Here are ten strategies used by real dual-earner couples in their effort to maintain family and work balance. These strategies are not rules, rather they are guides couples use in meeting their various responsibilities in carrying out their life plans together.
Valuing Family. Successful couples stress the importance of keeping family as their highest priority. They proactively create opportunities for family time such as “pizza night” on Friday or bedtime stories every night. It is not uncommon for these couples to limit work hours, sacrifice career advancement, make career changes, or accept less-prestigious positions to keep family as the number one priority.
…H*: Every night, one or both of us read with our son for about 20 min.
…W*: David was going to go to medical school…..creating 8-plus years of being an absentee father…..we said no….we needed to pursue something
Striving for Partnership. Striving for equality in their marital relationship is critical to the success of these couples.
…H My job is both earning and caring, and so is hers.
…W: If I win and she loses, then we both lose.
…W: We continue to talk about career…where do we want to be?
Deriving Meaning from Work. Successful couples experience enjoyment and purpose from their careers and jobs.
…W: We both really like our jobs…they’re stressful at times, but we…feel good about what we are doing.
…W: I get a great deal of satisfaction from my job.
…W: We both like our jobs, but, when it’s quitting time, we’re out of there.
…W: When you’re at home, you’re at home; and when you’re at work, you’re at work.
…H: We’ve always said, “No,” to jobs that required long hours…weekends, lots of overtime.
Focusing and Producing at Work. Being productive at work is important to successful couples. Setting limits on their careers, has not adversely affected their productivity.
…H We’re both pulling our weight at [our] jobs. [No one] has ever felt that we’re slacking off or we’re getting off easy because we’ve got kids.
…W: I don’t mess around. When I’m there, I’m working.
Prioritizing Family Fun. Successful couples use play and family fun as a way of relaxing, enjoying life, staying emotionally connected, and creating balance in their lives.
…H: I think a lot of our family bonding revolves around these excursions, going on lots of hikes or bike trips…sometimes fishing, concerts…the three of us.
…W Once in a while, we’ll just try and do stuff off the cuff; one night we had a camp night in our living room with the fireplace.
Taking Pride in Dual Earning. These couples believe dual earning is positive for all members of their family and do not accept negative societal message about their family arrangement.
…W:Of course [children] fulfill you, but they can only fulfill a certain part of you.
…H: One of the nicest gifts that Patty has every given me is to go to work and to bring home a good income.
Living Simply. These couples consciously simplify their lives.
…W: He doesn’t go out to eat. We don’t need cable. We don’t need to sit in front of the TV anyway.
…W: We don’t use credit cards. We can’t have fancy cars where the payments just eat you up.
Making Decisions Proactively. Being proactive in decision making is most important. Successful couples are vigilant in not allowing the pace of their lives control them.
…W: If you define success as what you do at work, then that is all you will do….if you define success as having a happy family and a happy marriage and [being] happy at work, then you make all those things happen.
…H: We talk a lot during the day…[about] anything from getting the oil changed in the Volvo to who is bringing plates over to mom’s house. There’s not much I don’t know about.
Valuing Time. Successful couples try to remain aware of the value of time.
…W: I think you are almost forced to make better use of the time that you have together by nature of the fact that you work.
…H: We try to do a lot of our [house] work…during the week, so that the weekends are free.
Reference: Haddock, S.A., Zimmerman, T.S., Ziemba, S.J., Current, L.R. (2001). Ten adaptive strategies for family and work balance: Advice from successful families. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Vol. 27(4), 445-458.
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