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When both parents work

When both parents work, the whole family needs to pitch in, cooperate and plan.

If you're a working parent, chances are you know a lot about juggling. You've likely got your career, the needs of your kids and the needs of your partner all up in the air at the same time. There's also dinner to cook, bills to pay, a house to clean—the list seems to go on and on.

If you're lucky enough to have a partner who stays at home, many of these demands can be eased. But for many people, that's not an option.

Running a household where both parents work can be challenging. But it can be done—and done well.

Consider the positives

One of the first keys to success for a working family is to look at the positives. Research suggests that many two-income families experience the following benefits:

  • Dads spend more time with kids.
  • Both parents gain from professional security and challenge.
  • Families have fewer financial stresses.
  • Parents succeeding in the workplace are positive role models for kids, especially girls.

"We really have to stop looking at this through a negative lens," says author and cognitive psychologist Diane Halpern, PhD, a past president of the American Psychological Association. "There are many, many positives."

Overcome the obstacles

Though there are positives to being a two-income family, there are also challenges to overcome. Successful working families search for creative and efficient compromises.

"The important things in life take great effort and planning," says Susan Seidman, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York. "Having both a family and a meaningful work life is no different."

Here are some tips to help you make your home life as successful as your career:

Work together. Assign age-appropriate chores to each child. "It's a lesson in being a good citizen," says Dr. Seidman. "In the real world, everyone has to hold up their end."

Parents also need to divvy up the adult workload—a potential battlefield in many families. Seek fairness, not a 50-50 split. Some families maintain a master list of chores, copy it each week and check off tasks as they're done.

Remember your role. It can be easy for working parents to let discipline slide. But kids need limits, rules and routine. When you provide these staples for your children, you'll gain their respect, help them build life skills and help the house run better too.

Communicate. Make time every day to talk. That might mean getting up early to have breakfast together, setting regular after-school telephone meetings or having dinner together.

Weekly family meetings can also help, suggests Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, a clinical psychologist who co-wrote with his wife Work Won't Love You Back: The Dual Career Couple's Survival Guide. You can use the meetings to solve problems, nurture cooperation and teamwork, and brainstorm goals, chores and ways the family can work better together.

Make time for fun. Don't leave family activities to chance; schedule and plan them. Consider a household suggestion box for collecting ideas for family outings.

Simplify. Clutter and disorganization raise stress levels and rob the family of time together. Keep life simple.

Weigh hidden costs. Dr. Hobfoll suggests analyzing purchases and decisions against their effects on family time. Is buying a bigger house worth working overtime to pay for it?

Hire help. If you can afford to hire someone to help with household chores, do it. "Use that time to be with your kids," says Dr. Hobfoll. If you can't afford to hire help, then make chore time a family activity.

Show affection and love. Even as to-do lists grow and your family–job juggle becomes more hectic, celebrate the relationships in your home.

For parents, that age-old idea of a regular date night is still a good relationship-builder, Dr. Hobfoll says.

And no matter how tired and stressed you are after work, set aside some one-on-one time every day with each child.

reviewed 11/8/2019

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