Struggles of social reproduction in suburbia: How families approach reproductive work
Suburbanization has been a significant motor of urban growth since the mid-20th century. This process is accompanied by a suburban way of life, that is stereotypically connected to a nuclear family of two heteronormative parents and their child(ren) living in a single-family home with a small garden, a male breadwinner and a woman, who takes care of all reproductive work. In consequence of societal and demographic changes, changes in the labor market, the housing market and recent crises, there have lately been substantial debates on suburbia and on the diverse shapes and forms in which the suburban appears today (see e.g. Keil & Wu 2022; Frank 2018; Häußermann 2009).
This contribution shows how families in suburbia organize reproductive work. The results are based on a qualitative study in a suburban district of Cologne, Germany. The example of Widdersdorf-Süd, a newly build area with predominantly single-family homes, reveals suburban everyday life, its struggles and how they are approached.
The results show that reproductive work is an essential and demanding task of everyday life of families, which includes childcare, cleaning, shopping for daily needs, transportation, recreation, and so on. This is especially true when, for example, both parents have time-consuming jobs or when families are not from the area of their current residence. Social reproduction is becoming increasingly complex for families in suburbia. However, in the everyday life of families struggles are not given much attention. Rather, they are minimized through adaptations and modifications to maintain everyday life.
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Häußermann, Hartmut. 2009. Der Suburbanisierung geht das Personal aus. Eine stadtsoziologische Zwischenbilanz. Stadtbauwelt – Themenheft der Bauwelt. 181: 52-57
Keil, Roger und Fulong Wu. 2022. After Suburbia: Urbanization in the Twenty-First Century. Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press.