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 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
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
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
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.
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
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