Amy Chua and Arlie Hochschild’s “Why Chinese mothers are superior” and “From the Frying Pan into the Fire”
Family working patterns
Society today has established numerous new types and definitions of the word “work”. The division of labor has shifted and advanced due to reasons such as globalization and gender equalization. Instead of having to stay at home and do housework, women now have options to pick the kinds of work that they prefer. Women nowadays no longer have to rely on their other half for living because they are capable and well educated. With these changes in social reformation, we have created numerous different family conditions and situations. Arlie Hochschild and Amy Chua discuss in their articles “From the Frying Pan into the Fire” and “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” the different types of work that mothers have today. Both authors argue that despite some mothers may have to go out for work, parenting is still a form of duty which all mothers have. These two authors described the definition of work differently. However, both authors define their perception of “work” from the same perspective for mothers. It is difficult and complicated for women nowadays to successfully undertake their roles. They believe that the idea of work in today’s society has been broadened and enlarged due to social advancement and feminist reformation. Work can now exists in various forms depending on each and other’s situations. Parenting is indeed no different than working in jobs. For women in both Western and Eastern societies, the idea of work is an obligation. It can either be a job or parenting.
The concept of work described in Arlie Hochschild and Amy Chua’s articles “From the Frying Pan into the Fire” and Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” differ in various senses; however, they all consider parenting as a part of important task in mothers’ daily lives. Hochschild discusses how mothers have to work hard for their jobs but also have to take care of their children at the same time, while Chua discusses the conditions of professional housewives’ work at home. They may seem to be arguing about
completely unalike ideas of women at work, but we can see obviously how parenting is still an obligation and also an unavoidable part of a mother’s duty. Hochschild states in her article, “This efficiency-seeking is transferred from man to woman, from workplace to home, and from adult to child” (184). Indeed, in the common social reformation today, mothers have a lot to deal with because they need to handle difficult tasks in order to fulfill their jobs and family matters at the same time. Efficiency becomes necessary when mothers try to fulfill their family duties. Being efficient is simply the way working American mothers parent their children because they have other chores to handle. This is not necessarily a bad way of parenting. American mothers simply develop a way to satisfy the position they are taking and adapt well enough to deal with things in the most ease they could have. In the end, they still consider parenting not an obstacle for them to fail doing their jobs, but as part of their jobs. Parenting is simply making their lives more complex than the lives of those regular professional mothers who stay at home and focus on parenting. On the other hand Chua describes mothers that treat parenting as their work. Chua describes the differences of Western parenting style and Chinese parenting style. Chua states, “… Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as log every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams” (52). Chinese parents consider education as the ultimate priority for them. Educating the children is the most important responsibility they have as professional housewives. And spending time with their children and focusing a lot on their academic progress and talent developing are the ways that Chinese parents fulfill their duties as parents. This is how they treat their work of parenting. Maintaining the household and supporting the family has become Chinese mothers’ legitimate work. They are considered professional household wives. Their works are no different from those of who go out for a job as their works. Comparing the two different parenting styles of American and Chinese parents, Chinese parents may seem to be more caring for their children. However, is not parenting with efficiency a way to fulfill the job as a parent? American mothers still accomplish work in the form of parenting by being efficient in order to fit the dilemma that they are facing. Therefore we can argue that both Western and Eastern mothers take parenting
with a sense of duty similarly with their attitude for work.
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Due to the advancement of our society and the feminist reformation, it is more likely to have women from the Western society to be working and parenting at the same time. Socially, women have been fighting for their rights to work and vote in order to achieve gender equality. However, they have also been given the “duty” to nurture children. They now have to balance their lives and be wise enough to take good care of both sides. Chua argues that it is more likely for women in the Chinese society to take parenting as their jobs. However, Hoschild mentions that most women in the Western society have to work and also take care of their children. Although it is harder for women in the Western society because they have to be efficient and responsible, mothers from both societies take parenting seriously because it is their duty. Hochschild states, “By either what we say we want to spend time doing or what we actually spend time doing, we say what it is we hold sacred” (186). Despite that parents may not plenty of time to fulfill their inner need to spend time with their family; family is indeed what they cherished the most.
Culture shapes Hoschild and Chua’s attitude but does not change their perceptions of work. Even though women from different societies consider their responsibilities differently due to their cultural differences, they both take parenting as a “job” because this job is an unavoidable obligation. Hochschild examples of a Western women, “But to be a good mother it is desirable to give her child a hot breakfast” (184). No matter how busy a mother is, she still has to succeed in her job as a mother to provide for her children. On the other hand Chua states several differences in working at home as a housewife for Chinese mothers and Western mothers. Chua states, “…Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently” (53). The differences of work sink in since the education stage of one’s life. Chinese mothers believe working hard is no more than achieving success and making matters more fun. The idea of work has been sunk into Chinese children’s’ mind since they are very young in age. This is what defines work differently between Chinese mothers and American mothers.
American mothers educate their children to be happy and confident in themselves. Chua says, “Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’ self-esteem” (53). The ways that the mothers treat “work” for their children are really different. Mothers have chosen different paths for work. And despite the content varies significantly, the only difference that exists among the different types of mothers are simply their own definition and how they identify their work. The different ways in which the mothers identify their works have made their working contents different from each other. However, despite the differences in the details of how mothers treat their works, all mothers put in their efforts to try to accomplish this work as best as they could because they are obligated to do so. Hochschild states, “It conveys love because it is hot, but it permits efficiency because it’s quickly made” (184). American mothers may have scarce time for them to complete the work of parenting, but they definitely try their best to satisfy their child and their jobs. Working at home is not just a responsibility, but the most important element of being a mother. Despite the busy schedule that working mothers have to follow, they always attempt their best and figure ways to accomplish the tough task. Chua suggests that Chinese mothers do the same, “… I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water not even to go to the bathroom” (56). Chinese mothers put in enormous effort to make their children accomplish a task. We can assume while Chua does the same thing when she is not allowing her daughter Lulu to go to the bathroom or get water.
Yes, the culture differences, family formation and status may vary and affect the ways mothers work at home. But they all fully put in the maximum efforts to accomplish the task of taking care of their children. If we can understand the circumstances that American mothers are facing, then we can interpret that American mothers actually put in as much effort into working as a parent as working in their jobs. Despite the ways of their working patterns as parents may vary, all mothers, despite the differences in cultural differences, all consider their families a significant part in their minds. Reading these two articles by Hochschild and Chua, we can have a full glimpse into the mothers’ minds and how they consider work as a form of obligation. Women nowadays have a lot more to do because they need to fulfill more tasks. This sort of obligation pushes mother to adjust their time and balance their lives more wisely. They cannot reject work or parenting because it is their social and natural responsibility. With all the love, mothers try to achieve their jobs as best as they could. Despite the fact that American mothers may have a job to worry, but they also consider parenting part of their works as well. Advancement in society today has forced mothers to embrace new definitions of work for them.