Q&A with the Beasleys: Partnering in the Family Balancing Act
Dear Dr. Beasley:
My wife recently returned to work after our "new" baby turned one. However, she is struggling with the pressures of her job, the emotional burden of leaving our son in daycare, and what she feels are my expectations-a spotless house and dinner at six. She spends weekends cleaning our house and doing laundry. I have tried to tell her that I do not expect things to be the way they were before the baby came, but she is driven. How can I convince her that I really mean what I say?
Dr. Stewart: Don, I don't think it's that she doesn't believe you. I think she's driven by her own expectations of herself. She obviously has a strong work ethic and has probably always prided herself on getting things done—no matter the obstacles.
Dr. Lori: Even with decades of feminism encouraging women to seek their own professional identities, many women in the workplace have difficulty balancing work and home. It's a matter of knowing we are encouraged to "do our own thing," but still feeling that we need to be available to our spouse and children.
Dr. Stewart: I'm sure you are already assisting your wife with the household responsibilities, but doing them together can strengthen your relationship. And the beauty of a two-parent family is that one parent can relieve the other of childcare responsibilities so he or she can relax. Maybe you could do this on alternating Saturday mornings. You can do laundry, parent your son, and vacuum while your wife goes to the gym to exercise and work off some of the week's frustrations; the next Saturday can be yours to spend as you choose.
Dr. Lori: And don't forget to keep your communication lines open. The more you assure your wife that both of you are in a partnership, the more she will feel that you honestly don't hold her to the high standards to which she holds herself. Take 15-20 minutes several times each week to talk about the things that are of concern to you both. Synchronize your schedules for the next week, decide whether to take your son to the zoo or to a local park, or plan an evening out for just the two of you and discuss which sitter you would like to use and what you would like to do.
Dr. Stewart: Balancing available time with family and work commitments is difficult for everyone. "Busyness" is a way of life in today's world. We can choose to be controlled by outside demands on our time and resources, or we can set our own course and boundaries. You and your wife will be better able to chart the course for your life and your family when you remain centered and focused on your personal and family goals.
Dr. Lori: Stewart is right. When both of you determine that quality time with your son is more important than making sure your house is spotless and when both of you determine that your life together as a family is more important than spending extra hours at the office, you'll have your eyes on the important goals in life.
Lori Beasley, EdD is Asst. Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Family Life Education at the University of Central Oklahoma. Stewart R. Beasley, PhD is a licensed psychologist who practices in Edmond and Oklahoma City and is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Visit his website at DrStewartBeasley.com. They are parents of three children.