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Balancing Work and the Family Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 3rd, 2019

Introduction

A challenge known to face different people and mostly women who have children is how balance between family and work. Striking a balance between work and family is a complex issue that affects the parties concerned as it entails balancing a variety of factors such as finances, time management, career progression and the growth of the family as one unit.

Like marriages, family and work balance has its own challenges and problems especially in a case where both couples want to have a family and pursue their careers at the same time. Getting the right balance between family and work has no easy solution that can be applicable by everyone (Shein and Chen 1).

Because of the different complexities that exist in every family, deriving one approach that can be used in family and work balancing is a difficult task in itself. Every couple has their own system of doing things and determining the right balance is usually based on their preferences and needs.

While more people are focusing on their careers, they are also focusing on developing and growing their families. Striking a balance between the two is therefore a process that is constant and long term in nature. Family-work balance is a process that is not static in nature given the changing dynamics of the family as well as the individual’s career.

It is a process that involves making decisions as well as changing certain factors to suit the circumstance or situation. It becomes important for couples to make the right decisions when it comes to selecting between careers and children when trying to strike a proper balance between the two. Striking a balance could be a daily activity, an hour to hour activity or a weekly activity based on the nature of work and the nature of the family (Shein and Chen 1).

Process of Family and Work Balance

The process of family and work balance allows couples to adjust their schedules on a requirement basis depending on work and family situations. Any decision or approach that is incorporated during this process is not permanent in nature given the constant cycle of the work- family process.

If a chosen approach is not working well for the couple, they can adjust it to be more flexible and suitable to their needs and expectations. Tactical adjustment and flexibility is viewed as important in achieving a balance between work and family as it allows the couples to set appropriate targets and goals which they are meant to achieve individually while trying to balance between the aspects. While they do this should not incorporate outside demands and external factors as they try to strike a balance (Moran et al 170).

The first step in the family-work balance process is when a couple is faced with the decision of becoming parents. This decision is usually important for those couples who are yet to conceive or have children. If they plan to have a family and pursue their careers as well, then the best option according to family experts would be to delay having children for a minimum of one year.

This time frame is recommended and suitable as it allows the couple to have a post-marriage bonding period as well as to reorganize their finances and individual plans to ensure that once they have children, they are able to strike an appropriate balance between work and family (Moran et al 171).

The one year is also important as it allows the couple to determine which one of the partners will stay home with the children and which one will work. Such decisions have to be made on the basis of the couple’s financial and career goals.

The level of gratification that the couple gets from their work as well as their personal energy levels usually come into play when deciding on the right balance between family and work. The couple also has to consider their willingness to forego certain aspects of their children’s lives in the event they decide to pursue their careers and personal growth. In making these important decisions, couples have to analyze the various factors that for and against family and work.

Some of the commonly cited factors that support couples who have families and are working include potential income, advancement in work or career progression, intellectual development and personal social stimulation. Some of the factors that have are against couples working and raising families at the same time included reduced family time, constant fatigue due to strenuous work schedules and poor time management (Patricia and Kuhlman par. 11).

If the couple decides to work, they should consider aspects such as finding employers who are considerate and flexible to working mothers and fathers. Finding company’s that have family friendly policies, onsite child care services as well as flexible work environments are important for couples who want to achieve the proper balance between family and work.

There are certain work options in existence that provide flexibility and time options which are important for couples balancing between work and family. Such work options include part-time jobs, free lance jobs, telecommuting, working from home, job sharing, seasonal jobs and consultancies (Patricia and Kuhlman par. 14).

Once they make their decision, couples who decide to pursue family and work life have to identify a suitable balance between the two. For couples to determine whether they have found the right balance, several characteristics can be used which include having enough time for both family and work without having to put in a lot of effort and sacrifice. When a couple finds themselves with enough time for their work and children, then they have achieved a good balance.

Another factor that can be used in determining whether a couple has achieved a good work-family balance is having enough back-up so that in the event of an emergency, the couple can be to maneuver between the two without any devastating consequences. For example if the babysitter fails to turn up, the couple has a relative or neighbor who is ready to watch their child or children while they are at work (Patricia and Kuhlman par. 6).

Research Validated Models for Family- Work Balance

A lot of research has been conducted over the years on how to balance between family and work. The fields of sociology and psychology have demonstrated an increased interest on how couples strike a balance between their families and their work.

Researchers have attributed the growth in such studies to be because of the changing nature of family roles where both couples are striving to establish their careers and also manage a family at the same time. This growth in such studies has also been attributed to the changing labor market that has encouraged more women especially mothers to pursue careers as they raise their children (Shein and Chen 1).

According to such studies, women are devoting less time to household chores and childcare when compared to 25 years ago when the central focus was on taking care of the home and children. Research into the aspect of work and family has shown that a lot of conflict usually arises between the two.

In their research on work and family conflict, Bellavia and Frone (114) note that work-family conflict is a kind of inter role conflict that arises because of the incompatibility of work and family roles. This means that participating in work roles will affect the participation of family roles. The devotion of couples to their jobs or careers has been viewed by sociologists to be an activity that is derived from a scarcity hypothesis where it is assumed that people have a limited amount of energy that can be divided in multiple roles.

The scarcity hypothesis stipulates that the energy used in performing one role diminishes the energy that is needed to perform another role. Couples who try to balance between their families and work find themselves in such conflicts that considerably reduce their quality of life as well as increase personal strains (Shein and Chen 2).

Researchers into this field have noted that conflict between multiple roles does not need to occur if the couple achieves a proper balance between the two. According to Donald Super, couples could derive some benefit from balancing between work and family life. Super who was a leading figure in career development research came up with the life span approach to explain the co-existence of multiple roles in people’s lives.

The life span approach encompassed nine key roles of an individual which included being a worker, a parent, pensioner, homemaker, spouse, child, student, leisure taker and citizen. Super noted that these roles did not necessarily have to follow any particular order but they had to occur in four contexts which included the community, school, home and the workplace (Shein and Chen 3).

Super conducted his research in 1948 and found that women and men were more committed to their career roles and also their family roles. He came up with role salience which was defined as the level of importance that an individual placed on a particular role. Many sociologists and researchers have agreed that role salience is an important determinant when identifying the level of work and family enrichment that comes with balancing the two concepts.

Researchers have noted that the more men and women value their family and work roles, the more they are likely to channel resources from one role to be used in the other role. Greenhaus and Powell (80) have come up with a theoretical model that can be used in balancing between work and family where they have proposed that role salience is a key factor in determining whether the two aspects will be enriching to the individuals involved.

Greenhaus and Powell (72) noted that the more individuals valued their role performance in a given situation the more they were likely to utilize resources from another situation into that role. Empirical evidence has shown that people who value both work and family roles develop their identities through both domains and they are able to gain some enrichment when they successfully balance the two aspects.

Reviews on balancing family and work have showed that many individuals are mostly aimed on the negative facets of the family and work balance. Very few studies have actually focused on the positive aspects of work and family roles. However researchers in the field of psychology and organizational behavior have began focusing more on the positive effects of balancing work and family (Shein and Chen 4).

According to Greenhaus and Powell’s (72), “model for work-family enrichment addresses the extent to which one role improves the quality of life of another role”. In explaining the quality of life of the various roles that come with balancing between work and family, Greenhaus and Powell come up with two elements that can be used to explain this concept.

These two elements include positive effects and high performance where enrichment is defined according to the positive affect of working to support the family. High performance results from the improvement of the positive effects that come from performing one role. The work-family enrichment approach aims to postulate the positive effects of balancing between work and family.

Greenhaus and Powell (80) specify the conditions that are need to ensure that work and family roles do not conflict with each other. These two conditions are referred to as the paths to enrichment and they include the instrumental and affective path. The instrumental path defines how one role in the work-family aspect is beneficial or important to the other while the affective path describes how each of the roles impact on each other either negatively or positively (Greenhaus and Powell 80).

Apart from the paths to enrichment, the two authors have proposed several moderators that can be used to ensure that enrichment is achieved. One key moderator in achieving work-family enrichment was role salience where individuals placed some level of importance on one role. Role salience was viewed to be important by Greenhaus and Powell as well as other researchers because it was a key determinant in defining whether men and women had the potential for achieving work- family enrichment.

Despite the existence of a model of work-family enrichment, the concept of enrichment itself is construct that has become difficult to test at an empirical stage. Greenhaus and Powell (86) noted that new measures need to be incorporated to analyze the extent to which one role affects the other. They proposed that appropriate measures for the key moderators had to be modified and developed to ensure that the construct for enrichment was achieved.

Strategies for Achieving Work and Family Balance

Whatever work arrangements the couples choose, sociologists and psychologists have proposed various strategies that can be used in achieving a good balance of the two aspects. Such strategies include setting limits and boundaries that can be used in determining the extent of the two roles. This will ensure that one role does not interfere with the other for example having a babysitter to ensure that the couple does not go with the children to work.

Another strategy will be to make a list of items that should not be performed to ensure that there is proper time management in carrying out the role of family and work. Once this list is made, the next strategy will be to delegate non essential tasks such as day care to other people such as day care centers and babysitters. This will ensure that the other role of work is not affected by taking care of the children (Patricia and Kuhlman par.20).

Other strategies that can be used to achieve a balance between work and family include identifying the important activities and involvements that need to be maintained so that the couple can achieve a balance between the two roles, negotiating with employers or the other spouse to achieve a suitable arrangement when it comes to delegating an activity or task, prioritizing activities according to the level of their importance and delegating responsibilities between partners to ensure that they both cover tasks that are enjoyable and easy to each of them (Patricia and Kuhlman par.20)

Conclusion

Striking a balance between family and work is a difficult concept as more and more people seek to pursue their careers and manage a family at the same time. Despite the availability of various theoretical models to explain how men and women can achieve a work-family balance and enrichment at the same time, getting a suitable balance between the two roles will in the end depend on the couples and their work, family environments. This will help them to determine how to strike a good balance.

Works Cited

Bellavia, Gina and Frone, Michael. Work family conflict: handbook of work stress. New Jersey: Sage Publications, 2005. Print.

Greenhaus, Jeffrey and Powell, Gary. When work and family are allies: a theory of Work-family enrichment. Academy of Management Review, Vol.31, No.1, pp 72 – 92

Moran, Robert, Philip, Harris and Sarah, Virgilia Moran. Managing cultural differences: global leadership strategies for the 21st century. Oxford, UK: Butterworth Heinemann, 2007. Print.

Patricia, Surus and Kuhlman, Gregory. Marriage facts: balancing family and work. n.d. Web. <>

Shein, Jennifer and Chen, Charles. Work family enrichment: a research of positive transfer. Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2010. Print.

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