A recent issue of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy reported on a study of 47 two-career couples with at least one child under the age of 12 who described their experiences in juggling full-time work and family as more positive than negative. These couples had several characteristics in common. They
- identified commitment to family as their highest value, putting happiness at home over career advancement.
- held jobs that made it possible for them to refuse to work overtime or weekends.
- strove for equity in their relationship and in housework.
- limited their children’s television viewing.
- avoided activities that required frequent schedule changes
- participated regularly in activities, like bedtime storytelling or pizza night, that promoted family togetherness.
Shelley Haddock and Toni Zimmerman, the two Colorado State University researchers who conducted the study, say their research doesn’t support the popular impression that two-career couples’ problems are due to lack of time. They say that when a problem occurs, it is usually the result of inequities or power imbalances in the marital relationship.
I wasn’t surprised to read their results. Of course time is at a premium for most couples today, especially in the current economic environment. But when partners learn to turn their focus to the things that matter most to them, and discover how to communicate effectively and compassionately about home responsibilities, family life can be much more satisfying.