It can be difficult to find a balance within a household when there are two parents who work full time outside of the home. If you are one of those households, like mine, you are not alone. According to a recent survey by Pew Research, since 1970, in the United States, the number of two-parent households with a stay-at-home mom are continuing to become less and less common; while households where both parents work full time outside of the home have grown to 46%.
Prior to meeting my husband, I was a single mom to my then nine-year-old son, who is now 14. Being a single mom requires you to position yourself to be able to support yourself and your child while finding a balance and routine that works for you. For me, although it was always a difficult search, that meant finding a job with an employer who allowed me to work a particular schedule; in my case the typical 9-5 shift. Sometimes, even if it meant less pay.
This allowed me to take my son to and from school. I also had to make sure I lived close to my job in the event I had any car troubles. This way, a short cab ride to school or work would be much less costly. (Where was Uber when I needed them?) Most importantly, I wanted an employer who offered PTO and a flexible lunch schedule that would allow me to attend any school plays or doctor appointments as necessary.
In return for my part, I’d work hard, be on time, and always strive to be a model employee. I was blessed to find employers who were extremely understanding and flexible. Not to say I’d never encountered some who frowned upon me being called by the school to come pick up a sick child, but luckily they were the exception. Being a single mom, as many of you know, requires many sacrifices. Luckily, I learned quickly how to be frugal, save, and manage my money in those times of sacrifice.
Then I met my prince charming…
Roger, my husband as he tells his story, was single without children and working a dream overnight schedule of seven nights on and seven nights off. His commute at that time was only about 10 minutes each way from his home. During his week on, he would sleep from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., and during his week off he was free to do as he pleased. Often times this meant traveling, working on his house, or simply choosing to relax.
Transitioning from that life to instant father was a huge change for him and something I have to always keep in mind throughout our relationship. We knew combining two separate journeys would come with its own challenges, so it was always of utmost importance that we have clear communication and work hard to understand each other’s perspectives.
When we had our first child together, things became even more challenging. Suddenly his schedule no longer worked for us. I was given eight weeks of maternity leave and he had saved up three weeks of PTO. It all initially worked great for several months, but then things slowly became overwhelming for me.
For him, working overnight meant he’d be sleeping during the day. He would, of course, return home around 9 a.m. each morning after work. So if he were to get to sleep at 11 a.m. and sleep for six hours, he would be waking up around 5 p.m. He could maybe get the kids, eat dinner and spend one or two hours with us, and then off he’d go to do it all over again.
Meanwhile, my day at home was just starting. Feeding the kids, bath time, bedtime, and getting ready for the next day. I was always very relieved during his week off, but being mommy never ends, and even though he was able to help more, I still had the same responsibilities. It also seemed that the weeks he had off would go by so fast. Before I could even put my feet up, off he’d go back to work for another week.
Needless to say, something had to give. I was feeling extremely overwhelmed and guilty at the same time. I felt if I didn’t say anything my mental health would begin to suffer. Not to mention, I worried I’d become a very irritable and uncomfortable person to be around.
We had a discussion and decided a change was necessary to reconcile and adjust to our new life. We examined all areas of our current situation to see what we could and could not change. We had to take several things into consideration while keeping in mind our individual preferences. We had to be mindful not to sacrifice our individuality, which could create a situation of building animosity toward each other.
We decided staying at home for either of us was not an option. I love my children to death but I realize I can’t be a stay-at-home mom. I so admire the ladies who can handle that tough job, but it just wasn’t me. For me, the time I spent on maternity leave was difficult enough after a while. I tried to find groups or things to become involved with while I was home but, to be honest, I was just too tired to attend. I longed for an adult conversation.
I’d worked my entire life and truly enjoyed everything about dressing up, getting out of the house, and listening to music on my drive in. That entire process is my me-time, and good for my mental health, not to mention, the personal satisfaction I get from a job well done. I was independent for so long for a reason, so the idea of giving that up was just too scary to fathom!
We decided my husband’s work could use the most adjustment, so he took steps toward finding what schedule would work better for us as a family. He spoke with his manager but after waiting several months, nothing became available. He ultimately had to leave that company to seek employment elsewhere. The struggle didn’t just stop there, it took time and continuous adjustment and varying commitments to get us where we are today.
Change is inevitable, and our family dynamics continue to evolve as the kids get older and move into different schools. We are able to find and keep a balance through clear communication while revisiting this discussion as necessary.
Your own story is unique but it’s always important to give yourself some grace and have that open bedtime discussion with your spouse. There is no textbook answer to balancing work and home life. For those who may be experiencing this particular chapter of trying to figure it all out, have that discussion and express how you feel. Be empathetic and know that there will be a difference in how each of you views household responsibilities. If the discussion gets tough, table it for the moment and come back to it in a few hours or the next day, but have the conversation.