Living Life in the Fast Lane
By Michael Grose
It is extraordinary times that we find ourselves in. As we enter a new
millennium, change is now an entrenched way of life. Most of us don't
blink when new piece of technology comes out. Just the other day I read
about the death of the desktop computer as we know it. The big lump of
plastic and glass that sits on my desk is soon to be replaced by something
smaller, sleeker and faster. The way we live, do business, even shop is
undergoing rapid change.
Living successfully is now about keeping up, staying ahead or staying
on top of things. It is hard work. Business is constantly asked to grow or
reinvent itself so employees are always learning new skills to improve
productivity or just to keep up. There is little opportunity to rest or
time to stand still and smell the metaphorical flowers.
More and more we live our lives in the fast lane with one eye on the
road ahead and the one eye in the rear view mirror sort of glancing at the
scenery as we leave it behind.
For many adults life has few margins for error. Whether you have
children or not life is about timetables, structure, routines and being
organised. You miss an appointment at work or your child becomes sick and
your whole day can be thrown out.
The language of the boardroom and the battleground is now commonplace
words like bottom lines, tactics, strategies are now common when we talk
about relationships. Relationships like life are now something to be
managed rather than lived.
Whether you have kids or not life is hectic these days. Those with jobs
are working harder and longer hours. According to recent Australian Bureau
of Statistics figures about 30% of the workforce spend 50 hours or more at
work, which is double the percentage for 1984.
The number of couples where both work has increased to the point where
working couples are the norm rather than the exception as they were in the
1950's and 60's. Working and parenting has unique demands with one or
sometimes both partners working a double shift - first at work then at
home caring for kids.
Life in the fast lane means we parent and partner differently than our
own parents which can be the source of a great deal of guilt. The ghosts
from the past are extremely strong.
Despite the fact that many couples today live in the fast lane or even
out of step with their own parents they can still have fulfilling
relationships with their partners. It takes effort and creativity to
nourish your relationship. The following seven ideas may help you and your
partner stay together as you live your life in the fats lane.
1. Ritualise times together.
We all know that it is important for couples to spend time together to
kindle a little romance or just to stay in touch but finding the time is
the challenge. We may have good intentions but never get around to putting
those intentions into action. The solution is to have some ritualised
meeting opportunities that always happen barring a catastrophe. Meet for a
coffee once a fortnight, have a regular weekend without the children or a
regular time at the movies, which is just for you. Plan your activities
around your meeting time rather than your meeting time around other
activities. Oh and don't talk about the kids. It is "couple"
time, not family time.
2. Swap your dreams and aspirations.
You need joint dreams and goals to work toward but you also need your
individual dreams and aspirations. But you need to check with your partner
every now and then to make sure you are both moving in the same direction.
Recently my wife told me of her dream to take some time-off work to travel
around Australia with our family. It came as a shock because they were
counter to my dreams and aspirations that largely revolved around work. My
wife and I are now working toward a plan that will accommodate both sets
3. Give your partner the space to grow and do things as an
We all need self-nourishment if we are to be effective partners and
parents. We need to time away to have a break or to pursue a part of life
that doesn't belong to our family. My wife goes to gym regularly while I
enjoy being a member of Toastmasters, which is a public-speaking club.
Neither of us knows much about what the other does at their activities and
to be truthful neither of us cares too much. But we both accommodate each
other by minding the children and keeping our diaries free to allow each
other the chance to maintain our separate interests.
4. Support each other as parents.
The notion of teamwork is important when raising kids. Parents can support
each other in the following ways:
- Recognise that parents and children have different needs at
different stages. Mothers have a need to bond with babies and dads
tend to be a support act at this stage. Boys have strong need to build
strong relationships with their fathers around the age of six and
again at the age of thirteen. So mothers may need to stand back a
little and make sure that fathers and sons have the chance to spend
- Keep talking to each other about kids and what is happening in their
lives. Sometimes it is easy to overlook that they are growing up or
perhaps having difficulties. Keep each other informed. · Share the
discipline and caring roles. As many parents tell me it is hard work
being the 'bad guy' all the time. Give each other break by taking
individual responsibility for different areas or times of the day.
- Understand your own and your partner's family of origin and its
impact on parenting. Make an effort to accommodate your partner's
parenting style even though it may be different than your own.
5. Have regular down-times to build the Emotional Bank Account that
you share with your partner.
Shared enjoyable experiences create those fond memories that strengthen
the bonds between people. When couples first go out they spend a great
deal of time building their emotional bank account - the memories are
special and the emotional bank account bulges. But we also make
withdrawals when we are critical, argue or neglect to attend to each
other's needs. The bank account can easily go into overdraft unless we
spend some time replenishing it. This is what downtimes are all about.
Take the time on a regular basis to do little but enjoy each other's
company and make some deposits in your joint emotional bank account.
6. Keep work and home separate.
We can be at home but our heads can be at work so make sure that you leave
your work behind when you come through the door at night. Some couples
have a regular clean-out opportunity where they talk about their
respective days for ten minutes or so then they leave it behind.
7. Work out household tasks according to common sense and
availability rather than sex roles or income.
It is amazing that in the progressive nineties many households still
organise their domestic tasks around traditional sex roles - men's work
and women's work. Let's move on and break down these rigid divisions even
though we may be going against our families of origin. The three parenting
roles of domestic helper, carer and provider are now up for grabs.
There is little doubt that staying together in a fast-paced life takes
work and commitment. But it can happen. It is a matter of taking control
of your lives together and being a little creative about how you live. We
are all social pioneers as we learn to live and love together in the new
About the author: Michael Grose is a parenting and
work-life balance specialist who always makes good sense. Michael helps parents
raise happy, confident kids and resilient young people, through his parenting
courses, seminars, keynote presentations, books and articles. Visit his website
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