Over the course of the last generation, we’ve all seen a very dramatic change in the way Americans coordinate the dual responsibilities of work and home life.
Prior to the 1960’s and early ’70’s, structures, rules and boundaries were clearly defined—men went to work, women stayed at home, and kids behaved.
Today the lines have become blurred, if not erased completely.
This upheaval has created almost dire circumstances where we are forced to reexamine our approach to working, living, raising our families, and even tending to our own basic needs, since women are no longer automatically homemakers.
Flux is now the norm, where there was once stability. Steadfast calm has been replaced with a sense of ongoing chaos, and has become a major contributor to anxiety both at home and on the job.
This sense of chaos and the anxiety it causes has led to stress, and a whole host of stress-related illnesses—physical, mental, and emotional.
And that’s not all. We’re also losing our serenity, our peace of mind, and our sense of hope for tomorrow, and the future of our children.
After reviewing the research, David B. Bohl attributes this shift in work/home priorities to several factors…
The workforce has undergone major changes.
Over the past several years, major corporations have decided that they want to accomplish more using fewer people. It’s a nice strategy for them since it increases their productivity and profitability … but it’s deadly for employees.
For professionals and executives, this means that they face increasing pressure to accomplish more in less time, which leads to more job-related stress in general.
For individuals, it can mean little-to-no loyalty to one company, and a fleeting sense of little or no job security. More than ever before, today’s workers are more likely to leave a good-paying job in favor of working for the competition, returning to school, and/or exploring a different field entirely.
Then, of course, there’s the alienation factor. A growing percentage of people have gotten fed up with this kind of callous treatment and are now actively seeking alternate means of income.
Such means include:
- Starting new businesses
- Other creative methods of self-employment and freelancing.
Sure, the freedom to make new career choices can be appealing, but the need to make snap decisions and the general sense of unrest in ones profession can be a source of increased anxiety for many people.
Traditional family roles have all but dissolved.
In 2000, 47.7% of all families were two-earner, married couple families, while one-earner, married couple families dropped to 29.1% of the total. The State of Working America, 2004/2005
If your family is typical, you and your spouse both work at full-time jobs while relying on other people—such as extended family, paid daycare, or neighbors—to look after your children during working hours.
And when it comes to other home responsibilities like shopping, cooking, housecleaning, home maintenance, money-management, you probably do your best to divide those chores equally.
While many companies now offer flexible work schedules and even part-time or work-from-home situations to meet the growing needs of the modern family, there is no denying that the change in lifestyles and work styles puts pressure on us as individuals to “do and be all things to all people.
The world now operates at the speed of technology.
Home computers, cell phones and portable laptops are a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, they confer huge benefits by giving us easy access to the outside world. But on the other hand, they serve as electronic leashes that keep us within easy reach of those who wish to make contact with us — no matter where we are or what we are doing.
Additionally, while instant communication gives the appearance of making our lives easier, the speed of technology has a way of complicating everything, ultimately wasting even more of our precious time as we attempt to do damage control for the unintended consequences of our hastily-relayed words.
Finally, added pressure to be within easy reach of all who demand our attention puts a strain on us as we feel we must be constantly “on” and ready with a response or solution. The ability to transmit email instantaneously creates an unfair expectation of an equally instantaneous reply.
For millions of Americans, separation of work and home life seems forever doomed by constant interruptions.
As soon as we set foot in one world, we feel the other one pulling us back – with so-called emergencies that chip away at our productivity, divert our attention, detract from our ability to concentrate, and pry us away from our goals.
David B. Bohl has these suggestions for restoring balance to your life:
- Set aside a few hours or even a day each week for some “you time.” Turn off your cell phone, pager, PDA, and computer, and spend time alone or with family uninterrupted.
- Delegate tasks at work and at home (which may mean hiring help at home, if need be) so that you minimize “bleed-through” from work to home and home to work.
- Bring your children in on your household chores—shopping together is a wonderful way to spend time together, as well as being a “teachable moment.