Balancing Work and Family For Men
A Fine Line Between Balancing Work and Family – There is no doubt that a fine line is draw between balancing work and family; perhaps this may be more of a balancing act on the tightrope of life for men. Women definitely report more high role overload with regards to family than men. And while no one expects every man to be able to make models of space stations using old shoe boxes on a school night with very little notice, it sure helps if at least one parent can! Men however consistently report high levels of conflict regarding work to family. This type of reporting is therefore consistent with the belief that many men consider placing family before work to be “career limiting.”
While more employers are focusing on family friendly work environments this actually does not take care of the balancing act at home. Yes, it is of great assistance for single parent families, but in terms of work-life balance for men in normal family situations; family friendly work environments are kind of a none-issue, although they can also help.
In the “original” family the female spouse is the homemaker; she takes on high role overload to protect the breadwinner. But not many families are structured like this any longer – in fact less than 7% of families fit this model; with male and female partners most often being equally employed. It is in situations such as this where work to family interference actually becomes work to family conflict as both partners hold equal work roles; surely they should also equal family roles? On the flip side of this coin, men still tend to feel extra pressure to be more successful at work, thereby addressing family responsibilities – these role sharing assumptions are as out-of-date as that old TV meal at the bottom of the freezer where you can’t reach; it is what makes it such a tough act to balance!
It is a Complex Issue – From the little we have discussed above, it is patently obvious that this is a complex issue. There is no “one-size-fits-all” quick fix, as career paths, gender roles, financial values, time management, culture regarding the original family and other factors influence the choices we make. It in fact such a challenge that vocational training and other educational institutions are advising careers based on how young people see their families being structured in the future. So, there are also far reaching consequences.
A Work in Progress – Balancing work and family for men should be seen as an aggressively planned work in progress, key factors are:
- Working together/communication
- Determining priorities
- Joint decision-making
- Clearly delineated plan
Priorities must be determined, committed to and plan carried out – without a clear plan, forces erode determination to find a balance and stick to it. This means hour to hour, day to day, week to week – whatever it takes. It is actually amazing how quickly the energy and time for family is able to erode if it is allowed to do so. The trick is to hold the line together and protect family time.
Together, couples can plan to choose careers, time children, allocate responsibility and roles, as well as establish family values, pursue material goals, and achieve personal growth, but they can only do this with the right plan. So, to you men out there – the fine line between balancing family and work does not have to be done on your own.
Dr. Wendy M. Schwartz is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Brentwood, California. Dr. Wendy Schwartz is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who is passionate about the issues of Marriage & Family as well as those of adolescents, couples and individuals – and helping them heal the past and move forward with meaning, passion and purpose in life.