Working Mom 3.0: Co-parent for work-life balance

May 10, 2011 at 9:15 a.m. ET

Working Mom 3.0 chronicles the journey women are taking to reinvent what it means to be a “working mom.” In this installment, we take a cue from co-parenting experts and discuss the importance of identifying your shared goals as parents for the long term. You may just find that your satisfaction with your work, home and marriage improves.

About Working Mom 3.0

Mom and dad and newborn

A recent survey reveals that 25 percent of working moms in America spend two hours or fewer with their children each work day, a figure that is up from 17 percent in the past year alone. Working moms are no strangers to the stress, guilt and exhaustion that comes with trying to "have it all," but what's the solution to a better work-life balance? Countries like Sweden seem to have found a better way: Redefine the role of working dads.

Parental leave

In 1974, Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave. Over time, the idea has expanded, resulting in a cultural shift as to what defines masculinity in Sweden. In America, dads lucky enough to have paternity leave at all generally have little time off from work, leaving Mom to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to raising a newborn baby. By contrast, Swedish working dads are expected to be just as involved in raising the new baby as working moms. In 1995, the country even implemented the loss of one month of subsidies for dads who did not take their leave.

Shared parenting

According to the New York Times, a growing number of couples with university degrees in Sweden have chosen to split the paternal leave evenly. The objective is that neither parent spends an unequal amount of time child-rearing, or misses too much time at work, which can lead to missed career opportunities and stalled growth. Perhaps most interesting is that since shared parenting and leaves became a norm of the culture in 1995, divorce and separation rates in Sweden have dropped. By contrast, divorce rates in almost all other parts of the world, where shared parenting is not the norm, have risen since then. The data suggets that when one parent is not left to shoulder the burden of either work or child-rearing, both are more personally satisfied and fulfilled with the balanced arrangement.

Long-term goals

Sweden's policies are a valuable lesson in co-parenting tactics (which are not reserved for separated or divorced parents) that can be implemented at home, provided that both spouses are willing to make some adjustments. Co-parenting experts suggest that parents ask themselves these questions:

  • What do you want your child to be like in 18 years?
  • What did you like about the way your parents raised you?
  • What role do you want to play in the life of your child?

Your answers to these simple questions can serve as a reminder of parents' shared visions for family and the importance of working toward those goals. If your current lifestyle doesn't contribute to making these long-term goals a reality, identify potential opportunities to "course-correct" and adjust the parts of your arrangement that aren't positively contributing to the big picture.

About Working Mom 3.0

The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one.

Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.

This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.

More from Working Mom 3.0

Lead by example
No sick days for self-employed moms
Is it time for a new career?