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Pressured Dual-Income Couples Discover Skills to Head Off Power Struggles, Strengthen Marriages


A new study examines challenges on dual-income families and the impact work schedules are having on marriages. Marriage education offers unique tools, such as the PAIRS Powergram, to help couples negotiate power and decision-making based on the unique values and aspirations of each family.

By Todd McFliker

Does working off-hours hurt moms and dads’ family lives?  New research out of the University of Cincinnati shows the effects of parents’ working night shifts and rotating schedules have on their marriages.  While there has been plenty of research performed that looks into the effects of mothers going to work, little has examined the impact of either mom or dad clocking in for the night shift.  In “Passing in the Night: Examining Work Schedules, Gender and Marital Quality,” the school’s sociology professor David Maume, Ph.D. investigated the ever-growing challenges of dual-income families working outside normal business hours.

PAIRS Marriage Education
PAIRS Marriage Education

Dr. David Maume Examines Working Parents and Divorce

Dr. Maume and his team concluded that men who worked the late shift believed their schedule hurt their marriages.  Women generally felt the opposite, preferring a standard night shift over a rotating schedule.  With a fixed schedule, women can get more accomplished, allowing more time to interact with family members.

It wasn’t too long ago that the majority of mothers were not part of the workforce.  Keeping a happy and healthy home was demanding enough.  But by the close of the 20th century, the cost of living rose and social attitudes began to change.  Some moms had to contribute to the household income.  Whether it was a few weeks or several years after giving birth, women were earning paychecks with increasing frequency.  At the same time, these mothers have to balance out work with maintaining a healthy home.  In the new millennium, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 60% of married mothers are now in the work force.

If mom and dad both decide to work regular hours during the week, they’ll end up spending thousands on daycare.  The parents will also miss key developments in their children’s early stages of development.  Nowadays, employers are allowing the flexibility for mothers and fathers to balance their work schedules with their family lives.  Some schedules are arranged into three-day work weeks, and others around school hours.  Yet, women have an advantage when it comes to such elasticity, as paternity absences are usually considerably less amounts of time.

“Regardless of the hours, when both parents go to work, the dynamics of the family relationship changes.  Maybe dad will suddenly become the one choosing what everyone’ll be eating for dinner,” said Rachel Schindler, Operations Director at the PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.  “Skills such as the Powergram help couples decide who’s responsible for what. For many, stepping back to decide what’s my decision, your decision, our decision, and where we want our input considered helps head off power struggles before they begin.”

PAIRS Powergram Helps Families Avoid Power Struggles
PAIRS Marriage Education

Couples can use the Powergram decision-making worksheet

The Powergram was created to help couples deal with the challenges of building a modern family, where gender roles, economic pressures, responsibilities, and decision-making are often very different than traditional family models. The process can help couples work through everything from work schedules,  grocery shopping, taking out the garbage, helping kids with homework, spending money, and even the more intimate areas of marriage. Rather than creating power struggles, the Powergram allows couples to agree on what decisions will be discussed, which can be be made independently, and what requires agreement.

Often family members leave decision making, such as who will work the night-shift, up to fate. Planning decision-making will help the whole family work as a team.  As a team, everyone has the opportunity to gather information, provide input, and create an intentional approach based on the values and aspirations that are unique to your family.  While a planned approach to sorting through family decision-making takes time and energy, it’s a worthwhile exercise from which every family member can benefit.

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