Waiting heroes home from afar

Age Viira

The present article is dedicated to the strategies of balancing family and paid work in as a result of the mobility of one partner. How is work-life balance created in families where the father seeks employment abroad while the family – children and partner – remain in Estonia? The empirical section of the paper focuses on the women who remain in Estonia to care for the children and the household. 

The analysis showed that the frequent absence of one partner as a result of labour mobility changed the life of the whole family. For the women who take care of the household and family work-life balance is tied to the periods of presence and absence of the commuting partner: in the absence of the commuting partner the woman as if becomes a part-time single parent who has to complete both male and female tasks. For women employed outside the home the balancing of paid work and domestic sphere is a major challenge in terms of time and energy allocation. 

The presence of the commuting partner is defined as a special period, quality time, dedicated to children and the relationship. The time is used to make up for the family celebrations cancelled because of the partner’s absence or household tasks postponed until the return of the partner. Although there were frequent problems with the absence of the partner, the families studied used different interpretive and behavioural strategies to cope with the frequent absence. The idea of the temporary nature of this way of life helped the women cope with the negative aspects of the di cult work-life balance deriving from the commuting of the partner.