Work-Life Dynamics in a Post-Communist State -- the Case of Poland

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:45
Oral Presentation
Katarzyna SUWADA, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland
The discussion on work-life balance is dominated by the discussion on middle-class mothers from Western societies who combine employment in the labour market with care and domestic work. In my paper I show that such a vision is far from adequate for the situations of Polish families. I resign from the term “balance”, since it might be interpreted as an achievement and as such understood in a normative sense as something good and as a guarantee of life satisfaction. Thus I discuss here work-life dynamics and focus on the dynamic and relational aspects of social reality to indicate different factors that impact the way parents experience and perceive their lives and obligations.

I focus here on the situation of Polish parents. My analysis is based on 50 in-depth interviews conducted with mothers and fathers from different social classes (lower class, middle class, higher class), living in different places (villages, small, medium and big cities) and in different family situations (coupled parents, single parents, parents with disabled children, patchwork families). Different situations of the interviewees open a whole array of important factors that influence the way parents deal with everyday life, their parenthood and paid work. The most important are: (1) general working conditions, (2) individual’s situation in the labour market, (3) support from other people, (4) cultural norms about care, (5) gender inequalities, (6) health/illnesses, (7) family policy system, (8) housing policy. The communist legacy of Polish society and the market-oriented family policy after 1989 are important here, since they make parents’ experiences of work-life dynamics substantially different than experiences of parents from Western Europe.

In my paper I map these different factors and reconstruct the dominating perspective on work-life balance by an intersectional analysis.