As a journalist, my job is demanding. The hours can be long and are often inflexible, but I love it. I was bit by the bug when I was 16 and haven’t turned back. Hubby’s job is no cake walk either. He works at least 60 hours a week, the past few months it’s been closer to 70. What do you do when both parents have demanding jobs?
I find myself struggling with this a bit, looking for ideas and inspiration, but have found in many couples, one parent has a demanding job and the other’s is either part-time, very flexible or not too stressful. If both parents are operating at a breakneck pace, they’re usually in a tax bracket higher than ours and can afford paying for more help around the house or have family members that can mend the gap.
We haven’t figured out a good formula on how to make this work, because we’re constantly revising our approach, but some of the mainstays have been compromise, communication and courage.
Compromise. What that means depends on the situation. Hubby often works late and in return I get spare time on the weekends to sleep in and catch up on my snooze deficit. This week he’s gone at a conference and I am a single parent all week long. Next weekend I’m staying in the city with a high school friend who’s in town. There’s yin and yang. We don’t have formal agreements of who gets what and I’m sure it’s not always 50/50, but that’s OK. We talk about it, understand and respect each other’s priorities to make it work. Both have to give a bit so that one isn’t resentful of the other. The resentment can easily pop up, but you have to talk about it to squash it out and move on.
Communicate. Not only talk to your spouse, but talk to your employer about what’s going on in your life. I know, moms, we often feel bad about pulling the “child card” (i.e. “Sorry I can’t stay late, I have to pick up my kid from daycare.”) But remember it’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. Often your back is up against the wall and there really isn’t anything else you can do. Until someone invents a machine that can create two of you, all of us, moms and dads, have to realize that your employer is going to have to accept you saying “No.” You’re never going to be on your death bed wishing you spent just one more day in the office.
Courage. If the situation really isn’t working out for you and your family, and you find it’s tearing your home apart, have the courage to change. Whether that means a new role in the office, a new job entirely, even accepting a pay cut, give it serious thought. In this economy especially, it’s hard to walk away but honestly, Americans (me included) overspend tons, so take a hard look at those finances and take a look at what life would be like with less: less work, less cushion, less juggling, but will it mean more happiness? You decide.