I am a working parent. I do not know exact numbers or statistics, but I do know that the number of families with both parents working has risen tremendously in the last 50 years. I believe that this is due mostly to today’s higher standards of living and more opportunities for women in the workplace. I get a lot of comments from my single and/or childless friends saying, “I just don’t see how you do it.” My answer is always the same, “I don’t really have a choice.” That is not entirely true, of course. I could stay home with the kids, but money would be extremely tight and we would have to do without many of the conveniences we have grown to love and depend on. Other families may really not have a choice; either both parents work or they may start missing meals.
In order for my dual income family to survive, four main factors come into play: teamwork, compromise, structure and preparation. These four things intermingle so much that you almost can’t tell where one stops and the next begins, and if you leave out any of them, the whole thing spirals into complete chaos. I will go into detail about each of these factors and let you know how they work for me and my family. The first is teamwork.
About that village…
I am sure you have heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I strongly believe this is true. I know that without the help of others, my family would go nowhere. For starters, the children have to go somewhere while the parents are at work. This may be another family member’s house, the lady down the street, daycare or school. Some parents may have jobs where one works nights and the other works days so one can always be home. I have the job of taking my kids to and from childcare. When I have to work late or have errands to run, I rely on other family members to pick up the slack. There could not be teamwork without compromise.
Compromise is something we all need to practice no matter what you do in life. Everything cannot always be about you. This is especially true when you have a dual income family. Take my family for instance. If I want to go out with some friends after work, my husband takes care of the kids. The same is true for him. If he wants to go hunting with his buddies on the weekend, I watch the kids. And let’s not forget about all the fun things we can do together!
For teamwork and compromise to work hand in hand, there needs to be structure. I know not everybody wants to live their life by charts and lists, but when geared towards individual families, structure keeps everything from falling apart. My family has a morning routine which makes sure everyone has everything they need for the day. We also try to stick to some sort of schedule. We get up at 6 a.m., leave by 7 a.m., drop off the kids by 7:30, get to work by 8:30, eat lunch at noon, get off work at 5 p.m., pick up the kids by 6 p.m., get home by 6:30, eat dinner by 7:30, have some family time, and then go to bed by 10 p.m. I don’t keep my watch by this schedule, but we try to stay somewhere close.
Are you prepared?
Along with everything else, it always helps to be prepared. To help with the routine in the morning, set out the kids clothes the night before. You can even let them do it, if they are old enough. Everyone hates that dreaded phone call from the daycare or school telling you your child is sick. You know it is going to happen sometime, so know who you are going to call to pick them up and watch them until you get off work.
If you have an important meeting at work and are wearing your best suit, it never fails that the kids will wipe chocolate, candy or boogers all over your pants. Keeping baby wipes in the car, purse or briefcase is a great way to keep a lot of those little messes in check.
You put it all together: teamwork, compromise, structure and preparation. What you have is my complete answer to “How do you do it?” It is not a story of woe is me or heroics, but a story of life. My life as a matter of fact. I chose it, I live it, I love it, and now I share it with you. Remember these four factors and use them, if you don’t already. No matter what your family dynamic, keep it balanced and we will all live a longer, happier and more fulfilled life.
Brooke Jones is circulation manager for the Mississippi Business Journal. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.