Career Vs Family Essay

In this modern age, it is normal to find families that have two careers.  Careers are important to a family because these serve as the main source of financial support for the maintenance of a household.  Salaries earned from working provide for the payment of bills, as well as provide support for the basic needs for food, shelter and clothing.  There are two possible family settings in terms of careers in the family: a two-career family, wherein both parents are working, and a one-career family which has only one parent working, either the father or the mother.  These two settings have similarities and differences, depending on what angle is considered.

            Two-family and one-family careers are both capable of supporting a household because both settings have at least one working parent that is earning.  Both family settings also have a sense of identity, based on the career(s) of the working parent(s).  Children of both family settings generally look up to the status of their working parent(s), making him/them role model(s) to which they can follow as they are growing up.  Both families also give importance to spending time with the entire family, knowing that quality time with the children is not enough now in this modern age, but that quantity is also of equal importance.

            On the other hand, there are also differences between a two-career and a one-career family.  Two-career families generally have a higher total household income than a one-career family, mainly due to the number of people earning for the household.  This results in a greater capacity for two-career families to afford extra perks in life, such as computers, extra vehicle, grand vacations, etc.  The one-career family’s earnings are prioritized to cover the basic needs of the household, and if there are any extra money left after paying for the basic needs of the household, only then can they splurge on other things.

On the other hand, two-career families generally have less time to spend with their children, because both are working during the day, and they come home tired and weary and have little energy left to tend to their growing children.  Some children from two-career families tend to spend time with friends because their parents are not at home to keep them company, and sadly, this may be a root cause for acquiring bad habits such as smoking and drugs.  Unfortunately, there are also some parents who unconsciously bring home the stress of the workplace, which affects their interactions with their children.

One-career families usually have the mother staying at home, and this is very beneficial to the children because they will always have someone to can go to once they reach home after school.  Homemakers have unlimited time to help their children with their homework and studies and other after-school activities, and it is also beneficial to the entire household if there is someone based in the house who is ready to provide food to members of the household who come home and are very hungry and tired.  However, there is also an unwritten hierarchy in a one-career family, and that is—the working parent is known as the breadwinner or the head of the household, and the other parent who stays at home is not considered to be of authority because he/she is not earning any money.

In this setting, the working parent appears to be the dominant person in the family, and he/she shows self-esteem over the non-working parent (Burke and Weir, 1976).  It is sad to know that some families have such structure, because it is actually also a full-time job to maintain a home, even harder to do than to work in an office.  In two-career families, both parents are regarded with equal authority and dominance, because both parents are earning for the family.  At the same time, both parents have self-esteem and regard themselves as achievers, as well as good providers.

            Two-career and one-career family settings have both advantages and disadvantages.  The choice of career setting is based on each family’s needs and conditions.  If both parents feel that the family will have harmony if both are working, then they maintain such setting.  Or if the children are old enough and need not much supervision, a two-career setting is feasible.  However, if there is a child who is always sick or is disabled, a one-career family will be advantageous to this particular setting, so that the child can be well taken care of.  It is important to know that the number of careers in a family is generally a result of the family’s current needs and situation.


Burke RJ and Weir T (1976):  Some personality differences between members of one-career and two-career families.  J. Marriage Fam.  38(3):453-459.

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Traditionally, a woman will give up some or all of her career when she is ready to start a family. It is still generally expected for the woman to take on the lion�s share of the housework and the rearing of children. Of course, there are exceptions and men become househusbands, but overall it is still seen as the woman�s role. However, many women now also have high flying careers, which they have worked very hard for, and do not feel comfortable having to give that up, even in part. Is it really necessary to choose between career and family or can both co-exist? If they can co-exist, then how do you manage the two? And if it has to be one or the other, how do you make that decision?

Is it Possible to Have a Career and a Family?

This day and age, there can be two reasons for both parents, or in a single parent household the only parent, having a career. The first reason is by choice, the second is by necessity. Either way choosing to work when having a family does not, in any way, make you a bad parent. It is unfortunate that having a career when having a child means that the amount of time you spend with your child is significantly reduced, but what truly matters is the quality of the time you spend with your child when you are with them, as well as the quality of the childcare you arrange whilst you are at work. There is a wealth of options available for working parents, such as nurseries, playgroups, child minders or friends and family.

Try, as much as you can, to find childcare arrangements where your own values and morals are respected an instilled on the child as well of course. Although perhaps not ideal, as you will have less time to spend with your child, it is clearly possible to have both a career and a family life. The focus should always be on quality, not quantity � spending a little time with your child but that time being meaningful is better than spending a lot of child with your child but not having an impact on their lives.

How to Choose Between Career and Family

You may be the type of person that feels a career and a family do not mix and that at least one parent should be at home with the children. For this, you should be applauded, of course. Two main decisions need to be made first, being firstly the decision between what is more important to you � having a career or having a family. If you choose having a family, you will need to decide which one of the two parties will need to give up their career.

The first decision then, is whether you want a family or a career. It can be very hard to weigh these issues up against each other, as both can seem so important. Ask yourself whether it is possible to put either on hold � could you wait for a few more years before having a family? Could your career start again in a few years? It is not so much a case of putting off the decision then, but it could potentially allow you to have the best of both worlds. However, it is important to remember that if you postpone having a family, you may find yourself in the exact same situation several years later, when your career has advanced even further and you may find it even harder to give it up. Of course, from a biological perspective, waiting to have children cannot go on forever either.

Next, ask yourself why you want a career and why you want children? Do you want a career because you have something to prove, or is it something you truly enjoy and couldn�t do without? Do you want children because your biological clock is ticking, or do you feel your life will not be complete without a child to love and cherish?

Weigh up all these issues and try to determine what is the most important to you and when, this can go a long way towards helping you make up your mind.

Once you have made a decision to have a family and to have one parent stay at home, the time will come to decide which one of you needs to give up their career. It would be very easy to say that the highest earner will continue to work, for financial reasons of course. However, this is not always the best solution. It is important to determine which one of the two enjoys their career the most and which one feels most committed to furthering their career. Another aspect to consider, potentially, is which career is most likely to develop further.

It is also important what your views and values on child rearing are � perhaps you feel it is the woman�s role to stay home with the family, in which case the decision is also made. However, in this day and age, it is just as possible � although still not common � for the man to become a househusband and stay home with the children.

Whichever one of you decides to be the stay at home parent, it is important to have some strong decisions about expectations in relation to the child rearing, just as you would with a different child carer. You need to ensure that you both agree wherever possible on how the child is being raised, even if you are the one continuing their career. And you also need to make sure that the decision of who continues with their career has been taken soundly. This means that you cannot at a later stage resent that party for continuing on with their career whilst you had to stay at home.

Another solution, if possible, is for parents to "take turns", whereby one party works for a few years and the other party works for another few years. Many companies will now allow you to take a career break, meaning you will be able to return on the working ladder even if you have been out of it for several years.

How to choose between career and family is very difficult and it depends on a lot of factors. It is by no means impossible to have both a career and a family anymore, although you do need to have a balance between the two: if both parties work 70 hours a week, there will be no time left to look after the children. Of course, there is a strong argument to saying that if you choose to have children, you choose to take on that responsibility and in effect forfeit your rights to a career.

However, this is not always possible and certainly not necessary if you ensure that the time you do have with your child or children is quality time and by making sure that you have the best possible childcare available, that follows on your own feelings and beliefs about child rearing. If you do feel the decision needs to be exclusive: either a family, or a career � make sure you make a fully informed decision and that you stand by this. Giving one of the two up needs to be a very conscious choice.

Margrit Bradley

Margrit Bradley is a licensed cosmetologist and hairdresser. With more than twelve years experience, Ms. Bradley furthers her education by attending classes, workshops, and beauty shows. She also loves to read and explore new information and write on interesting topics. 

View all articles by Margrit Bradley

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