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U employee Stephanie Bettermann straps her daughter into her car seat.

University employee Stephanie Bettermann relies on a support network made up of good friends to balance work and home life with a toddler.

Work, family, sleep

Juggling demands of jobs and home life

By Anita Rios

From Brief, September 29, 2004

"Too much to do, too little time, not enough money, usually not enough sleep."

That's how Teresa Neby-Lind describes managing the demands of work and family.

It's a familiar mantra across the nation. On average, U.S. employees are working longer hours than ever, and 85 percent have day-to-day family responsibilities caring for children, a spouse or partner, or an aging parent or family member.

U.S. work life statistics

> On average, people are working longer hours--an average of 47.1 hours per week.
> 78 percent of married couples are now dual-career.
> Spouses and partners spend 6.2 hours per workday caring for children.
> 35 percent of the workforce provides care for a relative or in-law age 65 or older.
> Fathers have increased the time they spend on work days doing household chores to 42 minutes.
> Parents spend less time on themselves--dads, 1.3 hours per workday; moms, .9 hours per work day.

Source: Families and Work Institute, 2003

Most employees today don't have a spouse or partner who stays at home to manage the household and care for children or aging relatives. No wonder the U.S. Senate passed a resolution last year to make reducing conflict between work and family life a national priority. As a result, October has been declared National Work and Family Month.

University of Minnesota employees are using many strategies to manage their work and family demands. Neby-Lind, a principal administrative specialist in the Graduate School, is able to work a flexible schedule--38 hours a week during busy times and 32 hours a week when her job is not as busy. She also relies on supportive, newly retired in-laws, who help a lot with their grandchildren. Her spouse has much of the summer off, which cuts down on child care costs.

Not everyone can rely on family support. Stephanie Bettermann, a program associate in the Office of International Programs, has no family support in Minnesota.

"Working full time, being a single mother to a toddler, and taking care of a house leaves my life very busy," says Betterman. "It's a difficult task to get everything I want accomplished and not feel guilty about down time or personal time that I take for my own sanity."

To combat stress, Bettermann makes sure to use her vacation time. She also maintains strong friendships to create a support network.

Looking for ways to effectively manage work and family demands?

The Twin Cities, Duluth, and Morris campuses will host many programs and events this month. Topics include
--flexible work arrangements
--supervising from a distance
--parenting teens
--adoptive parenting
--choosing childcare
--elder care: financial and legal issues
--same-sex marriage

For more information, see /worklife.

One workshop is "Juggling on a Tightrope: the Work/Life Balancing Act." Register now at the Web site above.

All work/life workshops are free to University faculty and staff. Bring a bag lunch. Beverages are provided.

Learning to set boundaries or say no, both on and off the job, can help to alleviate the stress that many feel in managing work and home life. That's something Alison Alvear, a physician assistant at the University Health Care Center, has learned. Sometimes this strategy can be a work in progress.

"As a health care provider, my patient schedules are often messed up," Alvear says. "I am asked to come in when not scheduled or work longer hours than planned. It's stressful for my family and personal life."

Sometimes, acceptance of those things you can and can't control can be helpful.

"Accepting I'm making the best decision I can for now under the circumstances, and that the same decision on another day might be different" can make all the difference, says Julie Sweitzer, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. "I tend to keep home and work fairly separate psychologically, although I do quite a bit of reading work at home."

Many resources are available to University employees seeking to manage the demands of work and family.

Alvear enjoyed a six-month maternity leave. Sweitzer was able to reduce her appointment for two years while her children were small. She also credits the University's good health insurance, dependent care reimbursement accounts, and flexible work arrangements with helping her balance work and family.

Bettermann attributed new work/life workshops at the U to helping her maintain a healthy work, family, and personal life.

Anita Rios is the coordinator of the Work/Life Initiative in the Office of Human Resources.

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