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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Parents mull work and home balance
Families struggling to cope
Fathers miss out on family life, while women lose out on careers
Parents are still making huge sacrifices to continue working after having children, despite greater awareness of work-life balance issues, two reports have suggested.

Work commitments meant nearly half of British fathers barely saw their children, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.

Four out of 10 fathers started work early several mornings a week, while a similar number regularly stayed late at work, the report said.

Women, meanwhile, found it hard to juggle domestic and career priorities, a separate survey said.

Nearly one third of women have downgraded career expectations after childbirth, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

By contrast only 19% of men said their career was no longer on track after becoming a father.

The reports have been released as part of Work-Life Balance week, which is designed to campaign for better working conditions and promote flexible employment.

Career aspirations

More than half of those surveyed by the CIPD said they had switched roles or jobs after becoming a parent.

If you have moved jobs, why did you leave?
Family commitments: Male (12%), Female (28%)
More flexibility/convenience: Male (9%), Female (28%)
Career progress: Male (44%), Female (17%)
Other: Male (35%), Female (28%)
Source: CIPD

Just under a third changed from full-time to part-time hours, while 14% stopped work completely.

A further 13% made some other change to their hours, for example, by switching to a four-day working week.

Women were three times more likely to change their work patterns than men, with only 26% continuing to work the same hours as previously.

Birth change

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, parents in professional jobs were in a better position to adjust their working arrangements to suit their career aspirations and family needs.

Parents from lower-income groups were more likely to say they have no scope to negotiate more flexible arrangements.

In April 2003, parents with young children will have the right to put their case for flexible working arrangements to employers, but researchers said many families would miss out.

Ivana La Valle, a co-author of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study, said: "Low-income families may feel they simply cannot afford to exercise their new 'right'.

"Their need to enhance their take-home pay by working overtime and atypical hours is a major constraint on their ability to achieve a better balance between work and family life."

Childcare costs

CIPD's survey backed up the foundation's findings.

As many as 57% of parents in households earning over £40,000 a year were still working the same hours, the report said.

Lower earners - those households earning less than £20,000 a year - were most likely to stop work completely, possibly because of childcare costs.

Four out of 10 parents felt childcare provision in the UK was poor.

Stressed out

Having children was viewed as a major source of stress by parents.

As many as 80% of Britons said that having children increased stress levels - either slightly or considerably.

But stress levels did not seem to be affected by working status: parents who were working full-time experienced similar stress levels to those who had given up work to raise a family.

The little time parents spent together as a couple was the main casualty of modern working arrangements, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.

Your comments:

I am an IT Consultant and have a 5 year old son. Prior to joining the company I currently work for, I too spent about 12-14 hours a day away from home, but I made a conscious decision to find a position within my chosen field, closer to home. With a lot of luck, I found a position 16 miles from home which leaves me sufficient time to drop my son off at school every morning (my husband collects him after work) and I get home by 18:15 every day and spend quality time with my husband and child. I still have a thriving career, but setting the expectation with my employer from the outset - and working for an organisation that truly cares about ALL aspects of its workforce - has really helped. And to top it all - I did not have to take a cut in salary - I actually earn more now than I did while working for a Big 5 Consulting house in London! So, there is hope...

Am I the only new parent who has found juggling family and work responsibilities incredibly difficult - or maybe I'm just more honest! I see my beautiful daughter Annabelle for 50 minutes over 5 days - I commute to London and do not get back until 7pm most nights. What the hell am I doing? I do not know how people juggle kids, relationships and jobs - maybe they have just got used to it - I am having huge difficulties - I guess because there's no training that can prepare you for it - a career is a piece of cake compared to this!
Jeff Dobbie, UK

We have a 4 month old girl, my wife is due to go back to work, but we really don't want that. This means that I must increase my income to keep the same lifestyle. Therefore, I have to work longer and harder, with an aim to raises, bonuses and promotion. As I work as a software developer, I also need to spend a considerable amount of time, educating myself with the programming languages and tools. This has the effect that I see my daughter for 15 minutes in the morning, and if I'm lucky the same again in the evening. I get around 1 or 2 hours with my partner in the evening. I keep asking myself, is it all worth it?
John, London, UK

Because of high house prices, I moved to Northamptonshire and still work in Berkshire because of the wages. My son is 2 months and daughter is 3 years old. I am having to leave at 6am and not getting home until 7.30pm depending on traffic. Since my son has been born, stress levels have been very high between me and my partner. We have talked about me leaving my job, but we both know that I could not get the money I am on now if I worked closer to home. Although my family mean more to mean than money does, I have to be earning my current wage to afford my mortgage repayments.
Wayne, Northamptonshire

The fact of the matter is that even if companies pay lip service to 'work/life balance' unless you are committed to working long hours your career will not progress. Careers need to progress to pay for schooling and even healthcare to support your children. As such you end up trading in time with your children and possibly your relationship with them in order to provide as best as you can for them now as well as paying for things like university fees later. I personally don't like it and my son was crying when I left home today to go away to work for two days. But I won't be changing jobs either as I need every penny of the salary I have now and can't take a pay cut. It's just the way it is. This is nothing new...
Chris, UK

I found working in the UK stressful at the best of times. Moving out to NZ was the best move I ever made where most companies take into consideration your family status and actually care. At present I work at home twice a week so that I can bond with my 2 year old who is so much fun. My employers know I will not get the same amount of work done but believe happy staff produce the best results. Most employers in NZ have the same view too. (I am a computer programmer with great career prospects and a great family life too)
Scott Dodd, New Zealand

Any man who wants to spend more time as a parent might as well forget about his career

Dave, UK
As a father of 1 and one due in January I feel that fathers lose out in all aspects of the children¿s upbringing. I am lucky that I am in a job that has flexitime but for fathers that work fixed hours what hope do they have? The government should force employers to give new fathers a long leave when their new child is born. If the birth does not go as planned the new mother can be in a situation of not being able to pick up the baby or carry weight for an extended time, if there is no extended family who helps them when dad goes back to work?

Yes, as a father, I find less time for spending with my child/family because of work pressure. My wife is a housewife still she needs my support after office hours to bring up our child. And it becomes difficult when I'm forced to go on tour for official duty.
G.Sivakumar, India

So, having children can be stressful and men who work don't see a lot of them. Next you'll be telling us water is wet and that it gets a bit cold in Alaska sometimes. Does this study really tell us anything we didn't already know?
Colin Moors, UK

I agree. There is so much of my kids life that I am not seeing. The parental leave that is given to fathers is better than it was but is just not long enough (most places get a week paid and some none at all). I mean we do have the option to take anywhere up to about 3 months off unpaid, but those of us that are on low income wages or one income families can not afford that, especially with a new baby. My wife is a domestic woman and she also finds it hard to juggle her 'chores' and that of the kids... ...just a bit of a moan really but I would have thought that more parental leave paid on an annual basis (despite annual leave) would be a good step forward..
Danny, Manchester, UK

We want children but financially are unable to. I cannot afford to give up work to look after the children because I am the higher earner and we depend on both of our salaries. If I went back to work I would lose all my salary to childcare costs, therefore we lose out both ways. Therefore, it's not through choice that we cannot have kids and we are devastated that the cost of childcare is so much that I can't even go back to part time. Something has to be done to help low income couples even start a family. I'd like to see Tony Blair live on what we earn!!
Jackie Bull, England

'Traditional Family Values' and 'The Work Ethic' are two incompatible concepts in the modern world. As a kid I nearly never saw my dad because he was always at work. My mother also had a high pressure job. Anyway the combination of work pressure and having to look after their family led to my parents divorcing. Men, like women before them are going to have to learn them that they can either have a family or a career, but not both.
Mal, UK

It's true, I leave for work before my daughter is awake and return after she's in bed! I only really get to see her at the weekend it's such a shame. In this world of fantastic technology it's incredible so few people seem to get the option to work from home - to think how this would also help traffic congestion and the environment too!!
Tom Douglas, England

Whatever is said to the contrary, this shows that society still wants people to fit into the old fashioned stereotypes. Men go to work, women look after kids. For example any man who wants to spend more time as a parent might as well forget about his career
Dave, UK/CH

If you really want to spend more time with the children, then sacrifice your lifestyle. Life is all about tradeoffs and so concentrate on what is important to you. Children are young for such a short time, and they only grow up once, its not worth missing that special time in their life.
Richard Godivala, UK

It is about a balance of work and home life. Too many people put money and status before home life. It is an option everybody has. If people want high profile jobs then something has to give. You can have it in the workplace as it is today. I personally have the home life, but with a less financial rewarding job.
David James, UK

Both my partner and I only earn about £2000 a month between us and I am a trainee accountant and she is a nurse (which is why I disagree with firemen's claims of 30k). We shell out £800 a month in childcare and I'm thinking of giving up work until my son goes to school because of the costs.
Alan, UK

I am the proud father of a lovely 18th month old daughter and fortunate enough to enjoy flexible work hours. Even so I fell into the trap of thinking that an 8 - 6 day was the norm which meant I missed out on time with her. I got to the point where I challenged myself and it was quite liberating to actually say 'no' to a day in the office so that I could spend it with my family. I found that it was too easy to blame the workplace when actually I did have an option.
Glen Ricketts, UK

I have a 6 year old son and also a 3 year old daughter who is disabled with Cerebral Palsy. As you can appreciate, caring for a disabled child is stressful enough. My wife has had to give up work to care for her. In order to retain our standard of living and pay for the additional equipment and care my daughter needs I have had to take to take on a higher paid job, and correspondingly a more stressful one working longer hours. This is counter productive to my family's needs. Employers need to do more to return the balance before the return on their intellectual investment is zero due to ill health or leaving the company.
Andrew, UK

Surely most parents understand that having children is going to have an impact on their lives! I have two (a two year old and a three month old). They have had a massive impact on our lives but you adjust and move forward.
Mark O'Grady, UK

My husband and I both work part-time. He as an adult education lecturer and me as a sub on a newspaper. Though we don't earn a great deal, we share the upbringing of our son and find it's a good balance. Why not assess how much money you really need to live on, and make a few compromises. Your children will thank you for it when they grow up.
Nicky S, England

The BBC's Peter Lane
"Things should improve next year"

Job burnout?
Is work wrecking your life?
Work-life balance


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24 Sep 02 | Working Lunch
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