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Keywords:

  • family time;
  • guilt;
  • work and family

“Family time” is often uncritically accepted as a uniform, coherent concept and a universally desirable goal. In order to fully understand the meaning of family time in experience, interviews were conducted with parents in 17 dual-earner and 11 single-parent families, and 8 observation episodes were done with 4- and 5-year-old children in childcare. What emerged was a dramatic discordance between the expectations and experiences of family time. Although families have held on to an expectation of a positive experience of togetherness, they are typically left with a feeling that there is never enough, that it is in the service of children, and that they are duty-bound by it. There is a structural contradiction between the ideals and experience of family time that is typically expressed through disillusionment and guilt.