Work-family balance is an important thing. Most people need to work to be able to support their families. Many people enjoy working and thrive through their work. However, work can take too much time and energy away from the family. Striking a balance is challenging.
Work-Family Balance and Quality of Life
One 2002 study found that people who spend more time on family than work report having a higher quality of life than those others. People who spent about equal time on family and work had a higher life quality than people who spent more time on work than family. Therefore, the perfect work-family balance may be one that leans more heavily on the family side than the work side.
Women and the Struggle with Work-Family Balance
Women, particularly mothers, have struggled significantly with the work-family balance issue. Research shows that 7 out of 10 women with children under 18 also work for pay. However, they earn less than their male counterparts. Plus, they often don’t return to full-time work quickly after the birth of children. One study found that it takes over a decade for the number of women to return to full-time work as the number who were working full-time within one year prior to the birth of their first child.
About 2/5 of mothers wait until their children are older to resume full-time work. Another 1/5 never resume full-time work. This impacts women and their families in a number of ways. In terms of career, many women struggle to get back on track in terms of professional status. We’ve all heard about the lawyers who get put on the “mommy track” and struggle to make partner at a firm after having kids. Recently new information shows that mothers who are scientists have a hard time getting grants and publications in comparison to their single and/or male counterparts.
This Issue Impact All Types of Families
Although women have been uniquely impacted by the work-family balance, it’s an issue that affects all different configurations of family. In the two-parent “mom and dad” family, both partners often struggle with the financial impact of trying to achieve work-family balance. Men increasingly give more time to family than they historically did. That’s a great thing for many reasons. However, it also means that dads are feeling more of the stress in the struggle to achieve work-family balance. The two parents may fight frequently over finances, as well as over division of labor at home.
Single parents, same-sex parents, and people in other family configurations (multi-generational, polyamorous, etc.) also have to grapple with this issue. Who will work? How much will each person work? What adaptations and sacrifices will the family have to make in order for one or more parents to not only earn money but also do a job that they enjoy? All types of families have to answer these questions. There is no right answer and no easy answer. Most people just do the best that they can and adapt as their financial, employment, and family situations change.
Communication is Key
Each individual, and each family, must figure out what works for them. There are many different ways to earn a living. How much money one needs varies widely. People must look at what they are willing to sacrifice in terms of family time in order to work at a certain job. They must look at what they are willing to sacrifice career-wise in order to have more family time. In order to figure this out, people must learn to communicate.
It’s not easy to talk about money. Financial stress makes it even more challenging in families. However, learning how to communicate openly, authentically, and honestly about your work-family balance needs will go a long way towards achieving the right balance in your family.