Workers' Changing Expectations

October 31, 1980

Report Outline
More Time for Families
More Benefit Programs
More Employee Rights
Special Focus

More Time for Families

White House Conference Recommendations

Shortly after taking office, President Carter advised his staff to keep up their family lives despite job pressures. “I want you to spend an adequate amount of time with your husbands, wives and children, and involve them as much as possible in our White House life,” Carter said in a February 1977 staff memo. “… All of you will be more valuable to me and the country with rest and a stable family life.” Carter delivered a similar message to the members of his Cabinet.

Carter's staff and Cabinet did not doubt the president's commitment to family togetherness. But they found it difficult — if not impossible — to carry out his wishes. Like their predecessors, Carter's staff and Cabinet found that 12- and 14-hour days and six- and seven-day work weeks were the norm. Such pressures inevitably took their toll — there have been several marital breakups at the upper levels of the administration. The president's son Chip and his top political aide, Hamilton Jordan, are among those whose marriages ended in divorce during the past four years.

Many Americans still might be uncomfortable if they believed that those in positions of power in Washington were regularly missing Cabinet meetings to take their spouses out to lunch or passing up congressional hearings to attend school plays. But in recent years people have become increasingly aware of the ways in which employment policies and practices affect family life. “Too often in the past we have viewed families in a vacuum, as a realm unto themselves,” Allan R. Cohen and Rosabeth M. Kanter wrote recently. “Only now are we beginning to consider how public policy and such institutions as employing organizations may be responsible for what happens, or does not happen, in private life.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Employee Benefits
Work and the Family