Changing roles, changing responsibilities
Dad used to bring home the bacon and Mom would cook it. Now, Mom is just as likely to be working late at the office while Dad fixes supper. We live in a fluid time of multiple roles. Usually men and women add to their roles, rather than change them completely. In a large percentage of families, mothers and fathers share wage-earning and family-maintaining roles. And that can lead to role conflict, role overload and/or role ambiguity.
Role conflict comes from trying to do two or more jobs well. Role overload comes from trying to be too many things to too many people. Role ambiguity occurs when adults get mixed messages on how they are expected to act. For example, a man may prefer to stay at home with the children, but feels he is expected instead to be the main income earner. Or, a wife may want to have a job, yet feel guilty if others take over some of her home duties.
These coping strategies can reduce the stress and confusion of role conflict, overload or ambiguity:
Coping with the stress of balancing work and family
The worlds of work and home are not separate; in fact, research shows they have a profound impact on each other. Success or a problem at work can affect home life, and vice versa. The trick is not to ignore work stresses at home or home stresses at work. Rather, it is important to learn to cope with the stresses that occur in both situations.
Becoming aware of the sources of your stress is the first step. Make a list of those stressful things that are on your mind. Then, on that list, next to each problem, indicate how much control you have over that problem. Does morning rush-hour traffic wear you to a frazzle? Perhaps you could try leaving a few minutes earlier to avoid it, or negotiating an earlier or later arrival time with your employer. Is a relative or friend extremely ill? You can't change that, but you can adjust your response to the situation. Instead of worrying, think of ways to best use the time you have for that relative or friend.
Life will never be stress free. We must cope with stress, not eliminate it. To do that, find supports that can help: networks of family and friends can help reduce some of those daily stresses.
Determine how you and individual members of your family respond to stress. Overeating, smoking, withdrawing, over-drinking and quarreling are negative stress-strategies. Taking time to appreciate the beauty of your life and to have fun with your family is more relaxing. Direct communication between family members can also reduce stress. A statement like, "I don't like coming home to a messy house" can get better results than an angry, "You are so messy."
Have a brainstorming session with your family, discussing the stresses each one feels, and possible ways of coping with them. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need, and don't expect other family members to be "mind-readers."
Meanwhile, while you and your family are learning to identify, talk about and cope better with stress, try these other tactics to help reduce problems and keep them in perspective.
Source: Christiann Dean, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, New York State College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 33
Last updated July 10, 2020