Working outside the home, once the province of the man of the house, has become a necessity and often a road to fulfillment for the rest of the family.
In Prince William County, there are more families with two or more workers than anywhere else in the Washington metropolitan area.
Data from the 1980 U.S. Census shows that 67 percent of Prince William County households have both parents and in some cases teen-age children working, according to the Greater Washington Research Center, a private nonprofit organization that analyzes local populations, governments and economies.
The whole Washington metropolitan area, unusual in that it is nearly recession-proof, goes begging for workers in the building and service trades, and tops the 10 most populous urban areas in the country in the percentage of families that have two or more workers, with 62 percent.
Despite the adjustments that a family with two or more workers must undergo -- the latchkey child phenomenon, a mercurial family schedule and the need to find day care -- some families welcome the mobility.
Take the Simonovich family of Manassas.
Sam Simonovich works as a senior budget analyst for the Navy in the District of Columbia. Mary, his wife, works as an office manager for the Prince William County planning department. A 14-year-old son from her former marriage, Mark Neff, works three times a week as a busboy at a York Steak House, and his 12-year-old brother Keith has a paper route.
Mary Simonovich finds her job a means for personal fulfillment and a way to provide her family with the luxuries of life, such as a second car, vacations, restaurant dinners and allowances for her children.
"I work purely for my own satisfaction. It's not for financial reasons. I enjoy being around people, and I enjoy helping out in an office of this size," she said.
Simonovich said she still enjoys housework and cooking, but praises her family for helping out with both. She has heard of wives whose husbands let them work on condition that they continue to do all the housework and have dinner "and a cute little smile" waiting for the husbands returning from a day at work.
About three times a week Sam Simonovich washes wash dishes. Mark helps do laundry and Keith helps vacuum the carpets.
"There's a lot of men who are afraid of dishpan hands. I feel very lucky that I have a family that helps me out," Mary Simonovich said.
Sam Simonovich says that if his wife wasn't working they would not have two cars, nor would they donate as much to the Bethel Lutheran Church and go out to restaurants. "In some respects we'd be less generous. But we'd also be smarter purchasers," he said.
He is also aware of the latchkey child situation -- children coming home from school to an empty house because both parents are at work. "I'm sure there's times when they'd like us to be home, but they can call Mom or call me."
Sam Simonovich has concerns about Mark, 14, working at such a young age.
"I have mixed feelings. He's doing it to have spending money and to be out of the house. I feel that when he's 18, 20, 21, he'll have plenty of time to work. I don't want to deny him the opportunity, but I don't want him to get so immersed in it that he'll let his grades go to heck and forget what living's all about," he said.
So far, Mark has managed to balance work with school, but Sam Simonovich said he wouldn't hesitate to tell him to quit his job, if work begins to interfere with his education.
The county school system, aware of the high number of working parents, has provided in-school programs to tell pupils how to conduct themselves when at home alone, how to recognize an emergency that needs an adult and how to make a snack, said county schools spokeswoman Kristy Larson.
Some principals schedule breakfast meetings with groups of parents, the only time some will have a chance to learn about the schools. Larson said that if the state permitted school systems to provide extended day-care programs in the schools, Prince William would probably start a program.
Because Prince William County has relatively inexpensive housing, it continues to attract young working families. The 1980 census found about 84 percent of the people in the county to be age 44 or younger. The county's median age is 26 years.
The median price for a house in Prince William County is $84,000, compared to $101,600 for the overall Northern Virginia area.
"Prince William has been a bedroom community, close enough to the job market and far enough to be affordable," said Dyan Lingle, director of economic development for the county.
More than 45,000 of the county's civilian work force of 70,500 drive to Fairfax County or the District each day. While the commuting time of working parents exacerbates the problems of latchkey children, the trend may change as more jobs move to Prince William, Lingle said.
The recently opened Potomac Mills discount shopping mall off Rte. I-95's Dale City exit provided 3,000 jobs, most of them service-oriented, for nearby residents. Many were willing to give up jobs in Fairfax to work closer to home.
"I thought they'd have a hard time filling those jobs. As it turned out, there were a lot of people willing to take an in-county job at lower pay. They had no problems filling those jobs," Lingle said.
"Everybody's doing it working ," said Barbara Nickleson, a registered nurse who lives with her husband Robert and five children in Lake Ridge.
Robert Nickleson travels over two hours round trip each day commuting to and from his job as a D.C. police officer. Barbara Nickleson works at the Alexandria Hospital.
"Sometimes it's very difficult to work around everybody's needs. It's hard when children get sick, because you can't use a baby sitter," said Barbara Nickleson.
Nickleson said her schedule is more flexible, which is useful when it comes to dealing with her children, ranging in age from 4 to 16. "I don't know how other people who have 9 to 5 jobs do it," Nickleson said.
"A two-income family is a necessity nowadays -- you can't live in Northern Virginia without two working," she said.