Navigating Work and Family Life
By Michael Grose
Recent Australian and American research sheds new light on the work and
parenting debates. Two recent studies discussed at the Family and Work:
Listening to our Children conference in both continents asked children
their views on their parents' working lives. The responses were
illuminating rather than frightening.
Ellen Galinsky, co-founder of the New York-based Families and Work
Institute conducted a five-year study on work and parenting gaining
children's perspectives. Her findings reported in the landmark book
"Ask the Children" paint a clear picture of what children think
about their parents working and what they want from them. Galinsky claims
that children don't mind if both their parents work, but they must make
them the number one priority. Galinsky believes the best parenting is
intentional and when parents make their children their number one
priority, they will generally succeed as parents.
According to Galinsky, the key to success as a working parent is
knowing what is going on in the lives of children and young people.
Gaining this knowledge comes from spending time with kids, in their school
and from knowing their friends.
Children and young people value the every day encounters they have with
parents, above all else. It is the chats with parents over the kitchen
table, the lively conversations they may have in a bedroom, bathroom or
living room and rituals such as bed-time reading that mean most to kids.
Galinsky urges parents not think in terms of quality and quantity time but
in terms of 'focused time' and 'hang-around time'. The former refers to
time we spend purposefully with kids such as hearing them read, while the
latter refers to just being there with kids so that natural interaction
Research by Australian Institute of Family Studies fellow Virginia
Lewis supported this view of family time. Lewis found that many children
of working parents wanted to play more and interact informally with their
parents. They didn't mind if their parents worked reasonably long hours
but they resented it if their parents came home stressed or grumpy. It
seems that many parents need a wind-down time so they can switch from work
mode to parent mode.
Lewis also found that adolescents gained in confidence from not having
parents around as they were given very real responsibilities. This group
still wanted their parents to be visible, but not involved in the minutiae
of their lives.
Galinsky identifies four components in the workplace that impact on
parenting and therefore the ability to raise well-adjusted kids. Job
demands, the ability of a parent to focus at work, the amount of control
over their work and the degree of support they receive as parents and
people impact on their ability to parent. These variables not only
influence parenting but organisational loyalty, job satisfaction and
workplace retention. When work and family are in synergy, and their
routines match then parents are able to successfully navigate the demands
of work and parenting to the benefit of both employers and children.
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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