Dreams versus reality: wishes, expectations and perceived reality for the use of extra non-work time in a 30-hour work week experiment. By: Mullens, Francisca and Glorieux, Ignace. 2024. Community, Work & Family. Vol. 27 Issue 2, p225-251.

In 2019, a Belgian women’s organisation experimented with a 30-hour work week for all of their full-time employees. This work time reduction was an excellent opportunity to study these female employees’ wishes, expectations and experienced reality concerning their extra non-work time. Their wishes and expectations – as well as how these relate to their perceived reality – was studied through longitudinal questionnaires, in-depth interviews and focus groups. The women wished for more time for themselves and their intimate relationships. However, their wishes reflected an ideal situation. Their expectations reflected their wishes but were slightly more realistic. The perceived reality did not fulfil all of their wishes. The ‘me-time’ that they wished for prior to the experiment did not always emerge to be the ‘me-time’ that they had. Some women appropriated a less conventional form of ‘me-time’, such as housework, which helped them to ease their mind and relax. Others felt unable to fulfil their wishes through (social) context factors such as the embeddedness of time structures, time schedules and the rhythms of family and friends. This paper reflects on the gendered norms and values and inequalities in time use that can help to explain the discrepancies between preferences and experienced reality.