Anyone who has been a parent with a full-time job outside the home knows what a challenge it can be to manage these important roles at the same time. For years, there has been a persistent idea that working parents, and more particularly working mothers, cannot “have it all” – that something must be sacrificed and that the sacrifice of either career or parenting must be made. In the book Getting to 50/50 – How Working Parents Can Have it All, authors Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober suggest that with planning, dedication, work and realism, working parents can have both a successful career and successful family.
The work-life balance dichotomy is real and difficult. In today’s world, our jobs seem to require 24/7 attention, and as every parent knows, the demands of parenting are similarly all-encompassing. This striving for balance with the limit we know as measured time can feel absolutely impossible and unattainable. There are simply not enough hours in a day or a week to accomplish all that we know we should, and often working parents are left with a boatload of guilt that they cannot do nor have it all.
In Getting to 50/50 – How Working Parents Can Have it All, the authors help us see the many ways that working parents can close the “parenting gap” that tends to develop in a home when both parents are working full time.
Getting to 50/50 begins with a review of the research that suggests that having both parents work is not the determiner of childhood failure or success that is traditionally assumed. In fact, while children with one parent at home full time have some distinct advantages, there are also advantages for children when both parents work and effective child care is still provided. The success of the children is about healthy relationships and quality care, and both objectives can be achieved in families with working parents when measures are taken to assure that children and parents both have what they need.
From learning how to communicate with supervisors and co-workers to sharpening job-based skills to accomplishing goals without a 24/7 job-focused lifestyle, Getting to 50/50 gives working parents both perspective and specific counsel about their lives at work. As is the issue with any work-life balance question, it is about priorities and about finding that dynamic equilibrium between the demands of work, family and personal life.
The authors write about having a “50/50 mindset” of ensuring that both marriage partners are equally committed to their own and their partner’s career and to the needs of the family. They speak of the need to create an equal partnership, of trusting each other’s parenting skills and attitudes and about communicating specifically and directly through the process of making a family and living in a family setting. In addition, they deal very effectively with identifying the very real and very painful emotional tugs that afflict a working parent and suggest real world approaches to addressing those painful moments in life.
The Bottom Line
I must admit that I started off the book with a little skepticism. I am a believer that families should, whenever possible, arrange their affairs so that one parent can be home when the kids are home. But I came away from Getting to 50/50 with a different and more understanding attitude. In the final analysis, every family has its specific challenges and when parents put family first in their priorities, develop mechanisms for doing the best they can, and work in equal partnerships to raise responsible and happy children, things most often work out well. For parents whose lives involve both of them in full-time work responsibilities, Getting to 50/50 offers hope and help, perspective and advice and ultimately, some extraordinarily practical approaches to making a family work, regardless of the specific challenges that family faces. For working parents wishing they could balance it all better, Getting to 50/50 is a manual that can help and an approach that can work.