The Second Shift: Organize your Brain to Manage a Healthy Work Home Balance

By Dr. Cristi Bundukamara EdD PMHNP — The second shift is a sociological theory created by researcher and author Arlie Hochschild. In her book “The Second Shift” she investigates the dynamics of family life and the division of responsibilities between married couples. Over ten years of spending time in homes and observing their lives, she concluded that in the majority of heterosexual marriages the wife handles a larger percentage of household responsibilities.

Hochschild created the term “Second Shift” because in our society, most families need both parents to work in order to support themselves. In most cases, once they get home from their work shift (first shift), there is still more work to do at home (second shift). There is a difference between the work you do for your job and your work at home. When you work at a job, you earn pay, promotions, and recognition for how hard you work. The work you do at home, however, is unpaid labor that rarely receives any recognition, yet it is necessary for your life. It can be exhausting work, but it is just as important to your livelihood as a job. The problem people face is that they have a hard time shifting their brains from the stress of first shift to the second shift, meaning the work at home is left undone and can lead to poor physical and mental health.

Using the Mentally Strong Method can help you figure out how you are managing the stress of shifting from your job work to your work at home. It can also help you find ways to intervene if you feel like your partner is not taking on their share of the second shift. The first step is understanding your relationship. It is important to know how each of you communicates, so that there are no misunderstandings. However, setting healthy boundaries and communication are not good interventions for an abusive relationship. If your relationship is abusive, seek professional help from a crisis line or your local domestic violence organization.

You may feel like you spend more time doing more of the second shift work than your spouse. You might have even tried to address it with your spouse, but it feels like you are not making any progress. These feelings can lead you into a resentment phase of your relationship because you feel like your needs are not being met. This resentment phase often leads to conflict, which leads to more resentment. In this case, you need to find a way to break the cycle of conflict you are experiencing. If you find yourself in a cycle of feeling resentful, but you are not communicating your needs, those emotions can build up. If you are not venting your emotions in a healthy way, they will eventually have nowhere to go.

Imagine, for example, that you’ve been feeling like you are doing most of the second shift work, but haven’t been communicating with your spouse. You hold it in and end up in the resentment phase for so long that you are full of anger for no apparent reason. You then find out your spouse didn’t remember to go to the store that day like you had asked. You end up suddenly letting out your pent-up anger, which leads to a giant fight. Now you find yourself in a place where nothing gets resolved and your partner shuts down emotionally. When this happens, nobody’s needs are going to be met. This giant explosion of emotion is why it is important to break that cycle of conflict and resentment before it happens. We encourage you to use the Mentally Strong Method to learn these skills, so that you and your spouse are able to communicate and help each other.

At Mentally Strong we have Choice Opportunities that will help you gain insight into yourself, and your relationships. We can help you find ways to find a healthy work home balance, take care of your family, and prioritize your personal or relationship needs. Learning how to be empowered in your relationships is critical for anyone who feels disempowered in their lives.

Interested in learning more? Register for our Mentally STRONGer Course and learn The Mentally STRONG Method for yourself.

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