find your method

The PRIMARY DILEMMA™ recognizes that working mothers are not all the same.

Working-Mother Methods.  Every person has only a finite capacity of physical time and energy. A working mom must carefully divide her energy between work and parenting so as not to overwhelm her capacity.  Each working mother has her own formula that is fueled by unique motivations, pressures and support networks.  But there are some qualities and choices that are shared by groups of women.  We call these approaches Working-Mother Methods

The PRIMARY DILEMMA™ identifies 5 Working-Mother Methods:


  1. Workable:  Is typically the primary wage earner. Spends more time and energy at work than physical childcare.  She is work enabled by someone else providing primary childcare.
  2. Equalizer:  Has relatively equal earning power to her partner. Shares equally with a partner in the management of work commitments and childcar
  3. Fully Loaded: Is a Single Parent.  Solely responsible for work and family.
  4. Obliged: Has a majority of childcare responsibility and supplies a required second income for her family.
  5. Parentess: Has a majority of childcare responsibility and produces a discretionary second income for her family.

The PRIMARY DILEMMA™ offers a simple quiz to help you identify your method.  Understanding your method can help you make the best of what you’ve got or make a change to a method that will give you greater satisfaction.

Take the Quiz

The PRIMARY DILEMMA™ quiz asks a series of questions that will help you identify your Working-Mother Method.  The Working-Mother Methods are designed to be thought-provoking.  They are not prescriptive.

In testing the Working-Mother Method quiz, we discovered that the results did not always match the expectations of the user (or our team).  For example, Anne, the President of a top marketing company, completed the method quiz.  With such a high powered job, we expected Anne to be a Workable or possibly an Equalizer (because her husband was also professionally successful).  Anne’s results indicated that she was an Obliged (primary parent, required second income).  She was surprised and we were surprised.  Upon further discussion with her, we realized that Anne was truly an Obliged because she did not like to delegate physical parenting to other people (i.e. driving to sports practice, laundry or grocery shopping).  She gained satisfaction from household chores.  She described folding laundry for her husband and children at 11pm at night because it gave her a sense of connection to her family. Anne wanted to physically care for her children and household despite her career success and earning power.   She was a primary income with the mindset of a primary physical parent.  She was caught in between two methods. As a result, she often felt stretched for capacity.

Consider the following two factors as you interpret your method:

  • Transitions: Your quiz may indicate that you are a Parentess, but in your heart you are aspiring to be an Equalizer and struggling with your spouse to achieve better partnership.  Or you may be a Workable who is expecting a second child and wanting more physical time in a parenting role. Transition can take many forms, driven by internal desires and/or external factors.  Expect your Working-Mother Method to evolve over time.  The hardest times are when you are caught in a transitional moment.  Use the PRIMARY DILEMMA™ to help guide change.
  • Need for Control: This insight revealed itself in live interviews with working moms.  Every Working-Mother Method prioritizes a unique aspect of work-family balance.  Your Working-Mother Method should reflect what is important to you and let go of what is not.  If you are uncomfortable relinquishing control of the non-essential aspects of your method, you may find yourself living between two methods.  The story of Anne is just one example.  Living between two methods can really strain your personal capacity.  Consider your priorities as you interpret your Working-Mother Method.

Use the PRIMARY DILEMMA™ to help guide your working-mother formula.  Thrive in your own identity!  Remember strong, fulfilled, engaged moms are more effective at work and raise confident, happy, and able kids.

The Workable The Equalizer The Fully Loaded The Obliged The Parentess