the workforce, household labor may need to be divided. However, the chores you give to children under eight don’t count. They’re still learning. You’re still a great parent for all the time spent engaging them, though!

Health care, finances, and other basic needs may result in children being tasked with household labor. During a meeting with my former sociology professor, Tiffani Saunders, she mentioned how the 2nd shift limits those who fall near the poverty line. Working-class families may only have one parental figure in the home. This also points out mental health care, specifically burnout, within a single-parent home compared to two-parent households. 

While working mothers may not always be the main household figure, fathers or the primary caregiver must provide and maintain the household. Families within a single household work through 2nd shift schedules at a greater cost.

Beyond Outdated: Turning The Tables On Hochschild's Revolutionary Legacy

Hochschild’s book was first published in the late 1980s. While a bit outdated, a recent edition shows an increase in working women since 2012. The time spent working hours in a paid employment position doesn’t cancel out 2nd shift labor. Two-thirds of families may not consider working hours to include domestic, possibly because it’s not paid work. 

Hochschild comments that while working women and mothers have come a long way, there is still a much-needed shift in gender equity. Given this, we can only begin to imagine the number of women and mothers working full-time in the future. Household chores being equivalent to unpaid labor isn’t usually compared. However, it’s still weighted within the gendered division of labor.

Both women and men have shown the ability to maintain agendas, resources, and expected workplace duties, regardless of full-time or part-time work schedules. 

So why does the gendered division of labor point focus on women and mothers as the primary caretakers compared to men and fathers? Likewise, why is it often dismissed as an easy thing to manage? The reason may not be related to ability but gender expression and identity.

Gender Inequality: Being #Woke in a Revolutionary Shift

You probably read that heading and thought, “Did she use a hashtag?” Yep, I sure did (it’s an actual word!), and if we allow ourselves to be honest, half the world is still sleeping! I’ll explain what I mean. 

Being “woke” comes from the idea that we are socially and consciously aware of what is right and wrong. So what about household labor? Why are women responsible for it by default if men and fathers are capable? Social standards and biases stem from how we have been conditioned to think. 

If someone were to mention a single-parent household, you might think they identify as a woman and mother who does what she can for her children. However, would you assume it may be a single father? Or an individual who is transgender or gender non-conforming? That’s the power of conditioning.

The 2nd shift can affect anyone and, most often, does. While you may not have meant to assume the identity of the single parent, you still did because that’s how society paints the picture. So how can we point away from this split shift struggle?

When considering “being woke,” we must first know that assumption is a barrier. Never assume. You already know what they say about it, so I won’t go there! Men, transgender, and gender non-conforming folk are also parents, caregivers, and people. 

Our society defines expectations for working women and mothers. It also enforces toxic masculinity on men, suggesting that domestic duties are a woman’s job only. 

Mac McGregor, Founder and Executive Director of Positive Masculinity, dedicates his work to helping communities become educated on issues surrounding toxic masculinity and gender inequality. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be a woman to work second-shift hours.

It can be hard for anyone to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Our world is shifting away from traditional standards. So it’s essential to do the same.

Split Shift Hours - The Wonderful World Of Work-Life Balance

After meeting with SJ, our fearless leader, founder, and CEO of Super Purposes, I sat with a hard truth. No matter who you are, what you do, or how successful you become, the unpaid labor of household duties won’t clock out. Society’s construction of gender roles is pointless. Everyone, regardless of sex or gender, is responsible for their home’s well-being.

As we sit here and think about our lives, we must remember that someone still has to do the grocery shopping. Kidding! Whether you work at the office or home, in a relationship or single, LGBT or straight, always try your best. The work-life balance may be tricky, but you can still enjoy the process.

Choose to be a good person, and remain calm when it’s hard. Cleaning can be calming. Hearing the “crunchies” get sucked into your vacuum is great! Do not allow negativity to discourage you. You matter, and here at Super Purposes, we care about you! Be sure to check out our blog page for more career insight! 

Have a  Super Day!

Connie Sifuentes
Connie Sifuentes

As an inner-city kid with different colored pens for every subject, writing has always been my passion. I never thought I'd be able to thrive in a career that focused on my passions, but thanks to Super Purposes, I'm sharing my love for writing with the world!