Changes in relationships do not necessarily mean turbulence- even the most stable relationships go through constant changes. These changes are manifest in the smallest of gestures and interactions amongst people. The reactions, pro-actions or interactions may be between couples, parents, siblings, extended family, generations of grandparents, in-laws, cousins, on the family side, and boss, colleagues and subordinates, business partners, other stakeholders on the official or work side.
Each action impacts a relationship either negatively or positively- each action process allows us to link our lives to one another.
In short, this is the crux of the paragraphs that follow. Broadly, there are five everyday processes that can be instrumental in linking our lives to one another. These include routines for contact, common involvements, and pattern of interactions, everyday talk and reflection. Each of these requires day to day communication which provides the vital link to create and sustain the fragile fabric of personal relationships.
Enduring personal relationships are formed when these vital everyday links are positive and in good health- it does not take an extraordinary circumstance or event to change relationships- at best it may be a spark to the build up that has happened as a result of everyday interactions.
The essay titled, “The Everyday Accomplishment of Work and Family: Exploring Practical Actions in Daily Routines” by Caryn E.
Medved, Communications Scholar, Ohio University, which is a part of the suggested reading focuses on the challenges of work and family in our daily lives; and studies women in minute detail through a survey which researches the micro practices of navigating and negotiating daily work and family life. The responses to the survey questionnaire help us examine how the women play their taken for granted roles of managing work and family.
Responses highlight startling facts in relationship maintenance and repair amongst the dual career couples. Whether they engage in interaction communication patterns involving variables such as gender and emotions, or workplace interaction, which may even include efforts or signals for social change ( “frame bending”, as the author calls it), brought about by family routine needs, each respondent evidently looks at restructuring actions like negotiating, deliberating, seeking alternatives.
This is done in order to prevent interruption in daily family routine, or to handle changes on the home which may hamper the process of keeping up the routine at work. During workplace interaction, the same actions or tactics may be used to balance out the relationship imperatives while at work. It is observed that in families, children feature topmost in the consideration set of some or all of the above actions.
Routinizing actions like connecting, alternating, prepping and reciprocating, which are designated and carried out as per need and aptitude of the doer, or improvising actions like requesting assistance, trading off or even evading in order to maintain routine action and interaction at the required level whether at home or at work, all work on common sense assumptions which indicate the way forward. There are times when women decide to use “strategic ambiguity” (Eisenberg. 1984. Pages 227-242) to get out of tricky situations- ‘I don’t know’ is the safest answer to manage expectations and keep the relationship going, when one is not sure.
Between workers on a lateral level, as well as spouses, this is very common- a bit of ambiguity and expression of helplessness helps to tide over a demanding query or situation. In my opinion, ambiguity is the culprit, not the solution- a near definite answer helps people to understand each other better and there are no grey areas, which are the starting point of dissent in relationships. What is surprising to note from the interpreted data is the fact that mundane chores which are seemingly innocuous, are so important to ensure proper navigation of everyday achievements of work and family lives.
Prepping, for example, which means preparing for the next morning, can be a spoke in the wheel of smooth communication and relationship if not handled well- women seem to do most of the prepping for reasons including their love for meticulously coordinated activity, organized morning chores, less confusion, more time for spouse and children, among others. Reasons why men are not so fond of prepping include their indifference for neatness and coordination, their habit of relaxing after office and non involvement with the backend chores for children.
They are good fathers nonetheless in that they indulge in outdoor activities with their offspring, buy them gifts and drive them to school. An element of emotion runs through the entire response analysis, both positive and negative, therefore each interpretation needs to be evaluated against scientific benchmarks which rely on biological differences, socio-economic conditions, work culture, even religion at times. It is not to be presupposed that all the interactions proposed and described above ensure smooth daily work and family life.
An element of conflict exists, for the resolution of which, the study states communication as action embedded in the process of managing work and family responsibilities. Effective two way communication is the key to successfully managing work- family life balance. Balance and conflict are dynamic- and they both co-exist. The study has not been able to bring out this aspect of human relationships succinctly. The study while addressing inputs from women, chooses to completely ignore the male viewpoints.
The biological difference certainly has a bearing on each gender’s role in maintaining work life balance; the study appears skewed towards feminine interpretations. There is also a need to study how single parents, gays, lesbians, the working poor manage their work – family relationships. In the study by Medved, family is taken as a nuclear unit- there is no mention of the extended family, which includes grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, friends. We understand that no one lives in isolation, therefore, the work- family balance is certainly impacted by all the relationships mentioned above at some point in time.
A purely feminist interpretation angle would play havoc with the data gathered in the study- it would champion the women by and large, and make men the villains of the piece! In conclusion, the study has certainly highlighted very critical aspects of human relationships- in current times, with professionalism equating men and women and gender parity being the new mantra, the study establishes the basic foundation of a successful work- life balance which helps improve performance, leading to efficiencies and creates opportunities to grow as successful professionals as well as human beings.
References Eisenberg, E. M. Ambiguity as Strategy in Organizational Communication. Communication Monographs Published in 1984. Medved, Caryn E. The Everyday Accomplishment of Work and Family: Exploring Practical Actions in Daily Routines Published in 2002.