Oct 14, 2020

Is It Possible to Balance Work, Family & Love?

Even before the pandemic reinvented our schedules to revolve around working and learning from home, U.S. adults and couples have wondered if they can achieve the ever-elusive thing called work-life balance, with many Americans continuing to feel like they are losing both at work and at home.

Jeff (Founder and Executive Director of Plywood People) and André (Physician Assistant, adjunct professor at Emory University and Advisor to Plywood people) Shinabarger are no strangers to the challenge of achieving and maintaining work-life balance while simultaneously raising a healthy family and sustaining their marriage. After years of co-hosting the Love or Work podcast and interviewing other couples about the precarious balancing act of love, work and family, the Shinabargers partnered with Barna Group to do a study on working couples in America.

Today’s article takes a look at data from this study—the full findings of which are featured in the Shinabarger’s new book, Love or Work: Is It possible to Change the World, Stay in Love, and Raise a Family—to see what U.S. adults and practicing Christians really think about staying in love amidst life’s numerous pressures.

Barna Access Plus

Strengthen your message, train your team and grow your church with cultural insights and practical resources, all in one place.

Nearly All U.S. Couples Believe It Is Possible to Have a Career, Raise a Healthy Family & Stay in Love
Recent Barna data collected on working couples in America show that the majority of American working couples (95%) believe they can maintain their individual careers and still come together to raise a healthy family, all while staying in love. While a slight difference is found when look specifically at faith segments, over nine in 10 practicing Christians (97%) and non-Christians (94%) agree this can be done.

Smaller shifts are found among those who agree with this statement when analyzing by gender (97% male vs. 93% female) and annual income (93% earn $75K or less; 96% earn $75K-$99K; 95% earn $100K or more), but, overall, Americans believe that they can have it all—work, love and family—and happily.

Three in 10 Couples Feel Encouraged by Their Partner to Pursue Their Work & Dreams
Indeed, while most American couples agree they can simultaneously work, raise a family and stay in love, the ways they go about it or even feel supported in their pursuit of this ideal vary from couple to couple.

Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults say they feel encouraged by their partner to pursue their work and dreams—a similar percentage (33%) of practicing Christians says the same. While over a quarter of all U.S. adults (27%) and practicing Christians (29%) says they have not had to alter their home life to pursue the work they love, another 26 percent of adults and 27 percent of practicing Christians said they’ve made sacrifices. Many say their spouse or partner has also made sacrifices for them (19% all adults vs. 25% practicing Christians).

While data show that men, especially men with children at home, are more likely to say their spouse has sacrificed their work or interests because of his work or passions (28% vs. 15% women)—perhaps also revealing that practicing Christians are more likely to lean into gender norms when it comes to providing for family and child-rearing—research also highlights that both partners, with and without children, are just as likely to feel encouraged by the other partner (30% men vs. 32% women), and both see themselves as having made sacrifices (26% vs. 25%).

Households of Faith

The rituals and relationships that turn a home into a sacred space

Just One-Quarter of Couples Says Good Communication Is Needed to Balance Family & Work
So what does it take to actually stay in love and have a career? Among couples who believe having a healthy family and career is possible, more than one in four (27%) says it requires good communication. Women are more likely than men to say this is key (30% vs. 24% men). Women also are more likely to believe it takes good work-life balance (10% vs. 6%), working hard as a team (11% vs. 4%) and compromise (7% vs. 3%). Men on the other hand, are more likely to say it requires love (12% vs. 5% women).

Among practicing Christians, the majority (26%) would says good communication is key to balancing work and a healthy family. Love (12%), work-life balance (9%), respect (6%) and understanding (6%) were also noted as important in maintain a career, raising a healthy family and staying in love.

“Throughout the research, we saw evidence of both a desire to work towards ‘having it all’ and a realization that balancing family and work can take a toll on relationships as well as individual health,” says Barna’s Senior VP of Research, Brooke Hempell. “Yet most couples say it’s worth it! The lesson from the research seems to be grounded in two themes: being encouraged by one’s partner to use the unique gifts and passions God has given them can make all the difference in satisfaction and motivation, and being willing to sacrifice for each other is often necessary to make it work. What an awesome picture of love we would give our children if these two factors were thriving in working couples.”

Perhaps it’s you or someone you serve who doesn’t feel supported by a partner in their work. Join the Love or Work Workshop on October 19, 2020, to learn how couples can tackle this difficult aspect of relationships and become more supportive and encouraging of each other. Hosted by Barna’s Senior VP of Research, Brooke Hempell, workshop speakers include Jeff and André Shinabarger—who will be sharing more findings from their new book, Love or Work—and special guests Tedashii and Danielle Anderson.

About the Research

The research for this study was conducted May 29-June 18, 2018, and includes surveys from 1,501 committed couples earning at least $40K annually, between the ages of 25-50, who work or volunteer outside the home at least 20 hours per week, and live in urban or suburban areas. Sample error is 2.3% at the 95% confidence interval.

Practicing Christians identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.

Feature image by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

© Barna Group, 2020.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

Barna Access Plus

Lead with Insight

Strengthen your message, train your team and grow your church with cultural insights and practical resources, all in one place.

Get Barna in your inbox

Subscribe to Barna’s free newsletters for the latest data and insights to navigate today’s most complex issues.