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Striking a Balance: Parenting, Working and Loving

by Nikitta A. Foston

Parenting. AT 4:45 a.m., Anthony Brown, a 39-year-old computer specialist for the United States government, gets up, exercises for an hour, then wakes his 7-year-old daughter Eboni to prepare her for school. By this time, his wife, Linda Brown, a deputy program manager for the government, has already departed for work and has prepared Eboni’s clothes and hair for the day.

By following a structured routine in the mornings and evenings, the Browns are able to fulfill the many roles that they will play during the course of their day. Between breakfast time and dinnertime, the Washington, D.C., couple are full-time workers, full-time parents, as well as husband and wife–each role demanding priority on their demanding schedules. So how does this dual-career couple manage the needs of the family, perform well at work and still find time for each other?

“The communication is what keeps it going,” says Anthony. “It’s not about `you need to do this’ or `you need to do that,’ It’s about working together. We have a calendar where we write things down, and if there is a conflict, we sit down and talk about it,” adds Brown, who credits the marriage courses offered by his church for helping him prioritize his life. “The older men in my home Bible study class instilled in me the importance of maintaining my marriage and my family. They created a sense of conviction that `this is what a man does.’ I learned that men are responsible for cultivating love in the household because this is what women need. Men, on the other hand, crave respect, and this is what a wife should give.”

Linda, who divides her job responsibilities between two locations, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Dahlgren, Va., says that implementing written schedules has been extremely helpful in keeping their family on course. “My husband and I instituted a system,” she says. “He has mornings and I have evenings. I pick Eboni up from school, we go over homework, and I prepare dinner. When my husband gets home, we have dinner as a family without the television. Anthony reads Eboni a bedtime story, helps her say her prayers and puts her to bed.”

Although the Browns are maintaining a system that works for them, they admit that it isn’t always easy. “As the mother, I sometimes feel like I should be spending more time with my daughter. I feel guilty when I can’t take off for everything, so I have to prioritize as best I can. I wish I could do more,” says Linda, who is also heavily involved in her church.

As the leader of the youth choir and youth council, Linda is responsible for 50 to 60 children, including her own. Anthony, a cub scout leader for the past 12 years and regular Bible study member, must also balance between his home responsibilities and outside activities. “It’s hard,” he says. “On some days, it can be very hard. But each day, we must decide what’s most important. It’s a matter of weighing things.”

Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, author of Restoring the Village: Solutions for the Black Family, says, “On average, fathers are only spending seven minutes per week with their children and mothers are only spending 34 minutes.” With alarming statistics like these, Kunjufu advocates the importance of making a place for quality time for the family. “Research has shown that kids often complain that their parents talk `at them’ and not `to them,'” he adds. “Parents need to be near their children. Turn off the television and listen to what they have to say.”

Listening to their daughter Eboni, and listening to each other, the Browns say, helped them to create a better balance between their responsibilities. “At one time, I felt like I was doing more than my wife,” admits Anthony, who says his wife has always been active in church, community activities and social organizations that demanded her time. “But we talked about it, about what I needed, about what she needed, and we were able to develop a system that works for us.”

Linda, a longtime champion of youth issues, says that she doesn’t try to overextend herself anymore. Before taking on any new projects at church or at work, she considers the effect it will have on her home life. “Regardless of the offer, whether work or church, and no matter how positive it may be, I have to ask myself, `What impact does this have on my family?’ An offer may be prestigious, but it may not be best for the family.”

In the Brown household, putting what’s best for the family means taking advantage of “family night,” Friday evenings when the family does something together. “Whatever we do on a Friday evening, we do it as a family. We used to play board games, now we’ve moved up to age-specific card games and activities,” says Anthony. “Sometimes we’ll invite another couple over with a child Eboni’s age. That way, the parents are able to socialize while the children play.”

Although the pressures of parenting, working and outside activities are constant, with love and communication, the Browns are making it work. Dr. Kunjufu says, “There is no greater gift that parents can give to their children than to love each other.”

COPYRIGHT 2003 Johnson Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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