Cross-National Comparisons of Work, Spouse, and Parental Roles

Activity Description:


 Explore the assumptions underlying work, spouse, and parental roles within dual-career families residing and working in different national contexts.

***For a 50 minute session***

Step 1: (Five minutes)

Divide the class into two groups and then assign one scenario to each group (see the scenarios below). Explain the task. Each group has to read the scenario and discuss answers to the assigned questions. Each group has to select one member responsible for summarizing the discussion and presenting it to the other group.

Step 2: (Twenty minutes)

Have each group read the scenario, discuss the following questions, and summarize the discussion:

  1. How are the responsibilities of the parental roles (father/mother) being handled?
  2. Who is spending more time at work?  Why?
  3. Who is spending more time at home?  Why?
  4. What assumptions are being made about who is the best person to take care of the child?
  5. What type of help is being obtained from outside the family?
  6. Is any type of support being provided at work?
  7. Think about the country in which the scenario is being enacted and identify the expectations that are made in that society about work, spouse, and parental roles. How are these expectations reflected in the scenario?

Step 3: (Ten minutes)

Each group presents the summary of the discussion.

Step 4: (Ten minutes)

The two groups then find similarities and differences between the two scenarios and relate these to the national context in which the scenarios are based.

Scenario 1

Julie and Richard Nolan live in New York City, U.S.A. They are a dual-career couple with Richard working as a Professor of Architecture at a state university and Julie employed as a Branch Manager for a large national bank. Recently, Julie gave birth to their first child, a son, and they are making the transition into their parental roles. Julie has taken four weeks of unpaid leave and was glad her mother could come for the two weeks right after the baby arrived. When she returns to work, their son will be attending a daycare center located close to her bank; she will drop off the baby every morning on her way to work and is counting on Richard to pick up the baby on his way back. Julie is a bit worried about how she is going to get caught up with things at work that have accumulated over the four weeks she was away. Fortunately the baby arrived when Richard’s semester was almost ending and he is looking forward to spending more time with the baby during the three weeks of break he has between semesters. Julie wants to use this time to sit down with Richard and create some schedules that would help them figure out ways of managing their responsibilities at work and at home in an effective and efficient manner.

Scenario 2

Asha and Hemant Bharve live in Pune, India. They are a dual-career couple with Hemant working as Professor of Engineering at the University and Asha employed as the Branch Manager of a large national bank. Recently, Asha gave birth to their first child, a son, and they are making the transition into their parental roles. Asha’s mother came to stay with them right before the birth of the baby and will remain with them for about six months. When she leaves, Hemant’s parents will arrive and live them for six months. Though there are several good quality day-care centers available, the new parents prefer to have their families come and help out. They believe this is an opportunity for the newborn to get to know his grandparents and for Asha to get some assistance as she tries to handle work and parental responsibilities. When Asha’s maternity leave (twelve weeks of paid leave) expires and she returns to work she is glad to have her mother (and later her in-laws) at home to take care of the baby. Hemant too is glad to have family members available to help out as he can continue to concentrate on his work especially as he has several deadlines coming up within the next few months.

Activity Source:

Source:  Content contributed by Meera Komarraju as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity