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Juggling Act

A Test for Testy Parents


The world of the working parent is a complex mosaic of different--even conflicting--roles, responsibilities and desires. With all of it comes lots of stress. How do you know when pieces of one life are getting too mixed up with pieces of the other, making you a candidate for mommy meltdown or daddy disintegration? Here are some questions that might give you a clue. One caveat: This is not a serious diagnostic tool; it's simply a common-sense pop quiz to help you decide if your life is a little out of whack or really wacky.


1) You go out to lunch with colleagues and:

A) You share a cute anecdote about your child, then restrain your enthusiasm for the rest of the meal and let co-workers talk too.

B) You barely stifle the urge to cut your co-worker's meat and remind her to eat the vegetables.

C) Who has time for lunch?


2) You call home to check up on everyone and:

A) Eagerly anticipate hearing your child's voice.

B) Dread getting caught up in the usual lengthy battle with your teenager over something that isn't really that important.

C) You were too busy at work and forgot to call.


3) You arrive home from work and:

A) You can't wait to get in the door to see your family.

B) You're still fretting about a problem at work as you insert your key into the lock.

C) Sorry, working late again and won't get home until after the kids are in bed.


4) Today you were so tired that:

A) Nope, not me. The kids went to bed with no problem, stayed in bed all night, and I got plenty of sleep.

B) I needed three cups of coffee to get out the door this morning.

C) I almost fell asleep on the freeway driving to work.


5) Your child has a runny nose and feels a little warm. Naturally, you:

A) Take a sick day, which your enlightened employer allows even if the illness is not your own. Or take your child to a nearby day-care center for mildly ill children, which is subsidized by your corporate fairy godmother.

B) Lie to your boss, fake an illness, then feel guilty the rest of the day.

C) Take your kid to school or day care, hope nobody notices the runny nose and then head off to work, feeling guilty.


6) Your mother, who lives across town, calls you at work at 11:30 a.m. and says she's run out of her medication and needs you to take her to the pharmacy right away. Your response:

A) Sympathize and suggest she call the nearby pharmacy that delivers and promise that you'll call or stop by in the evening to help her develop an emergency plan should this happen again.

B) Drop everything, race through traffic to your mother's house, the pharmacy and back to mom's before dashing back to work, a quivering wreck.

C) Pretend you are your voice mail recording and ask her to leave a message.


7) You bring home work to finish:

A) Once a week.

B) At least four nights a week.

C) All the time; otherwise, the next downsizing ax might take you out.


8) I take some time for myself to do something I enjoy:

A) Every day, if only for a few minutes.

B) Whenever I can, which is not as often as I would like.

C) I don't even remember what it is that I enjoy doing.


9) The last time you spent quality time with your spouse was:

A) Last weekend.

B) A few weeks ago.

C) When we exchanged our wedding vows.


10) If a conflict arises between your work and your family, which one wins?

A) Family, every time.

B) Family usually, but it has to be an emergency.

C) Work. Hey, that's what pays the bills, you know.


Give yourself one point for each A answer, three points for each B answer and five points for each C answer. Total the points to see where you fall.

35-50 points: Ouch. Your life is way out of whack. Consider getting help. Take a parenting class. Buy a book that offers tips on balancing your work and family lives. See a stress reduction specialist. Go to a time management seminar. But do something, because it's not working for you, and it's probably not working for your family either.

16-34 points: Congratulations. You are a normal stressed-out specimen. Look for ways to make life easier, or at least more fun. You, too, could use parenting and stress help.

10-15 points: Liar, liar, pants on fire! Your score is suspiciously low. Take the test again and be honest with yourself this time. However, if you think you actually deserve this score, then keep quiet about it. The rest of us are too stressed to hear about your blissful life.

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