From Dr. Jane's Notebook


Managing Your Dual-Career Family


The challenge to succeed both at home and at work represents a big change that has taken place in our society over the past three decades. Statistics show that in 1970, 30% of children under the age of six had mothers working outside the home. In 1988, that figure had risen to 57%. It is currently estimated that 66% of women in families with children under 18, work outside the home, and that figure is expected to rise to 80% by the year 2000. Now, more than ever, it is important to consider the impact of work on marital satisfaction and childrearing.

Marital relationships are affected both positively and negatively by having two adults in the provider role. On the positive side:

For couples who are interested in the research findings, the following suggestions are offerred:

Marital satisfaction is affected by "negative mood spillover" from the job and lack of interpersonal suppport. Researchers who have studied men with "Type A" personalities found that the quality of achievement-striving (or ambition) is positive in marriage; but the quality of irritability (and impatience) is associated with proneness to divorce.

It is interesting to note that women are more inclined to take time in accordance with federal Family Leave Act guidelines; whereas husbands who take time off from work are more inclined to take sick time or vacation time when necessary. Men often feel unsupported in the workplace for taking family leave, so they don't call it that. However, in the long run, if men do not take advantage of the need for family leave time, employers may increasingly doubt the necessity for men to have this benefit.

Yet another feature of employment which has been investigated is the effect of sleep schedules for spouses. The term, "mismatched circadium rhythm" refers to the problem of day people and night people, or spouses who work on different shifts. Couples who are mismatched in their sleep schedules often experience more marital conflict, fewer shared activities, less conversation, less sexual intercourse and less marital adjustment. To cope with this situation, couples who work different schedules must make special efforts to plan their time together.

As our world and our lifestyles continue to change, we must continually rethink the work-family balancing act. In addition to concerns about our economic health, we must also be concerned about the health of our family lives and the health of our marriages, as we make these important decisions. It certainly is a lot to think about!

ęCopyright, 1996, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.