When was the last time you vacuumed? If you can't remember, chances are you're feeling a little guilty. In fact, you're probably feeling guilty about a lot of things -- the fact that your children are in daycare; the fact that you sometimes miss work to care for your sick toddler; the fact that you and your spouse haven't spent an evening alone since 1998.
With almost 90 percent of adults employed outside the home, balancing the demands of work and family has, for many, become an exercise in frustration. Trapped by unrealistic and outdated expectations, we struggle to keep up or at least keep ahead.
It doesn't have to be this way. In Two Jobs, No Life, Dr. Peter Marshall offers a practical approach to the work-home dilemma, from setting priorities and renegotiating roles to cutting corners and "just saying no," Marshall arms his readers with tried, tested and true strategies for coping with the challenges of day-to-day life.
In accessible, well-researched and often light-hearted text, Marshall focuses on ways to balance and establish priorities so that the entire family benefits and no one is left feeling guilty.
"Dr. Marshall's latest book on family life tackles one of the challenges so many parents face today -- how to care for their families, manage their careers, and keep their sanity, all at the same time. Written in his very readable and humorous style, the book offers parents a wealth of practical suggestions, insights, and reassurance."
Barbara Coloroso, author of Kids Are Worth It! and Parenting Through Crisis
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Dr. Peter Marshall is a psychologist who has written three books: Now I Know Why Tigers Eat Their Young: How to Survive Your Teenagers with Humour, Cinderella Revisited: How to Survive Your Stepfamily without a Fairy Godmother and Sex, Nursery Rhymes and Other Evils: A Look at The Bizarre, Amusing, Sometimes Shocking Advice of Victorian Childcare Experts. He is a member of the National Speakers Bureau and speaks across Canada and the United States.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Balancing Act
Until recently, my high school history teacher was remembered as nothing more than living proof that the capacity to be boring and irrelevant was a marketable skill. Although I am sure he sensed our disdain for his subject, he persisted in his attempts to convince us of the importance of studying the past as a means of understanding the present and planning for the future. If I could remember his name I would publicly apologize for my failure to appreciate his wisdom. He was right -- I did have an attitude problem.
One of the lessons I have learned from history is how natural it is for the relationship between work and home to change. Over the years this relationship has constantly evolved in order to adapt to society's broader trends and needs. Prior to the nineteenth century, for example, it was common for all members of the family to remain together throughout much of the day. Work and home were intertwined; cottage industries were common and the routine of the father leaving home in the morning to go to work was by no means standard.
Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories of pioneer life in the latter part of the nineteenth century became the basis of the long-running television series Little House on the Prairie. Her books illustrate how both genders -- while having distinct roles -- combined to create a skilled domestic workforce. There is an account of how everyone contributed to making clothes. The process started with shearing a sheep and ended with a ready-to-wear Sunday suit. That her family knew all the steps along the way amazes me. Although I could pick a sheep out of a lineup, I am not sure I could catch one, and I know for certain I would not have a clue what to do with it if I did. Pa and the boys, however, could raise, catch, and shear sheep with hardly a second thought, while Ma and the girls were known for their skills in spinning, dyeing, and weaving.
The development of commerce and industry during the nineteenth century brought profound changes to this pattern. A family's work became divided into two components -- domestic duties and paid outside employment. Although home and work were now separated, gender boundaries removed the need to balance responsibilities. Each gender was assigned just one of the components -- women ran the home while men populated the workforce.
This traditional nuclear family prevailed until the latter half of the twentieth century and was exemplified in the fifties sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Mom -- alias June Cleaver -- viewed housework as a privilege rather than a chore. Each morning she'd wave cheerily as husband Ward headed off to work, and sons Beaver and Wally left for school. Then something went terribly wrong. The sixties hit with full force. In the unwritten final episode, Wally grows his hair long, finds out where the sexual revolution is being held, and leaves home to sign up. Beaver cultivates little green plants in the backyard, listens to Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd, and heads out to meet his brother at Woodstock. Ward handles his midlife crisis by running off with his secretary. And June? She shakes her head in disbelief, declaring, "I'm out of here." When last heard of, she had returned to school to launch a career as a mining engineer.
Is Anyone Home?
The sixties led to many changes in both family life and the workforce. One of the more dramatic was the rapid increase in the number of people who had to balance the demands of work and home. Thanks to a number of factors, the full-time homemaker would quickly become a thing of the past. Economics played an important role. Today, the average two-parent family needs seventy weeks of paid employment a year to maintain its standard of living, an increase of over twenty hours since the fifties. Unless one parent is willing to put in a lot of overtime, breadwinning can no longer be seen as primarily a man's job -- it has to be shared. This economic motivation does not reflect only a desire for more creature comforts and luxury items; wages in many sectors of the workforce have not kept pace with increases in the cost of living. As a result, the percentage of families who would be living below the poverty line if only one parent worked has increased; approximately two-thirds of mothers report that they need to work to avoid financial hardship.
I will discuss gender roles in a later chapter. For now, I would like only to highlight the growing presence of women in almost all areas of the workforce since the middle of the twentieth century. The need for women to occupy the positions vacated by men during the Second World War led many to decide not to return to being full-time homemakers. The feminist movement was an additional factor: traditional roles were portrayed as restrictive, and the view that women were ill-suited for many types of employment was challenged and gradually eroded. As more young women entered the workforce, higher education became important for both genders as it offered the means to move into more skilled areas of employment. This trend in education has largely obliterated the differences between the genders in academic achievement: girls today are just as likely to graduate from high school and obtain postsecondary diplomas and degrees as boys. The desire to apply their education and skills has prompted many women to see childbirth as a short-term break in their careers rather than a prelude to becoming a full-time homemaker. Surveys tell us that a woman's investment in her career does not lessen her commitment to family life. Both roles are typically high priority, adding to the importance of balancing them for maximum efficiency and satisfaction.
It's also worth mentioning the rise in divorce rates, which was paralleled by an exponential growth in the number of single parents, the majority of whom were employed. I spent seven years as a single parent; I have no major complaints, and like many single-parent families we developed a special closeness. We spent a great deal of time together. If I had to go shopping, the kids usually came. Not that taking two small children around a grocery store and trying to explain why a cart full of marshmallows, chocolate milk, and potato chips would not encompass the four major food groups was my idea of a good time; it was just that they were too young to be left on their own. But there were many occasions on which a second parent would have come in handy. I was pursuing a career that placed many demands on my time, and I often felt as if I was being forced to choose between work and home. The goal of balancing the two roles was fine, but there were days when I was convinced that part of the condition of being a single parent was to be permanently imbalanced.
The high demands on single parents are not necessarily relieved when they remarry, as almost all will do eventually. Most parents in stepfamilies are also employed and have the continuing demands of their work to balance with the added challenges of their new family. Speaking from personal experience again, these challenges begin as soon as the prospect of remarriage raises its head. It took many years to convince Kathy that marrying me and establishing a stepfamily with two adolescent children would be her ticket to perpetual bliss.
Staying Home and Living Longer
As a result of all these shifts and trends, the prevalence of the traditional nuclear family with a stay-at-home mother has declined rapidly; today, only 7 percent of families in North America conform to this model. The separation of roles into Ward and June Cleaver simplicity has diminished to the point where most adults in families are having to cope with the demands and pressures of both work and home.
What's more, this balancing act has become a long-term challenge. Family responsibilities are often extended far beyond our expectations. Children are remaining dependent for longer than was the case a few decades ago. When I was born, 50 percent of students left high school before grad
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