ThirdPath
Charlice Hurst

Families feel pressure to choose between two options

Too often families feel there is an either-or choice that just doesn’t work all the time
They feel they either need to have one parent take primary responsibility for child care while the other takes primary responsibility for earning an income, or they need to hire someone else to provide full time care while they both work “9 to 5” (or more) during the work week.

There is another option
An increasing number of families have figured out how to combine parental care with a flexible work arrangement that allows both parents to maintain fulfilling work and careers while also staying involved at home. We call this Shared Care. When parents “share care” they learn how to redesign work so they both can be actively involved in the care of their children and share in the financial needs of their families.  Some Shared Care parents flex at the same time, some take turns over the school year, others flex one way for the first child and then switch roles for the second child. Whether two-parent households, single-parent households, or households where parents live apart, Shared Care families work while continuing to create time for the important and rewarding job of caring for family.

ThirdPath can help show you how to use the power and strength of Shared Care
We help parents:
~ Learn how to change the way they work by flexing when, where and how much work they do
~ Create a partnership to effectively meet both family and work obligations
~ Make conscious and informed choices to meet the changing needs of family and their goals for both work and life

Let us help you create a work family solution that feels just right for you! 
~ Listen to to our call with Shared Care parents describing how this solution has been good for their relationship to each other.
~ Print our FAQ about Shared Care, or click one of the below tabs to learn more. 
~ Want to get started today? Take a look at the many resources we have to help you discover a solution that is just right for you. 

Questions About Shared Care

Q: Where to begin?
A great variety of options exist around how to care well for children – and the more intentional you become about your choices, the more satisfied you will be with the results. Begin your journey by considering the following questions:

  • Who do you want to care for your children? How attractive is it to have both parents share in their care?
  • What are your children’s needs now? How will these needs change over time?
  • What is the right balance of work & family time for you personally? What is the right balance for your partner?

When parents – including single parents – learn how to redesign work so they have time and energy for family, they learn skills they can use throughout their lives. Download our PDF A life committed to Shared Care to see how a Shared Care mind-set can bring benefits for a  lifetime.  Or take a look at the many resources we have for parents who want to create an integrated approach to work and family.

Q: Are fathers interested in Shared Care?
Survey after survey shows that fathers want to spend more time with their children. Sadly, the pressures fathers feel to work and support their families push many to deny this desire. Some worry they don’t have the special touch mothers have for caring for children, but the pioneering Shared Care dads we have interviewed find they do have that special touch simply by spending regular one-on-one time with their children. Fathers using Shared Care have also been surprised to learn that sharing the responsibilities of earning an income and caring for family enhanced their relationships with their partners. Sharing the financial responsibilities of a family also allows both parents to understand the demands and joys of working and parenting and to have a deeper understanding of each other’s lives. Are you a dad who would like to learn more about Shared Care? Check out our special resources for fathers.
Q: Do Shared Care parents use child care?
Yes. High quality part time childcare can be a valuable resource for Shared Care parents. However, Shared Care parents also look for ways to have dad, mom and extended family – people who have a life time investment in their child’s well-being – play an active role in the care of their child. This is particularly true when children are young. Some Shared Care parents of infants and toddlers use part-time childcare while others choose not to. As children grow older and become increasingly interested in spending time with other children, most Shared Care parents incorporate pre-school or part time child care. Once children enter school, parents shift their care arrangements once again to provide a combination of formal, informal or parental care before and after school.
Q: Do parents need to work part-time to Share Care?
Young children need constant adult supervision and parents of infants often miss out on a regular night’s sleep. As a result, we do recommend — when possible — for parents with infants and toddlers to cut back on their work hours. Some parents of young children continue to work full time and share primary care of their children but this can be particularly exhausting. However, as children grow older they become increasingly social and in less need of constant parental supervision. This means that Shared Care families with pre-school or school-aged children are likely to return to full time work and only need to flex their work hours to Share Care before and after school.
Q: Does Shared Care relegate employees to the ‘parent track’ ?
Many women and men do have fears around making changes at work. Both mothers and fathers worry they may be risking their careers if they refuse to work overtime, ask to use flex-time, or request a schedule that is less than absolutely full time. However, we have found that when parents overcome these fears and ask for changes, many have found innovative and efficient ways to complete their work, and some have even been promoted or rewarded for the quality of their work, instead of quantity of their work. In the few cases when parents have had to leave an employer unwilling to implement flexible schedules in order to allow workers to attend to family needs, their leaving often became the needed catalyst to jump-start a new career or a business that had always dreamed of.

To learn more, read about our growing group of Whole Life Leaders – leaders who integrate work and family needs.  Or print our PDF about Whole Life Leaders and see how these pioneers our reshaping both work and family.

Q: Who does Shared Care benefit most?
Shared Care is as good for parents as it is for the children they care for. Shared Care parents have deep, ongoing relationships with their children and with their partners. Shared Care lets parents have plenty of time and energy to play with, teach, nurture, and guide their children. In fact, Shared Care allows parents not only to lead balanced lives and to partner fully with their spouses or other adults, but also to live a life that expresses multiple aspects of themselves: involved parent, worker, spouse, romantic partner. Download our PDF A life committed to Shared Care to see how these pioneering parents are creating solutions that have benefits even after their children are grown.

The Changing Needs of Children

Thinking pro-actively about different work/family options means recognizing the solution you put in place will change as your children grow older.  The work we’ve done with families has helped us see they transition through three unique stages:

Q: What should I expect during the New Family Stage?
The New Family Stage – youngest child is 0 to 2 years old. This is the shortest and most physically demanding period of parenting. For some parents, it also feels like it creates the most conflict between the competing needs of work and family.

Children between the ages of 0-2 require a tremendous amount of attention. Children’s brains are rapidly developing at this stage, and studies show connection, caring, and tenderness can lead to profound and positive outcomes later on. Given plenty of time to explore, experiment, make mistakes and try again, while being championed by relaxed, delighted, attentive adults, children thrive. Caring for an infant can also be a gift for work-focused adults. Playing with or paying attention to a baby can provide relief from a tense job and also be a reminder that some of the best things in life are free. Infants need and benefit from excellent care. Parents can blossom when deeply engaged with their babies. Many Shared Care parents rely on good quality part time child care, but they also recognize that parents (and extended family) can be the most enthusiastic care givers – especially when parents get a break from the job.

Q: How will things change once my children are all in school?
The Young School Age Stage – youngest child is 3 to 12 years old. When children reach three, four and five years of age, most enter preschool or school. Once this change occurs, parents’ childcare arrangements dramatically shift to only needing to provide care before and after school, as well as care over the summer.

Over time children become increasingly independent and require less immediate supervision and care from their parents. Nevertheless, despite their markedly growing independence and increasing focus on peers, children in this age range still benefit from significant amounts of parental time. This stage provides an excellent opportunity to develop solutions that can positively influences the remainder of the years in which you provide care for your children. Parents can help children make and keep friends, arrange play dates with children whose parents they trust, and encourage children to begin helping out with household chores and responsibilities. As time progresses, parents increasingly have less influence over these same choices. The building blocks parents put in place early can create a great framework for years to come.

Time after school provides a great opportunity for unstructured play and a chance to increase your network of care. During this undirected but still supervised time, children can play creatively with siblings or friends. In fact, your school aged children may have friends whose parents will be interested in exchanging child care in the afternoons. From your child’s perspective, they get to spend more time with friends. And trading child-care duties with a circle of friends, neighbors, or relatives can provide long-term benefits for you as well. Having a network of adults close to your child that you can rely on creates a valuable resource for the support every family needs as they balance the responsibilities of work and family.

Q: What should I consider as children become teens?
The Teen Years – oldest child becomes 13 years or older. Suddenly children become “too old” for child care and once again the type of help children need – dealing with peer pressure, dating and expectations around school success – can become time intensive. For many parents this shift signals another important time for parents to be present, even if only quietly in the background.

During this stage teens have become “too old” for after-school care, yet many parents are also uncomfortable leaving children unsupervised at home. Creating a schedule where parents share being home after school also means teenagers return home to a supervised environment rather than to an empty house. Even though some young people are mature enough to self-supervise, peer pressure can be a powerful force. Leaving teens unsupervised after school can leave a young person vulnerable to getting involved in upsetting or even dangerous situations and outcomes.

Being available “as needed.” Most importantly, if you and your partner have developed a schedule where one of you is home when your teenager returns from school, you have increased the opportunity for your child to ask important questions or initiate a significant discussion in the moments when it feels right for them. Yes, these conversations can occur in the evenings and over the weekends. However, the more you make yourself available to your teen, the more he or she will feel your interest, and the more the opportunities for closeness and communication will increase.

 

Childhood is a nonrenewable and finite phase of life. How would you like to make the most of the time you have with your children?  Take a look at the many resources we have to offer as you design the next stage in your work family solution.

Prioritizing Time and Money

One of the barriers we hear discussed is that parents feel they cannot afford to make more time for family. Others may fear that adopting a Shared Care solution may negatively impact their long-term earning potential. Yes, it may be true that we live in a world where people can gain significant rewards for giving all of their time and energy to work. But as one father summed it up, “There may be an economic tradeoff for taking this different route, but it is a tradeoff well worth taking.” There are also some financial benefits for Shared Care families as well.

Q: How does Shared Care build long term financial stability for families? (click for answer)
After interviewing hundreds of Shared Care parents, these families have taught us many important benefits around money and spending. First, Shared Care parents have shown us time is as valuable as money, and by keeping their expenses low, they have increased the amount of time available for their children and each other. We’ve also learned, if one Shared Care parent faces an unexpected job change, both parents are equipped to make the necessary adjustments – both at work and at home. And because both parents take responsibility for their family’s financial needs, one parent can help the other parent pro-actively change careers as they both reach for the work and family goals. In short, Shared Care parents can enjoy financial health while also prioritizing time for life – an approach that pays big dividends in the long run.
Q: What does this mean for your life? (click for answer)
More and more we are finding people who have made innovative decisions about time and money. What would your life look like if you were to consider earning or spending less to create more time? What choices have you made that tie you to your current, or even increased, income? There is tremendous pressure in our society to “climb” – at our jobs, in our social circles – how have you reacted to this pressure?

 

We know that every person has always done their very best, but with a little planning and outside the box thinking, even more options may be possible. Check out our many resources for parents interested in exploring this rewarding option. Let us help you take the next step towards making your goals come true.

Work Family Stories


Laila & Barry

Laila-Barry

When Casey was born, Laila and Barry wondered how they could both stay involved with work and still take great care of their family. Initially, the couple solved their work family dilemma by having Barry take on the role of the stay-at-home parent. In part this was because shortly before Casey’s birth, Barry had lost his job, so this seemed like the logical solution for the family.


Julian

Julian graduated from college in the early 1980’s. Given the state of the economy at that time, he found it difficult to find work in his chosen field. He was newly married, had a young step-daughter and a new baby on the way. As a result Julian took a job in building maintenance working double shifts to help make ends meet. Life was not easy but family had to come first.


Francisco

Like many men, Francisco and Luke had to fight against the internal and external pressures to focus primarily on paid work, and less on family. Adjusting to the role of being parents, including the joys of wanting to be actively involved in their daughter Elizabeth’s care, helped Francisco and Luke think outside the box as they developed their work family solution.

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Assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. Develop a growing community of individuals, leaders and organizations to influence wider change - both within organizations and at the public policy level. Support a new mind-set where everyone can follow a "third path" - an integrated approach to work and life.

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P.O. Box 9275, Philadelphia PA 19139
Phone: 215.747.8790
Email: time4life (at) thirdpath.org