The purpose of this thesis has been to provide new insight into sociological coherencies between work and family life. The main subject has been to study how the everyday life of parents and children is formed in an interaction between work life, family life and welfare arrangements for children and parents. The "voices" of the children, and their perspectives have been absent in debates on time and time squeeze in the family. The work life is the adult's home ground, whereas schools and kindergartens are arenas made for children. This division is also reflected in sociological research. Work life research has only dealt with children's perspectives in a very limited degree, while the research on children has not fully included work life as a central and important context in the life of children.
This thesis consists of five articles in total. In the first article, I explore the perspective on spending time with children amongst employed parents. In article number 2 I move on into a theoretical discussion on sociological understandings of children and I will also introduce the question about children's perspective in sociological work life research.
The articles in the thesis are based on data from two qualitative researches. The first one was performed in relation to the evaluation of the cash support (Bungum, Brandth and Kvande 2001). The cash support research was based on interviews with parents of small children on three different places of work. The analysis in article 1 and 3 are based on this. The other data used is also taken from interviews with children and their parents. This data was gathered during the spring of 2005, as part of this thesis and for the research programme "Time conflicts amongst parents and the flexible work life" by NTNU. Design and method in this second research can be considered a continuation of experiences made during the cash support project. Article 4 and 5 are based on this data.
The background for the introduction of the cash support was to give parents of small children more time to spend with their minors. The support sets no requirements regarding adjustments to the work life. The findings in article 1 show that when welfare arrangements are individually adapted and optional like the cash support, work life draws the longer straw for those parents that work the most from before. If one, politically speaking, really wants to make changes in how parents spend time with their children, looking at the time use of fathers in the work life would have more potential for change. Changes in how fathers spend time with their children would however require new welfare arrangements to be tied to collective rights in the work life. The variations in regards to the participation of parents in different work cultures, has been a vital context in this study, but also how the gender patterns between work and family life forms the time practises of mothers and fathers.
In the study I emphasize stories from children about their own everyday life with full time working parents. A finding in this relation is that the flexible time cultures in parent's work life can be limitless with regards to time use, but can also give the children a bigger space to negotiate time with their parents. The standardized time cultures give limiting time practises, where the space for negotiating is smaller but the everyday life seems more predictable and lucid to the children.
In the thesis I will also show how children's time practises are formed in an interaction between the time cultures of the working life and the committed schoo time. The stories from the children about their own everyday life makes it clear that the organizing of time in school is based on a model created in a society where most mothers were working at home, and that it is not adapted to the standardized time cultures in work life.
The stories from the children can give us differentiated perspectives on the modern childhood. The variations in the children's experiences of negotiations with the work life of their parents, is a contribution to give depth and width to the polarized debate on time crisis and the everyday life of children in Norway today.