From Dr. Jane's Notebook
The Family Balance: Is it Healthy?
Families are ecological systems that require balance. The goal is for the family to
feel like a healthy environment for those who live in it. Balance is achieved or lost in a
variety of ways. Consider the following examples:
- Balance in numbers. When one of our two cats died, the other was at the
delicate age of 10 years. She had been with "her brother" all of her life. In
spite of the other dogs, kids and adults in the family, her loneliness was apparent. After
a reasonable period of mourning, everyone in the family recognized the need for another
cat. At age 10, Joja was hostile toward the kitten for almost three weeks. However, once
she had clearly established her dominance, the two became best friends and our family
balance was re-established.
- Balance in Activity Level. When Mrs. Brown retired from her job of 37
years, she initially thought it would give her great opportunities to pursue hobbies and
relax. However, she quickly found out that she was not as ready to "shift gears"
and become a retired person as she thought. While her husband was content with piddling
around in the tool shed and working on the lawn, she was miserable.
All of her life, Mrs. Brown had been used to getting up early, getting dressed for
work, and being a valued and respected employee, who deserved to be tired at night.
Retirement only brought her depression and a feeling of worthlessness. Then, she found a
volunteer job that allowed her to use her work skills at a more leisurely pace, but which
brought structure and commitment back into her life. The notion of planning one's
retirement is more than financial!
- Balance in Purpose. A couple in their empty-nest years were quite
devoted to their golden retriever. Everyday, they walked their dog, pampered him, and he
gave them great joy. Indoor dogs are incredibly wonderful and affectionate family members.
Sadly, their dog died and the couple was faced with incredible loneliness. They no longer
wanted to take their daily walks, and were haunted by the quietness of no barking and no
greetings at the door. They worried about the consequences of adopting a puppy who might
outlive them and considered their new-found freedom to travel, but quickly decided that
the lack of family balance was not good for either of them.
This couple soon contacted a Golden Retriever Rescue club in their area, and were
blessed with a two year old Golden Retriever who desperately needed a good home. In short
time, their family balance was re-established and once again, they felt the joy of caring
for their dog, taking their daily walks and enjoying the pleasure of his constant company.
- Balance of Resources. Mr. Jones worked hard to provide a paycheck for
his family. In fact, he worked two jobs and a third on the weekend. He and his wife worked
different shifts so that they could share their childcare responsibilities, and
consequently, their marriage was in desperate straights. As hard as they worked, Mr. and
Mrs. Jones were earning little more than minimum wage, and getting more and more tired of
the fight. Even with all of their work hours, there was no chance to save money and the
future looked bleak. They sought counseling and it was soon discovered that had their
childbearing begun later, Mr. Jones had wanted to finish school and work in a higher
paying field. With the birth of each child, the idea of completing his education seemed
more and more remote.
Encouraged to develop a new "career plan" and with the help of his extended
family, Mr. Jones returned to technical school, earned his degree and achieved his goal of
finding a job which he enjoyed. He was now earning more than all of his other part-time
jobs put together, and was receiving medical and retirement benefits. Soon, the couple
were working the same shift, affording good child care and making plans to buy their own
home. Needless to say, their marital relationship and relationship with their children was
vastly improved. They now experienced the sense of family balance they wanted.
In this new year, take time to consider whether your family is balanced. Discuss this
idea in a "family meeting" and brainstorm together your goals for the future.
New Year's resolutions are family matters!
ęCopyright, 1996, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon, M.A., All Rights Reserved.
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Last Updated October 18, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,