Positive Path Recommended Reading

Work, Raise Kids and Have a Life
By Michael Grose

Working and raising kids is the great balancing act that an increasing number of Australian parents perform. Work rather than family structure or number of children is the common denominator for families today. In over 52 per cent of dual parent families with dependent children, both adults are in paid work. Sole parents are not far behind with 45 per cent working. 

Working parents face many dilemmas. Am I good parent if I return to work? How can I work, raise kids and still maintain a personal life? What do I do when my kids are sick? They also have to put up with disapproval from the media, peer-group parents, and even perhaps their own parents. 

Most difficult of all is the feeling of constantly living life on the run - a life with few margins for error and little opportunity to take some timeout let alone be idle. 

Working parents are pioneers charting a relatively new social course. We must make our own paths as we learn new ways to run a home, meet work commitments, care for kids, maintain marriages and tend to personal needs. 

Perhaps the most positive aspect of the increase in the number of mothers entering the workforce is the impact it has had on fathers and their place in the family. With the three parenting roles - provider, carer and domestic helper - now up for grabs increasingly men are taking greater responsibility for the raising of their children. Yes, fathers are working parents too! 

Here are some ideas to help you not only survive the balancing act but be an effective parent too: 

Plan for a balance 
It is important to maintain a balance between family, work, personal, social and community activities but it probably won't happen unless you plan for it. Set yourself a few achievable goals in each area and plan to meet them.

Share the load 
You should not have to do a double shift on your own so share the workload at home between your partner and children commensurate with their age, interests and commitments. If you can afford it give up part of your income to get some home help such as house cleaning or gardening. This effectively buys you some personal time to spend as wish.

Put people first 
As a working parent you have many demands that compete for your time so you need to be clear about your priorities. If in doubt - put people first. For instance, if I have a choice between mowing the lawns or playing with the kids I opt for the latter every time. It is a hell of a lot more fun!

Near enough is good enough 
Resist the temptation to be the perfect mother or father with the perfectly clean house, well-groomed kids and spotless garden. While there are times when only the best will do there are also times when near enough is definitely good enough - or in practical terms, a quick tidy-up rather than a spring clean of the house will usually do.

Be creative about the way you organise family-life 
One family who valued shared meal-time ate a leisurely cooked breakfast together rather than sharing the evening meal because this suited their needs best. Know what is important in terms of maintaining a healthy family life but be creative about how you go about it.

Communicate constantly 
Staying in touch with children and a partner can be difficult when you are busy. It also takes considerable effort. The use of notes (on the fridge, on pillows, or in lunch-boxes) and the telephone are two options if you can't communicate personally. During those inevitable busy periods when work temporarily keeps you away tell your kids what is happening. Make sure you spend a commensurate amount of time with them later and resist giving them toys or material goods "just to make it up to them". What they really want is you.

The best of a working family life doesn't necessarily come by chance. Working parents, more than others, need to take control of their lives rather than accept what happens.

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 at www.parentingideas.com.au

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