Because more women are currently entering the workforce than men, mothers and fathers are finding themselves in the workplace a combined total of 80 hours per week compared to just 40 hours one generation ago. Many neighborhoods are deserted during the day since mom and dad are both at work and the children are at school. There is less and less time for volunteer work and greater and greater dependence on both parents bringing money into the home.
Of course, dual income for families is really nothing new. For generations both mother and father have worked to make ends met. Especially in lower-income families, the mother worked to help supplement the family income. What is new is that dual incomes are no longer restricted to working class families. Today, in most professional families both mom and dad work. In fact, the more affluent the family, the greater the likelihood that mother works. The reasons for both parents working are varied. For some, both incomes are needed for economic survival. For others, the extra money enhances the family’s standard of living. Still, for others, working outside the home is a source of personal and professional gratification. In this case, both parents feel a strong need to use their education and training outside the home. Unlike years past, when women were satisfied to channel their energies into helping their husbands reach career goals, more and more women want to make their mark within the workplace. Such women are much more likely to measure their success through their own accomplishments rather than their husbands’.
The greatest challenge confronting dual-income families is not really in the required juggling of family and work responsibilities. Nor is the problem of fairly dividing labor around the home (although men still fall far short of doing their fair share). The greatest challenge is not having a non-working spouse at home to support the success of the person working outside the home. Since both husband and wife come home emotionally and physically exhausted, there is almost no energy left to support one another. Even weekends become futile attempts to recover from the exhaustion of the week and gear up for the week ahead. Unfortunately, weekends offer little time to rest due to laundry, children’s activities, yard work, house cleaning and a million and one other chores.
Making a dual-career family work demands unusual maturity and wisdom as couples face many daily challenges. Because most of the challenges involve time commitments (such as finding the time to be a good parent, spouse, and employee), spending added income to take care of routine tasks such as housecleaning is a wise investment, even if this means driving an older car or taking less expensive vacations. By purchasing more time together, you can reduce chronic stress, guilt, depression, anxiety, and anger and free yourself to have more energy to support one another and thus meet your greatest need as a couple.