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Negotiating the Second Shift - Women's Parenting
By: Michele Dortch
The University of Michigan's Institute for Research on Women and Gender recently released a study that revealed working women will volunteer to work a "second shift" as primary parent that's equal to the time spent by full-time stay-at-home moms. In videotaped negotiations with their husbands, these working moms agreed to spend nearly three times more hours per week on child care than their husbands, in addition to working outside the home. As a result, working moms are prone to more stress and role conflict compared to their husbands.


While this study didn't come as a huge surprise, I did find validation in what I've felt since first becoming a working mom - my job doesn't end when I check out of the office. My second shift as Chief Mom kicks in within minutes of me shutting down my computer each day.
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Here's how I manage the stress of the second shift and figured out how to negotiate a workable second shift with my husband:


#1 Be clear about what you want.
Part of my problem was in articulating what I really wanted. I complained to my husband, and whoever else would listen, about feeling tired, stressed out and frustrated, yet I rarely communicated what I wanted. After some thought, I realized I didn't know precisely what I wanted, so I took some time to imagine my ideal day to gain some clarity. Here are some questions I asked myself:
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In my ideal work+life situation...


-- Where am I?
-- What kind of work am I doing?
-- Where do I receive support?
-- How much time do I have for me, family, career and other roles in my life and what am I doing during these times?


Next, I compared this ideal to my current situation and, for the first time, I was able to clearly see what I want most from my work+life.


#2 Listen with an open mind and a closed mouth.
We often listen with the intent to respond, which makes it difficult for us to truly hear what is being said because we're too consumed by what we'll say back!


I'm pretty good at listening when it comes to my work. As a coach and writer, I'm paid to listen to what my clients' needs are and to hear subtle "callings" that will help move them forward. Yet these necessary skills are sometimes forgotten when it comes to my husband and kids, and this thoughtlessness warms the flames of misunderstanding and resentment.


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