By Jean Chatzky with Arielle McGowen
May 06, 2009
This recession is going to leave some lasting effects, and one might be a change in our attitudes about work.
A new Families and Work Institute study on gender in the workplace found that the share of duel-earner family income contributed by women rose to 44 percent. About 26 percent of women now earn 10 percent or more than their husbands.
The findings also show that men are spending more time with their young children, and 59 percent report work/life conflict.
Of course, the findings can also be attributed to the changing times, recession or not. It's less unusual for men to be stay-at-home dads while their wives work, and women have been contributing more to family income for decades.
But the economy is playing at least a small role, says Ellen Galinsky, the institute's co-founder. "We all know that men dominated the kind of industries where there have been more layoffs," she says.
In this economy, many people are doing whatever they can to get by. Laid-off workers are taking jobs that pay less. Stay-at-home parents are going back to work. And more people are moonlighting, either through their employer or a second job.
These kinds of changes are hard on families, hard on marriages and hard on your mental health. Here's how to keep things in balance:
We're seeing a lot of role reversals these days: The primary breadwinner gets laid off, both spouses look for work and the one who'd stayed at home finds a job first. If that happens, your attitude and expectations make all the difference in making a smooth transition.
"When roles reverse, and the opposite parent is at home, it's important to also revise expectations at home," says Natalie Gahrmann, a work/life coach and owner of N-R-G Coaching Associates. Accept that there will be changes to the way the household is run, and roll with them.
Establishing priorities for both home and work will take you a long way. Think about what matters most, then make choices that reflect that, understanding that it's not humanly possible to do everything and trying will only leave you burned out. Consider posting a list of what's important to you. Don't skimp on habits that might seem like a waste of time, like exercise, Natalie says.
No matter what age they are, kids notice a shift in schedule. But more than noticing that you're not home as often as you once were, for instance, they notice when you're overloaded, Ellen says. "I did a study of how children see their employed fathers and mothers, and I asked kids what their one wish would be if they could change how their mother or father's work affected their lives. They didn't wish for more time, but rather for them to be less tired and stressed."
Kids are little detectives, and if you're overextended, it affects them too. Try explaining what is happening. "Children are more resilient than most adults give them credit for," Natalie says.