According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of all families have both parents working at least part time, changing the dynamics of family life in millions of homes across the country.
The dual income family phenomenon is growing in a sluggish economy. It may take two paychecks to keep up with family expenses as prices for everything from food to clothes to college tuition increase each year. This change in the workplace can easily have a negative impact on family life.
Because both parents work, there’s less family time – quality time with the kids. Missed ball games, latchkey kids, parents straining to keep the family close – are all common in this age of economic uncertainty.
What can parents do about it? With a little planning and a bit of sacrifice, it is possible to enjoy family life more and still bring home the bacon.
Here are some suggestions to keep family close and enjoy the togetherness of quality time.
Ask kids about upcoming events in their lives. Your oldest is in the school play next Friday night. Your middle child has a music recital that you’d like to attend. And your youngest child will soon start swimming lessons after school. Knowing what’s on the horizon enables you to plan ahead. When possible, schedule work around family activities. It’s easier to do when you know what’s coming up in the days and weeks ahead.
Create a schedule and post it for all family members to see. Note special events on the calendar. Circle important dates to ensure that at least one parent can attend special family events. Have the kids write down upcoming activities in which you take part. Writing it down on the calendar can simplify time management, keep family members current on important events, and ensure more quality time for all.
Talk to your employer about flex time. Smart employers recognize the importance of family time to their employees. Many are more than willing to schedule flex time that allows you to work longer on Tuesday so you can take off early Wednesday afternoon to catch the school play and see your child on stage. You may not always be able to schedule work around family activities, but when you can, take advantage of a flexible work schedule to create long-lasting memories.
Structure schedules so at least one parent can be present. It may be difficult for both mom and dad to attend special events, so work out a schedule with your spouse to make sure one of you attends those important events in the lives of your children. Take lots of pictures and share with all other members of the family over dinner. If you make it special, the occasion will become a fond memory for everyone.
Ask relatives to pitch in, and then reciprocate. Use your extended family to increase the amount of time you spend with your immediate family. Instead of coming home from school to an empty house, it’s much better if Aunt Betty is waiting at the school bus stop to walk the kids home and lend a hand with household chores like dinner preparation. And of course, when Betty needs some time with her family, volunteer to house sit, or look after your nieces and nephews.
The family that eats together meets together. You may not be able to share a family dinner every night, but you should organize family suppers a few times each week, and use them as an opportunity to discuss what’s happening in each family member’s life.
The down side of technology. Electronic gizmos like TV, computers and game consoles not only gobble up time, but in many cases they also isolate family members even when they’re all at home. Designate one day a week to turn off distractions to create more family time. Go out for an inexpensive supper, play board games, or visit your local park together.
The up side – technology can keep the kids close. A smart phone, chatting with family over computer lines, or a simple video feed from your home to the office can keep you closer to family members even when you can’t be there in person.
Enjoy family vacations. Schedule your vacation time to coincide with school vacations so you can spend an entire week together building family bonds and discovering what great kids you have. Again, plan ahead to create those family memories that bring parents and children closer together.
There’s not much we, as parents, can do about the economy or the need for both parents to work, but there are steps we can take to keep in closer touch with our spouses and our children. Planning and setting priorities is the key. Your family should come first whenever possible, even when two paychecks are required to keep the household running smoothly.
The information contained herein is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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