My spouse and I both work. How will this affect our family?
Not too many years ago in the typical American family, only the father worked outside the home. Usually the mother was the homemaker and was there to greet the children when they returned home from school each day. But there have been dramatic changes in that picture.
Millions of families find that they need two wage-earners in order to buy a home, pay the rent, afford vacations or simply to maintain the family budget. In most communities, two-working-parent families are no longer exceptional.
The Impact of Working
When both parents are occupied with their jobs for eight or more hours per day, there are obvious effects on the family. On the positive side, the family has an increased income and thus fewer financial stresses. Also, when both parents work, there is a potential for greater equality in the roles of husband and wife. Depending on the nature of the parents' work, as well as the family's values, fathers may assume more responsibility for child care and housework than has traditionally been the case. With their wives out in the workplace, men find it easier to define a greater role for themselves in child-raising. This is particularly evident when parents have staggered work schedules - for instance, if the father works daytime hours and is home after school and in the evening, while the mother works a shift such as 4:00 p.m. to midnight. Dad may then be in charge of preparing dinner, cleaning up the kitchen and helping the children with their homework.
Some parents feel terrible strain and fatigue as they try to juggle their responsibilities at home and at work. If you are starting to feel burned out, here are some ideas to help you ease the pressure.
- Throughout your workday, fit some relaxing moments into your routine. Close your office door for 10 minutes, shut your eyes and perform a relaxation exercise. Or during your coffee breaks, forgo coffee and doughnuts and take a short walk instead. Diversions like these can reduce stress, improve efficiency on the job, and make you feel more vitalized when you return home in the evening, thus creating a more amicable family life.
- If you regularly come home tired, try to develop rituals that improve your frame of mind when you arrive home. This may mean spending some time by yourself in order to put a distance between you and the day's stresses. Coming home is an important moment that should be taken seriously. Your children are eager to be with you and to share their day's experiences.
- Assess how you are spending your time during the day. Look for areas in which you can reduce stress. For instance, can you bring in dinner two or three nights a week? Can you hire a high school or college student to help for an hour or two in the evenings, perhaps doing the laundry or cleaning up the kitchen? If you can save a couple of hours a night this way, you will have more time to spend with your children and/or to relax or sleep.
- Involve the entire family in the evening responsibilities that are such a drain on your time and energy. For example, the family can work together to clean up the kitchen after dinner; with everyone's help it will get done much quicker and free up some time for you in the evening. Do the same on the weekends too: If the house needs cleaning, have everyone pitch in on Saturday morning; this will help build family cohesiveness while finishing the job faster, thus leaving more time for enjoyable family activities.
- Keep your expectations realistic. On certain evenings you might have to choose between going to the market and doing the laundry. Some tasks just may have to wait until the weekend.
- On the weekends, schedule some relaxation time for yourself. Go for a walk or go to the gym. Do some recreational reading. While family time is important and certain chores need to be done, time to unwind and recharge your own batteries is essential too.