TUESDAY, March 8, 2011 (Health.com) — Thanks to our BlackBerries, iPhones, and iPads, the line between work and family time is getting blurrier. But a new study suggests that women feel 40% more distress than men when family life is frequently interrupted by these electronic devices or other types of contact, despite being under the same amount of work pressure.
In fact, when co-workers contacted them at home, women felt guilty about it twice as often as men, even if the communications didn’t actually interfere with family life. The survey, which included more than 1,000 U.S. workers, was published this week in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
According to lead author Paul Glavin, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Toronto, the researchers were surprised by the differences in how men and women responded emotionally, even when they were equally adept at managing home and work. The guilty feelings may explain why women feel more distress than men about being contacted at home, the researchers say.
“We examined the extent that work actually interfered, and our results were focused on controlling for all those factors,” says Glavin. “At the end of the day, the only thing left was guilt, and that’s where the distress came in. We can only speculate about why.”
One theory, says Glavin, is that while women’s work roles have dramatically changed, many still hold—perhaps subconsciously—the view that a woman’s priority is at home with her children.
“There’s still some way to go before we see equality of expectations in work and in family,” says Glavin.
Wilmington, Delaware–based psychologist Leslie Connor, PhD, agrees.
“More women of my generation had stay-at-home moms,” says Connor, 54. “Your role model met you at the bus stop, had dinner on the table. It adds to the guilt if you think, I’m not doing for my children what my mother did for me.”
In other words, even for women who are meeting their responsibilities at home, they see themselves as falling short of the ideal if they let work interrupt their family time.
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