Cover of Dreams of the Overworked by Christine M. Beckman and Melissa Mazmanian
Dreams of the Overworked
Living, Working, and Parenting in the Digital Age
Christine M. Beckman and Melissa Mazmanian


June 2020
312 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9781503602557



A riveting look at the real reasons Americans feel inadequate in the face of their dreams, and a call to celebrate how we support one another in the service of family and work in our daily life.

Jay's days are filled with back-to-back meetings, but he always leaves work in time to pick his daughter up from swimming at 7pm, knowing he'll be back on his laptop later that night. Linda thinks wistfully of the treadmill in her garage as she finishes folding the laundry that's been in the dryer for the last week. Rebecca sits with one child in front of a packet of math homework, while three others clamor for her attention. In Dreams of the Overworked, Christine M. Beckman and Melissa Mazmanian offer vivid sketches of daily life for nine families, capturing what it means to live, work, and parent in a world of impossible expectations, now amplified unlike ever before by smart devices.

We are invited into homes and offices, where we recognize the crushing pressure of unraveling plans, and the healing warmth of being together. Moreover, we witness the constant planning that goes into a "good" day, often with the aid of phones and apps. Yet, as technologies empower us to do more, they also promise limitless availability and connection. Checking email on the weekend, monitoring screen time, and counting steps are all part of the daily routine. The stories in this book challenge the seductive myth of the phone-clad individual, by showing that beneath the plastic veneer of technology is a complex, hidden system of support—our dreams being scaffolded by retired in-laws, friendly neighbors, spouses, and paid help.

This book makes a compelling case for celebrating the structures that allow us to strive for our dreams, by supporting public policies and community organizations, challenging workplace norms, reimagining family, and valuing the joy of human connection.

About the authors

Christine M. Beckman is Professor and Price Family Chair in Social Innovation at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Melissa Mazmanian is Associate Professor in Informatics at the School of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine.

"This marvelous book captures the contemporary experience of nine families, allowing them to speak for themselves about their dreams and how they cope with everyday life. Uniquely, it celebrates the fact that it is the dense web of social connections or scaffolding that enables family life to thrive in the digital age."

—Judy Wajcman, London School of Economics

"What makes this book unique is its tough love message. Left to its own devices, technology makes us more likely to buy into myths of our perfectibility. The way out begins with our deep understanding of our vulnerability. From there, these savvy and humanistic researchers can help you design a customized plan for individuals and organizations. But it's going to be a plan, not a gimmick."

—Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

"Christine Beckman and Melissa Mazmanian embarked on an ambitious project to understand how technology shapes our lives and wound up producing an intimate and urgent portrait of American families stretched to the breaking point. An important work, Dreams of the Overworked busts some potent myths and makes a compelling argument for large-scale changes necessary in public policy and our overworked workplace cultures to allow American families time to breathe, and thrive at work and at home."

—Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play when No One Has the Time, director, The Better Life Lab at New America