Working full time while being a parent to two children is one of the most challenging positions to be in. According to Barrow (2006), most working parents spend just 19 minutes a day looking after their children. The situation is more intense for working mothers than fathers, as record numbers of women are working full time while also contending with mortgages, household bills, and rising cost of petrol and other expenses.
Mothers like me who have husbands that can watch the children are the lucky ones. Yet it remains a struggle. Although my husband does pick up the kids from school and watches them while I am at work, he still ascribes to traditional gender roles and norms that make my job tougher. In addition to working full time, I also perform the household domestic chores: a form of unpaid labor that must be factored into my daily energy expenditures. At times my stress level runs high, but after being married for 29 years I have grown mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
The learning experiences that derive from a long marriage can be assessed and objectively measured in terms of behavioral and attitudinal changes. In addition to maintaining a strong working relationship with my husband, my career contributes specific and measurable learning outcomes. Specific learning outcomes related to parenting are included in the equation, yielding a plethora of opportunities, goals, and learning outcomes.
In this report, I will demonstrate the specific learning outcomes of being a working parent. First, I will address the core concepts related to the learning inputs, which include parenthood, marriage, career, and the balancing of all three of those. Second, I will address each learning outcome in turn, with regards to knowledge, skills, and experience. Finally, I will discuss the ultimate goals of learning and how learning outcomes can be applied locally (at home and in my personal life) as well as globally (at work and in my career). It is hypothesized that a thorough assessment of specific learning outcomes will yield measurable improvements in communication skills, financial management skills, parenting skills, problem-solving skills, and the skills with which to deal with stress.
I have two children: a daughter Erin Megan Hodgson born February 7, 1996 and a son Wylie Austin Hodgson born April 5, 1999. Both children are healthy and doing well in school, but I do not spend as much time as I would like with either of them because I work full time.
I have been married to the same man for twenty-nine years. We have been through many ups and downs, and continue to move forward due to our mutual commitment to each other and to our children.
Since 1990, I have worked for the Wal*Mart corporation and am now a Market Manager. A Market Manager is a position akin to a district manager with Wal*Mart. Market Managers are in charge of several different stores in their target market area, which is based on geography but also on other factors such as consumer demographics. Therefore, I manage a diverse team of individuals in the role of supervisor.
Balancing Parenthood, Marriage, and Career
Because we are a one-income family, my career currently consumes most of my time and energy. I am the sole breadwinner in the family, which depends on my income for paying all household expenses. I am also in charge of managing those expenses and maintaining a reasonable family budget. My husband is not working outside the home, but he contributes to the household by watching the children, taking them to appointments, and taking them to and from school. Because my husband ascribes to traditional gender norms, he does not cook or clean and instead delegates those chores to me.
Therefore, I work full time and when I come home I perform domestic chores that amount to what can be considered a second job. Once domestic chores are completed, I have little time to spend with my children. The lack of time spent with my children is troubling to all of us, which is one of the reasons why being a working parent is a challenging experience with specific and measurable learning outcomes. Balancing parenthood, marriage, and career yields knowledge, skills, and attitudes in several core areas including communication, problem solving, stress management, financial wisdom, and parenting itself.
Although not as measurable as skills, knowledge is one of the most important areas of experiential knowledge (American Association of Law Libraries 2011; "Learning Outcomes" n.d.). Knowledge gained through the experience of being a working parent addresses the core learning outcomes of communication skills, problem solving skills, stress management and coping skills, financial management skills, and parenting skills. I now know that communication is the cornerstone to a strong marriage, and that it is important to listen as well as to assertively express feelings such as anger. I also know that communicating with my children is different from communicating with my husband or colleagues. My children model their behavior after their adult mentors like me, and therefore, I know that I am responsible for being a strong role model to them. The methods by which I discipline my children can also be classified as a type of specific knowledge-based learning outcome. I also now possess the knowledge to manage household finances, especially as I apply my increased responsibilities in the workplace to my increased responsibilities at home. The tools with which I manage stress also comprise a core part of my knowledge-based learning outcomes.
Skills can be measured objectively. The skills I obtain from being a working parent derive from the act of juggling motherhood, marriage, and career. Specific and measurable skills include the following.
1. Scheduling and Prioritizing.
One of the most important measurable learning outcomes has been how to manage time. I must clean the house and perform ancillary chores including laundering and ironing clothes within a strictly controlled time frame. I am now able to fit in all cleaning chores into a two hour per week total time slot, allotting specific chores to specific days of the week. Similarly, I must prioritize my time on a daily basis and I now possess the skills by which to prepare meals for my family including lunches for the children within no more than one and a half hours per day on work days. On the weekends, I schedule pre-established periods of time with the children and with my husband.
My career places me in a position of leadership, from where I have derived a large portion of my communication skills. One of the ways my career has enhanced my family life is by improving my skills in task delegation. As my children grow old enough to assume responsibility, I am delegating specific chores to each of them. While delegating tasks to my husband has failed in terms of domestic labor, my husband does understand that his role in caring for the children is not negotiable.
3. Financial Management
My family has whittled away its debt to a manageable figure, down 30% from what it was this time last year. Therefore, I can measure objectively the newfound skills I have in successful financial management. I now design and regularly maintain a household budget and do not stray from that budget, which includes expenditures for necessities like food and pleasures like family outings.
4. Communication: Listening
One of the measurable communication skills resulting being a working parent is listening. For two weeks I kept track of how many times I interrupted my husband or my children, and found that I did so on a daily basis. Total number of interruptions was fifteen per week. Within three weeks, I reduced the total number of interruptions to eight per week.
5. Communication: Anger Management
I also measured angry outbursts including raising my voice to the children or my husband. Over the course of three weeks, I have reduced the total number of angry outbursts to only one per week.
6. Stress Management
Balancing career and family creates stress that, when managed properly, can yield specific and measurable learning outcomes. One of those learning outcomes is stress reduction measured by lower blood pressure, weight maintenance, and healthy eating. Over the course of three weeks, my blood pressure has gone down and is maintained within what my doctor describes as a normal level. With regards to eating, my total intake of sugar has gone down from ten servings per day to only three. Caloric intake has also gone down a total of one thousand calories per week less, because I am now able to manage my stress without eating too much. I joined a gym, and attend a class at the gym at least once per week.
7. Problem Solving
By keeping a journal, I have tabulated instances in which conflicts arose and which offered me the opportunity to apply problem-solving skills to both my professional and personal life. Last week, for example, ten problems arose…