When Both Parents are EmployedSocio-economic conditions in North America have contributed to the need for dual incomes forfamilies. Economically, “the number of two parent families below the poverty line would increase to anestimated 78% if they were to become single income families.” (Ontario Women’s Directorate 9) Socially,it was the norm, in the past, for women to stay at home having a more expressive role in the family;taking care of the children and providing emotional support for the family. Presently, women feel thattheir traditional roles as child bearers and homemakers must be supplemented with a sense of achievementoutside the home. Recent studies reflect an increased trend towards the dual income family andprojections are for this trend to continue. In 1961, 30% of married women were working; in 1978, 38%were employed; by 1981 50% were working and in 1985, 55% held paying positions outside the home.
(Jarmanand Howlett 95) In 1961, only 20% of all two parent families were!dual wage families, but by 1986, more than half (53%) of all families were dual earning families. (Ramu26)In light of the fact that the majority of two parent families in the 1990’s have also become dualwage earning families, it is important to examine the effects of such a phenomenon on society in generaland on child rearing in particular. Children acquire their goals, values and norms based on the way thatthey view or identify with their parents as well as from the quality and amount of care, love andguidance given to them by their parents. Parents who work present a different image to their childrenthan parents who do not work. In addition, wage earners, including parents, must (in most cases), beabsent from the home during the day. When considering these modifications to the family dynamics, thereis considerable basis for proof that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects experienced byoffspring in families were both parents are employed. The working parent occupies an important exemplary role within the family.
Working parents oftencommand considerable respect from their children, because they demonstrate the worthy characteristics ofindustriousness, social compatibility, self reliance, maturity, intelligence and responsibility. Becausechildren identify with their parents, the feedback from such positive influences tends to be positive aswell because many of these positive characteristics are imparted upon them. A child who observes thecompetent coping abilities of a working parent learns in turn, how to cope with life’s problems. Atfirst this may translate into an improved sense of self-reliance and independence for the child as wellas an improvement in the ability to be socially compatible.
As the child grows, it can further render achild more emotionally mature and hence more competent in dealing with responsibility and task completionsuch as is needed for school work and extra curricu!lar activities. A study by Hoffman in 1974 corroborates these observations and therefore one canconclude that, in general, the working parent provides a very positive role model for the child in afamily where both parents are employed. (Hoffman 18)Attitudes of working parents pertaining to achievement, responsibility and independence affectboth male and female offspring. There seems to be more beneficial effects felt by daughters of workingwomen than by sons; however, this neither implies nor concludes that males do not receive some positiveeffects due to maternal employment. (Spitz 606) Hoffman has concluded that daughters of employedmothers tend to be more independent.
(Hoffman 73) This tendency may result from the fact that in themother’s absence, a daughter is often left to cope with caring for herself: This promotes herindependence and self-reliance. At the same time, the daughter may also be left with the job of lookingafter a younger sibling, helping to promote her sense of responsibility.Significant too, is the fact that daughters of working mother’s tend to be more decisive about theirfutures than sons. Further studies have demonstrated that a mother’s employment status and occupationtends to be a good predictor of the outcome of the working mother’s daughter, since daughters tend tofollow in their mother’s footsteps. Typically, working mothers held higher educational aspirations fortheir children and furthermore, most daughters tend to achieve higher grades in school. (Spitz 606)It is also important to note that both male and female children acquire more egalitarian sex roleattitudes when both parents work. Boys with working mothers showed better social and personal skillsthan boys of non-working mothers.
On a negative note, middle-class boys tend to do worse in school whentheir mothers worked. (Shreve 118) As well, boys whose mothers work tend to have strained relationshipswith their fathers due to their perceptive devaluation of their father’s worth as an adequatebread-winner. (Adele 32)One can conclude that males may be negatively affected when their motherswork, but males and, to a greater degree, females are affected in many positive ways with regards toachievement in independence and responsibility.
Adequate child care is a necessity for parents who both work. It is often complicated to balanceboth the parent’s and child’s needs when using child care. However, it may be possible to satisfy thedemands of both if forethought and prudence are applied. Many cultures worldwide realize that a child’snurturing can be acquired from a variety of sources including both adults and older children. Childrencan be as comfortable with grandparents, neighbors, professional child care attendants, and babysittersas they are with their own mothers. In fact, a variety of sources for nurturing not only provide thechild with a variety of role models, such as in the case of grandparents, but it also provides them theability to compare these role models and to choose the appropriate characteristics which they will adoptas their own.
One third of all children are looked after by relatives; 50% of all children in child caresituations are being looked after by someone unrelated!to them. (Petterson 533) To date, in Ontario as in all of Canada, there is no adequate government policy for child care. Fundsear marked for this area of social assistance are either misappropriated or abused. Even now, in 1995,the government of Canada has not yet recognized the fact that children are a community responsibility andthat they should start treating them as such. (Monsebraaten A1)In the end, the responsibility of choosing the proper type of child care lies with the working parents.Proper research of the day care facilities and employees should include an investigation into theavailability of superior care in a quality program where rearing beliefs and practices mirror those ofthe parents. When both parents feel confident in their day care choices, they will view them assupportive influences rather than intrusive ones.
This positive attitude will provide the child withpositive feedback because when parents feel good about their lives and decisions, they communicate theirsatisfaction to their children in the form of positive feelings. These positive feelings are theninternalized by the children. (Rodman 576) Difficult as it may seem, it is clear that if forethought,research and adequate investigative techniques are applied, parents can successfully select the childcare facility and/or individual most appropriate to fulfill both their own an!d their child’s needs.Parents who work alter several traditional methods of parenting. The aspects of parenting whichare most affected are quality, quantity and content. When considering content, a major point is thepreparation of the child for a society in which those children will be adults. Currently, a child has a50% chance of becoming divorced, and in the case of a female, a 50% chance of becoming a single mother aswell as the probability of becoming a member of a dual wage earning family.
(Shreve 61) Working parentsare in a good position to prepare their children for that type of lifestyle. Healthy family dynamicsincluding team work, sharing, and responsibility, are more easily adopted when they are already familiar.As far as quality of parenting, it has been observed that women who are highly satisfied with their roleswhether they work or not, display higher levels of warmth and acceptance than do dissatisfied mothers andthese positive feelings are reflected in their !relationships with their siblings. (Lerner and Galambous 44) Finally, when considering quantity of timespent on parenting when both parents work, it has been concluded by Hoffman in 1974 that there is noconsistent evidence of deprivation felt by children of employed mother’s. In fact, mothers who werebetter educated and employed outside the home spent more time with their children even at the expense oftheir own leisure and sleep time. (Hoffman 76) Hoffman also proposes that the time spent on employmentsimply substitutes for time previously spent on needless or less important household tasks which can beperformed by others or not at all. Researchers question the validity of measuring the number of hours amother spends with her children.
Hoffman found that while working mothers spent less time with theirchildren , the time spent with them was more likely to be in direct contact with them. Mothers who areat home full time spend only 5% of their time in direct in!teraction with their children. (Hoffman 75) Employed mothers spend about the same time reading to,playing with and otherwise paying attention to their children as do mothers who stay at home. (Hoffman76)Because society has changed, the family’s function within society has changed as well.
Parentalroles have been modified to meet these changes. Today, the family’s most important task is to provideemotional security in a vast and impersonal world. Working parents often possess the skills necessaryfor responding adequately and creatively to the increased stress placed on children to succeed in such anenvironment.
Parents who work must, out of necessity, be adept at providing fresh, innovative andeffective modes of parenting even when time with the child is limited. The debate as to whether or notboth parents should work or not is really not significant anymore. Both parents are working and willcontinue to do so and children are not being raised today in the same way as they were in the past. Thenext generation of parents will be more confident than their predecessors and they and their childrenwill probably never experience the dichotomous feelings that t!oday’s parents have about the dual income family and it’s effects on child rearing.
Working outside thehome and being a good parent at the same time is possible and in both of these tasks there is much tovalue and treasure.