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Working Family Values

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Duplicate or distribute these activities. Students may work independently or cooperatively.

All Together
Consider how much time you spend with members of your family. What activities do you enjoy doing together? Which ones do you wish you had more time for? Do you have any active family traditions? Many families in "Working Family Values" have certain traditions or activities that they do together without fail, such as having a family dinner. Are these kinds of traditions important in family life? Work with three or four other students. Have a panel discussion on what are the most important things for a family to do together and why.

• You and the other panelists should each prepare to speak for five minutes on this topic.

• Each of you should explain why each activity you mention is important, and how a family might adjust schedules and priorities to be able to do it together.

• You might also comment on the cost (in terms of money and effort) of doing each activity, and the cost of not doing it.

Maternity Leave
Will Durst says that the United States has the least generous maternity benefits in the industrialized world. Why do you think this is? In Segment 5, Rosie Marchiano must decide whether to go back to work full-time after her six-week maternity leave is up. Is this a typical amount of time granted by an employer? Research law and policy about maternity leave.

• Find out what some other countries offer as standard maternity leave. Visit an informative Web site such as that of the International Labor Organization: www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc87/com-mat.htm

• Talk to some adults to find out what kind of maternity leave is offered at their companies.

• Survey individuals to learn what they think would be an appropriate amount of time for maternity leave.

• Find out whether any companies offer paternity leave for fathers. Should they?

There are a number of Web sites dealing with Work and Family, including paternity and maternity leave, on the Livelyhood Web site (http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/classroom/resources.html).

Check out these sites for more on the issues, and consider adoption benefits as well.

Prepare an analysis of your results. You could also make a proposal for a parental leave plan that you think would best suit both new parents and employers.

Time Savers
Cooking dinner can seem like a daunting task after a full day at work. Such services as Ideal Meals (Segment 6) prove that saving time on household activities can increase a family’s time spent together, and maybe even their overall health. Think about why services like this might help families. Consider these questions:

• Is it worth paying for services like Ideal Meals that allow you to spend more time with your family?

• What other services could help family members spend more of their time together? Which of these already exist?

Find one such service in your community and research how it works.

Determine the following:

• How much does it cost?

• How much time could it save?

• Is it an affordable service?

You might want to keep this in the context of a family’s average earnings – Not everyone can afford extra services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a page with occupational employment and wage estimates for different jobs: http://stats.bls.gov/oes/national/oes_nat.htm.

Finally, talk with some families including your own about ways they’ve come up with to balance work and family. Ask what they think would be a great time-saving business. Then create a plan for your own time-saving service that could help families be healthier and happier. Outline your idea and present it to the class.

Long Hours and Health
Rosa and Arturo Rivera together work an average of 130 hours a week. By doing so, they have managed to buy a house, take care of all basic needs such as food and clothing, and pay for private school for their children. But working these kinds of hours can take a toll on health. Are they paying a price by putting their health in jeopardy?

• Do research to find out what effects—both positive and negative—spending long hours working appears to have.

• Make a list of pros and cons to the Riveras’ decision to work such long hours. What do they gain? What do they lose? Does one side outweigh the other?

• Make a poster on which you summarize your findings, or write a creative essay putting yourself in the shoes of someone in the Riveras’ family trying to balance work and family while working long hours in order to pay for education, a home, and day-to-day expenses.

Remember that Rosa, Arturo and their children are a great team – all working together to help the family get ahead, with the kids putting in long hours afterschool at the store. If you work afterschool at a job, what do you have time for? Does the lack of some of these things negatively impact your health (physical and emotional) in the long run? What are the trade-offs?

As an extension, consider the idea of a "Living Wage" by visiting Livelyhood’s Living Wage feature: http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/ourtowns/sanjose.html

How might a Living Wage affect yours or the Riveras’ work and family lives?

Honey, I’m Home
Full days at work can be exhausting and stressful. When Will interviews kids at P.S. 169, they have some humorous and insightful stories about how their parents show the effects of work stress when they come home. What are some common—and some of the uncommon—ways people react to workday pressures when they get home?

• Survey your classmates to find out how their parents deal with workplace stress. List common and uncommon behaviors.

• With a group, assess whether or not each behavior identified is healthful for the individual, and for the family.

Use your research to create a list of healthful, effective techniques for dealing with the effects of work stress after returning home. A number of Web sites deal with the serious side effects of workplace stress, including the Center for Disease Control’s "Stress at Work" site, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/stresswk.html. After your research, write an article of advice to parents on this subject and submit it to the op-ed page of your local newspaper. You could also submit your findings to one of the "Work and Family" Web sites listed on that section of the Livelyhood Resource page (http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/classroom/resources.html).