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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Working mums: Are you struggling to cope?
Working mothers are struggling to cope with five hours sleep a night and increasing career pressures, a survey has found.

A poll by Mother and Baby magazine has found that sleep deprivation is playing havoc with their relationships and working lives.

More than half of women said weariness left them in a "state of despair" and said tiredness made them irritated with their baby.

And 82% of working mothers admitted a lack of sleep affected their performance and output at work.

Only 31% of fathers woke up if their baby cried, even if both parents worked full-time, according to the survey.

How are you coping with life as a working mother? Has it affected your working and personal life? Are fathers struggling too?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Many women work because they need to feel validated by someone older than 8 and they need their peer group just as much as any toddler! My children are great company but I just can't get the three year old interested in the Middle East. I just feel the need to be involved with the big picture. There's also the issue of becoming dependent alongside your children on a partner's largesse - it doesn't matter how generous they are there's nothing like spending your own money even if it's on something for the children. The workplace was somewhere I managed to finish one hot coffee a day and where everyone remembered who I was before I gave different pieces of myself away to those who depend on me. It also meant I could work to make life better for vulnerable people and so make life better for my children. That's why I did it even though I got tired.
jan, New Zealand

Who is it who is being selfish? A child is a huge responsibility and yet some people who have them seem to expect that they will have to give up nothing in return. They want everything they had before children in terms of lifestyle and they want a child on top, like some sort of icing on a perfect life and when it turns out that that isn't possible they want tax breaks and allowances made for them so they can carry on "having it all plus a bit more". Just crazy!
Andrew Carter, UK

I am a member of the scourge of society. Sorry, I am a working parent, (judging by many comments here, also a second class citizen selfishly taking advantage of society for my own needs), and I'd just like to say that I am disgusted by the many comments against both parents working. For myself, the arrangement is working perfectly, no problems to report. The result is that we're both satisfied parents, and our child whom we chose to have (well actually, more of a surprise, but you have to live up to your responsibilities), is a very happy, confident baby of nine months. I don't plan to rear a delinquent child into this world, like some comments are suggesting of working parents. One of us could stay at home, but, we both choose to work and wouldn't have our life any other way. We also both sleep well at night as we have been kick started into a routine by work, and I'd definitely recommend it for parents, so don't knock it unless you're there!
Paul, UK

You make your bed - you lie in it. To sleep perchance to dream... but perhaps not for a few years.
Chris B., England

We feel it is best for the children to be raised by us and not put into a child-care centre

Marion Wiecks, Idaho USA
I am a working mother of four girls, ages between four months to 11 years. My husband works days, I work nights. We both find it very hard with this arrangement but feel it is best for the children to be raised by us and not put into a child-care centre. One of us usually misses out on their summer activities but they know we are with them in heart if not in body. My girls are very well behaved, confident and happy. We as parents do what we can to survive as a family, and yes it is a struggle even here in America.
Marion Wiecks, Idaho USA

As ever the chattering classes squealing that they can't cope. This is a free country and you pay your money and takes you choice if you choose to work and breed then I am not surprised that you are tired, I'm sure I would be. Hey folks you can't have your cake and eat it.
Bill Bell, UK

I spent the first years at home. Two of those years I sat on orange boxes and ate off a trunk. We had no TV or fridge. But I look back on those years as the happiest of my whole life. People who miss out on those times can never recapture them. I would not have missed out being with my son for anything in the world. As for being a working mother, I never thought of it as a chore. I guess I just took it for granted and enjoyed every minute. I loved work and I loved my son and as you say Liz they are with us for such a short time.
Patricia, Australia

For Graham D. Please tell me what you wrote about evolution and feminism was a joke. Because if it wasn't then you must be still living in the Stone Age - except in the Stone Age women were probably treated with more equality. Allow women the freedom to do what on earth they like with their lives - I'm sure that is only what you would expect for yourself after all.
Stephen Wey, UK

We've progressed down the road of feminism. Equality with men has turned to superiority over men

Graham D., Scotland
It's quite easy. We've progressed down the road of feminism. Equality with men has turned to superiority over men. Millennia of Evolution has taught us that the woman looks after the child and the man hunts food for them. Now that the mother is determined to go out hunting, we lose the bond between mother and child, and we end up with the monsters patrolling our streets today, joyriding, smoking and drinking (aged 11) and generally being anti-social.
Graham D., Scotland

Firstly, as a Christian, Jew or Muslim it is your duty to procreate, not a lifestyle choice. Without families/children the human race would die out. Secondly mothers should be given equality with other individuals and when not working should have the right to transfer their right to a tax allowance to their husband/partner. This would provide much needed extra money for mothers taking care of their children. The current Government treats them as second class citizens.
Rex, England

British, do cherish your children. They are the future of your society. We Chinese are still struggling with our population problem by adopting one-child-only policy. The price is an older society and spoiled children.
Ann, China

Having children is a lifestyle choice? That's ridiculous. Yes it's true that most of us can decide whether to have children but that doesn't mean society should treat parents and children as leeches. People don't start a family as a get-rich-quick scheme. I'd bet the people who complain about parents not working enough are the same people who complain about kids running around the streets at all times of the day, getting into trouble. You can't have it both ways either! A society without children will die.
Christine, UK

I feel that we do have a responsibility to reproduce, else what will happen to world population?

Unlike some of the replies on this page, I feel that we do have a responsibility to reproduce, else what will happen to world population if everyone overnight happened to take the selfish stance? In addition, the point on housing is a very good one. My (ex) friends, living off two enormous salaries can afford a five bedroom house, (no wonder they don't want children!), the middle income / middle England / 2.4 children, can't afford these half-million pound houses. This is not jealousy, it's simple economics.

Anyone who cites the need to have children for financial security in their old age is cold, calculating and shallow. All of you who have cited future economic gains as a reason for having children should plan for your own future and stop, at least in public, attributing a life style choice to your doing your social duty to supply social security by breeding future taxpayers. It is disgusting to equate children to money-making schemes.
Linda, US

I agree that parenthood is a choice but for most people things don't go exactly to plan. A lot of children are a 'surprise'. I didn't have any financial stability when my children arrived, and as my partner is mentally unwell, it is down to me to earn our living. I am now working from home as my daughter is only three, but this also poses problems as each time I turn on the PC, my daughter wants to play games, and being my own boss I can allow for this.
Bev, UK

I am proud of my kids and so glad I chose to have them but I admit to finding life difficult right now. I work on average a 70 hour week as a teacher in a "challenging" school - yes, like many of my colleagues I am in work this week, despite it being the Easter holidays - and have two toddlers. Childcare and repaying my student loans cost me over 75% of my salary - but because I have these debts, I cannot choose not to work. My husband's idea of looking after the kids is to stick them in front of the video for hours at a time, so I don't leave him in charge more often then strictly necessary, e.g. for after school meetings, parents' evenings and the like. How do other people cope?
Anon, Wales

As a father, I am supposed to be struggling twofold: first at work, and then at home. I do appreciate it that my partner gets tired at work as well, so I try to save her the hassle of housekeeping. Call me sexist, but yes, we men do have more stamina. However, what many friends say is that I am being exploited.
Kostya, Russia

Parents that work appreciate the time which they spend with their children, whereas for the six months I spent at home I became chronically depressed and found it difficult to leave my home

Ally P, UK
How many children do we hear about in the news who are ill-treated and belong to working parents? Not many I think. Parents that work appreciate the time which they spend with their children, whereas for the six months I spent at home I became chronically depressed and found it difficult to leave my home. When I finally returned to work I felt guilty and wondered if I had done the right thing, but a year later, the benefits to my child and myself have convinced me that I would recommend it to anybody. Surely a happier parent results in a happier upbringing for a child.
Ally P, UK

It is hard being a working mother, however it many cases it is now a necessity due to rising house prices and other costs. Childcare takes a large chunk of income, before bills can be met, so little if any is used for 'luxuries' as some writers suggest. It is stressful leaving a young child at nursery, but surely integration with children of a similar age enables learning and social skill development and is preferable to being at home all day in front of the television 'child minder' as many children are. Surely it is for the individual to decide what works for them, rather than others to dictate whose lifestyle is right or wrong.
Marcie Born, UK

I am a working mum and a single mum. I chose to give birth, I choose to work. I have never received a penny in additional support or asked for sympathy. More to the point I don't want either because it was my choice. Women and Men who can't cope shouldn't make the choice and certainly shouldn't expect tea, sympathy and money from everyone else.
Wendy, UK

Just want to point out that your employers/employees, doctor, train driver, partner, shop assistants, car mechanic, plumber and even the IT support guy are all somebody's baby - so let's have a bit of tolerance and support for families of all kinds. and since when has lack of sleep making you feel crap been news?

The main problem is, as at least one suggestion here says, "people feel the need to meet society's expectations"

Karl Peters, UK
The main problem is, as at least one suggestion here says, "people feel the need to meet society's expectations". Whose expectations exactly? Who forces you to have a new car, foreign holidays and a big house? If you want those things that's a free choice but don't whine if you have to work for them. I would like all those things, but accept that when child number one comes along at least some of them will have to be sacrificed.
Karl Peters, UK

To be honest I am sick and tired of this working mums business. I think it is about time that they decided what they wanted - to be a mother - in itself a full time demanding job, or to have a career. As a person without children I am sick to the back teeth of women trying to work and raise a family at the same time. As they are generally professional women why don't they apply their work principles and do one job properly rather than try and do two and make a hash of them both leaving the rest of us to clear up after them?
Alison, UK

Please stop talking about having children as a "lifestyle" decision as if it were like joining a gym or something. If you decide to have a family you need to realise that for at least 15-20 years your children and their needs will be the primary driver for everything you do. If you're not prepared to accept this go and join the gym instead, you're not suitable to be a parent. If you decide to go ahead, it's the toughest job you'll ever do. There is no pay, on the contrary it will cost you a fortune, the hours are terrible, it will take you to the depths of despair, frustration and defeat and leave you an exhausted, shattered wreck. At the same time it is the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your life and the only true shot at immortality you'll ever have. The highs are so high you forget the lows. You pay your money and you takes your choice. Just make sure it really is a choice.
Steve Harrison, UK

What most people seem to have forgotten in all this is children also suffer from sleep deprivation

Zoe, UK
What most people seem to have forgotten in all this is children also suffer from sleep deprivation. Children need 11-12 hours sleep and a routine, and that is where our job starts. From about 3 or 4 months old if you stick to regular meal, play, bath times etc and put the child to bed at the same time every night (no matter if he/she is tired) that child will eventually sleep 12 hours. The problem occurs when parents give in too easily, keep making a fuss (putting your head around the door to let them see you is all they really need) and giving in to letting them sleep in your bed. Give it a go, 3-6 nights of determination and the child gets the message and everyone benefits! Good luck and stick to it. It does work!!
Zoe, UK

Sadly it seems that leaving this country solves yet another issue. Face it people if you want help you have to help yourself in England, never rely on the Government or your employer to assist, that way you won't be disappointed. When I have kids I am off abroad!
Doug, UK, London

Oh dear! Any talk about families and children always tends to bring out the worst in the selfish "children are a lifestyle choice" brigade in this country. Do these same people think that because they have never used services such as the NHS or fire brigade or any other centrally funded service think that they should get a rebate on their taxes as well? How about people who go climbing and get themselves into trouble and a helicopter is sent out to rescue them. This service must cost a fortune and climbing is certainly a lifestyle choice. So maybe we should stop paying for things like that as well.
Adam, UK

I'm not childless by choice but I hotly resent any suggestion that choosing not to have children is selfish. Quite apart from overpopulation considerations, perhaps I have missed something here but I was under the impression that most people have children because they want them, for their own satisfaction and fulfilment, and that any benefit to society is incidental. Is there really anyone out there who didn't want children but has had them for the good of society?
Jane, Wales, UK

I used to have to manage staff when I worked, some of whom were part-time because they were mothers and now that I am a mother myself I cringe to think of my suppressed irritation and silent tut-tuts at having to accommodate these part-timers with their half terms and inset days, not to mention their sudden absences when their children were ill.

My children are very young and I haven't returned to paid employment because my real work is with my children. Child care is too expensive to warrant foisting my two onto someone else even if I wanted but I worry for the years ahead when I will have to, with unsympathetic work places but still the need to look after the really important things in my life. I truly admire working mothers and am baffled as to how they manage it, and what it must cost both emotionally and financially. To be derided as well, they can do without.
CC, England

I'd rather hug my young daughter and partner at the end of the night than a larger bank balance

Alison Gibson, Scotland

Society, or rather areas of the media have led us to believe that women, "can have it all". Motherhood, employment and an outstanding relationship with your partner. I'm afraid I've never met anybody who fulfils this role. All this information appears to do is place pressure on working mothers, who worry when they haven't, "got it all". As a working mother myself, something has to give and for a while at least it is my career. I'd rather hug my young daughter and partner at the end of the night than a larger bank balance, thank you very much!
Alison Gibson, Scotland

Parenthood is not a job, it's a choice. Parents do not have children in the spirit of altruistic endeavour for the nation, they have them because they selfishly want their own children. The bottom line is this - if you can afford children and want them, have them. If not, don't have them.
Blewyn, UK

As a working single Dad, who looked after his son from when he was 18 months old, I am fed up with being ignored. Perhaps the term "primary carer" could be substituted.
Julian Ziegler, UK

Our situation is difficult but it is of our own making. We are part of the buy it now and pay later generation where consumer items are put on credit or loans taken out. So when baby came along we both had to work full time in order to pay off debts/loans, mortgage etc. However, with London nursery fees setting us back around 1000 a month we are left with very, very little disposable income. To say we feel trapped is an understatement. I would love not to work and hate leaving her with a stranger every day (the turnover of staff is so high in the nursery that this is often the case).

I don't think my parents' or grandparents' generation had this predicament as they didn't live off credit. A bit of advice for someone planning to have a child - you don't need loads of money but try and clear up most of your debts beforehand - then you will truly have a choice on whether to work on not.
Kate, England

Jennifer (below) would have us believe that were all meant to be robots working in a big machine, with no human needs or desires. Here are some facts: working parents are more likely to be loyal to their company, and increase their productivity at work. The mortgage still needs paying! Working parents do not have endless time off at the expense of their colleagues. If this is happening, perhaps those who feel they are working extra hours to cover someone else's time off should raise this with their employer. Nobody should force anyone to work longer hours than they should.

Jennifer from the UK has some strange ideas. Give 100% to the company all the time? What about the days when you yourself are sick? What about your evenings and weekends? I work to live, not the other way around. I don't see that taking a day off because your child is very sick as being very different from taking a day off because you are sick, or taking a sickie when you feel like having a lie in. At least the person who may need time off due to their child's illness is less likely to pull a sickie to avoid a busy day.
Willy Davidson, UK

Jennifer's comments are a little harsh in my opinion. You work to live, not live to work, and if being expected to give 100% to an employer, all of the time, regardless of having a family or not, would breed intense resentment and counter-productivity. My partner and I work full-time, and we have a child. We have an excellent balance with our personal and work lives, and to be expected to choose between family life or a career, in my eyes, is discrimination against a certain class of people (parents).

Working mothers? Being a mother is a job in itself. Considering that when you take into account the cost of childcare, transport to and from work (be it a car or a season ticket on public transport), work wardrobe and other costs associated with going to work, most people will find that they are not much better off if both continue working while their children are still young. But most do it for selfish reasons: e.g. they don't want to miss out on future career development possibilities, they enjoy the perks too much or for financial reasons (although this can be debated).

Employment is a contract and usually the employee is required to give 100% to the company at all times. If you are not able to do so for whatever reason (be it illness, personal problems or family reasons) you are counter-productive to the company and being unfair to your colleagues who then have to make up for the lack of "productivity" on your part. The job still has to be done.
Jennifer, UK

I wouldn't miss having a family for the world, but let's have a sanity check here. What about full time working Dad? So often they are portrayed as lazy drunks at home. The silent majority pull their weight - and don't make a fuss. As for myself. It's midnight. I am still up, working to pay the bills that people seem to take for granted, and the rest of my family are asleep in bed. How about some equality here?!
Phil W, UK

It isn't just mothers. Other carers suffer likewise. I have to work full- time to support myself and severely disabled elder sister. I am older than most mothers of toddlers. She is heavier to lift than a child, her wheelchair is heavier than a pushchair. Toddlers don't have tons of paperwork to complete to get help with their lives. I have to do this for her if we don't want her to go into a home. Yet bosses seem less sympathetic to those caring for an adult. But we get just as tired.
S, Darwell, UK

I am a Working Mum and a Single Mum. I chose to give birth, I choose to work. I have never received a penny in additional support or asked for sympathy. More to the point I don't want either because it was my choice. Women and men who can't cope shouldn't make the choice and certainly shouldn't expect tea, sympathy and money from everyone else.
Wendy, UK

To Victoria Brombacher: What you say might be true but I don't suppose providing people to support the rest of the population in their retirement ranked high on the list of reasons for having children when you decided to start a family.
Gill, UK

So not having children is selfish is it? I have not met a parent (who is a parent by choice) yet who could tell me why they had children without giving a selfish answer. All answers contain "we wanted" or similar in one form or another. So, Victoria Brombacher, USA and others - don't come calling us selfish for not wanting children. First evaluate your own needs that were fulfilled by having a child.
Ray, England

An educated, healthy and happy citizen is a return on your investment

Victoria Brombacher, USA
For those anti-child, it-is-your-choice, individuals, maybe your shortened selfish views need an incentive for having children. In case anyone is planning to retire and has any type of social security, those children will be future taxpayers. Think of day care, good schools etc, as an investment. An educated, healthy and happy citizen is a return on your investment.
Victoria Brombacher, USA

When my first child was born I thought I'd never survive! My life was carefree and independent before then, and I had no idea what I was giving up to have a baby. Women have more choices today, most have a full life before having a child, and that makes the dependency of children all the more difficult to adjust to. However they grow up, you forget how hard it is (amazingly) and then they become your little friends. It's all worth it, whatever anyone says - our lives are richer because of the experience. I must be living proof of this - I'm having my third baby in two months time!
Amber Cartwright, Zambia

If Linda, USA feels children are not a "necessity" can she offer any suggestions as to how the human race is not to become extinct?
Peter Sykes, UK

What about all us full-time mums? We get sleep deprived as well. We are constantly on the go running them to school, nursery, etc. Our days are non-stop and if we are sleep deprived (which most of us are) we find the day very hard. Trying to reason with a screaming toddler is no fun on a few hours sleep.
Linda, Expat living in Canada

The only way that they can compete is if both parents work full time

Phil, UK
I am afraid the lot of parents is not a happy one and will continue to get worse. As society polarises between those with children and those who choose not to have children (often for selfish reasons), then there will be a polarisation of wealth. Those without children live on dual incomes and relatively small outgoings. As a result these people have 'spare' cash and this inflates housing costs. The poor souls with children have little spare cash, and greater housing needs. The only way that they can compete is if both parents work full time - no wonder they are exhausted. Unfortunately the government does not see reproduction as a fundamental life force but as a 'life style choice' akin to choosing brand A over brand B, and as such continues to base its taxation policies on earnings rather than need.
Phil, UK

"Phil, UK" is exactly right. What is needed is not so much an expectation that "everyone else" will support parents, but perhaps the government could try giving meaningful tax breaks to parents. Forget the usual glib token gesture of a couple of hundred pounds, we need something that reflects the fact that parents not only have to pay for child-related things but also need (as opposed to want) to live in a bigger house than non-parents. Especially in the South-East it costs more than token gestures to find the extra money.
John B, UK

Reading the comments from parents, one would think they had no choice in the matter. It's not the job of the government, your employer or your colleagues to 'support' you in raising your children. Why should your co-workers, male or female, be 'sympathetic' to you taking time off work for your child? Why do you take it for granted they should work longer hours to allow for your lifestyle choice? If you can't afford children, or aren't prepared to sacrifice the time to raise children - don't have them.
Andrew Smith, US/ ex UK

Another sexist commentary

Anon, Scotland
Another sexist commentary. I am a new dad who not only has to deal with the night feeds, the bathing, breakfasting and changing in the morning, the making of enough bottles and feeds to last all day, a full-time job and reading nonsense like this but I also have to deal with a depressed wife suffering the baby blues who needs almost as much attention as the new baby.
Anon, Scotland

My husband and I have been unable to have children despite spending the first eight years or so of our marriage and about 12,000 trying to do so. However reading some of these comments perhaps we should be glad we've been spared!

Mothers should stop whining

Linda, US
As children are a lifestyle choice, not a necessity, mothers should stop whining about their financial and social losses and instead cherish the benefits and joys of motherhood. Any mother who chooses to work gets no sympathy from me as I frequently work twelve-hour shifts on only five hours sleep a night, only to return home and participate in family eldercare and the running of my home. Mothers should require their so-called partners to commit to them legally through marriage or written contract to support her and their offspring. "Partnership" implies equality, which is not evident for the great majority of mothers who select the fathers of their children and should be forced to live with that choice. Lastly, if a mother does the correct thing and devotes herself to her child and her home, being supported by her partner, then she should be fully responsible for both, allowing him to pursue his career without interruption from home or child problems.
Linda, US

The fundamental problem here is a lack of support and childcare facilities for parents per se, not just working mothers. This problem will be felt by everybody - and affect all of us until society realises that we have to accept responsibility for all members, including those that are trying to contribute to the economy AND bring up well-rounded and competent citizens of the future. The lack of sympathy is outrageous - heaven help those who are so uninterested - I hope that they find more sympathy when the shoe is on the other foot.
Kate Lovegrove, UK

I am a working single father. I get a lot of support from my parents. I cannot begin to imagine how I would cope in the situation of most single working parents - with no help from family, government or employer. I've always woken up when my kids cry, always looked after them myself and I'd hope the BBC would point out that fathers are often as stressed and exhausted as mothers- bet there isn't a Father and Baby magazine!
J Dakin, UK

Women only want what men already have and take for granted

Wendy S, UK
This is what I think:
1) Most families who have two incomes do it out of necessity, not greed or selfishness.
2) The work environment must become more sympathetic to families in general, otherwise society to will suffer as a whole.
3) If both partners are working, men really do need to do their fair share of childcare.
4) Women who want it all only want what men already have and take for granted.

Wendy S, UK

As one of the 31% of fathers that took an equal share in sleep deprivation I would say it affects everyone, not just mothers. Neither of us got more than three hours uninterrupted sleep for the first year, followed by about five hours a night in the second year. Work became much more difficult and work relationships suffered but home life didn't, we were probably too busy or tired to fall out! BUT - we still wouldn't swap it for anything. The good times with the kids far outweigh the bad times of little sleep when they were very young. It was hard - but there is light at the end of the tunnel and well worth the effort!
Dave, UK

When I was a child my mother was at home and raised the children on a day to day basis. We were not well off at all and the disposable income available from my father's work was an awful lot less than relative amounts today. When I came home from school, my mother was there. This was all about 40 years ago, hardly Dickensian times. I'm sure this system had its warts but by and large, it worked, unlike the mess we seem to have today. Today we have a very disparate society, with breakdowns in all kinds of relationships and functions. If that's what we prefer then fine, but it's hardly likely to be easy and we shouldn't complain. Sadly and as usual, it's the weaker, less able members of society that suffer the most.
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

I'm very lucky - my husband and I have split all of our family/baby/work responsibilities between us in a way that allows us both to remain working and enjoy a fairly flexible lifestyle, and my boss couldn't be more supportive of me. I'm lucky to be in a high-paying job and have a fantastic childminder so don't have any right to complain. However, it is an exhausting life and every single aspect of it is compromised - time with my husband, time with my baby, time spent at work, social life, weekends etc...
Kate, UK

Well, women did ask for more chances in work etc and they got what they wanted. Not saying it's all perfect but at the end of the day one person can only do so much, a child has to be looked after and if someone wants to work so be it, but understand that it comes at a price. And no I don't think employers should burden the costs. Why should an employer give a job to someone at extra cost over someone else with less commitment? Life is about choices, choose your path and stand on your feet...
Fraser Heath, Aberdeen, UK

Sonya, British living in US

I'm tired, but my kids are worth it

Melanie Buswell, Alaska, US
I'm a working mom and I'm beat. I was married but it was more work to take care of the spouse than not. I have four part-time jobs to support myself and family. My children don't go to daycare, as I work around their school schedule. Life is becoming easier, but I have been sick with flu and WHO is there to help, when I can't? It is a tough road to be a single mom. I'm tired, but my kids are worth it.
Melanie Buswell, Alaska, US

When our first child was born, my wife and I chose to lose one income until the child was of school age. It so happened that as the higher earner, I remained at work, but I took equal responsibility for the baby when at home. Having a child means sacrifices, and reducing incomes and lack of sleep is just the start of a whole series of lifestyle compromises.
John Atkins, England

Women have evolved to wake up and look after children

Mary, UK
Women have evolved to wake up and look after children. Men are far less likely to. That is nature. It's a sad fact of life that women now want to shirk their responsibilities and ignore the needs of their children by going out to work. This is leading to a whole raft of social problems we are seeing. A woman's place is in the home with the children.
Mary, UK

Mary - you must be fun at parties. That is of course, if you actually have a life outside of the home. Have you evolved into the 21st century yet? I'm amazed that a woman can take such a narrow-minded, Dickensian view of where a woman "belongs". Are we not allowed to be stimulated then?
Tracey, UK

The way people canonise the relationship between mother and child as some ethereal bond puts too much pressure on the mother and relegates the role played by fathers completely. My sister is a single mother and is constantly battling to make her ex-partner see why he should pay for or do anything to support his own children now that they are no longer together. If you don't work, you will struggle financially and socially to be accepted, but this isn't conducive to raising happy, healthy children is it? You only have to look at the thug culture among kids to see that. I can't think of a worse life of drudgery than getting pregnant and having to work full-time then coming home to do exhausting childcare until bedtime while my partner leaves most the housework to me, or my ex thinks he deserves a medal for taking them for the 'odd' weekend visit. Try living like that and still doing both jobs well!
Riley, UK

I've been a working single mother and it was hard. But previous to that I was a stay-at-home mother with a dead-beat partner - that was a lot harder. In an ideal world mothers would get the respect and recognition that they richly deserve, for doing the most important job that there is. But unfortunately the job is unwaged and if you don't earn, you don't get respect in this society. That is why women are under pressure to put off having children until after the years when it is physically most healthy.
Vicki, England

I've never felt so depressed

I am a full-time mum with a three-year-old and an 18-month-old. I've never felt so depressed and tired. My male colleagues (who have families) are totally unsympathetic if I've been up all night with a sick child, and any time I take off when they're sick must be taken as holiday. I'm viewed as a mum who doesn't give 100% to her job. Working mums have a constant sense of guilt.

Families need two working parents but it's only mothers who attract the criticism

Kenneth, Scotland
BMS UK, stick with it kid, I've never met you but I'd rather have you working for me than some others I've known because your levels of commitment are obvious given the pressure you have to cope with. Our office manager has a young child and sometimes has to go off if the child is sick, leaving us without our administrator. However, she is an outstanding colleague and I'd rather have her work with me than some others I've worked with who are less productive and supportive despite no childcare responsibilities. We owe it to parents, male or female, to support them as they are the ones bringing up the next generation of workers. They have a hard enough time of it without bitching from colleagues. I'd rather my colleague got the time needed to look after her family in times of need and return here happy and competent than some others I've known. As for Mike (at end of debate below) don't drag the rest of us guys down with your short-sighted views. Most families now need two working parents but I notice it's only mothers who attract the criticism. More working days are lost through men having hangovers than women needing to care for their children.
Kenneth, Scotland

I have no sympathy at all

Richard, UK
So? Reproducing is not compulsory; it is a personal choice. These people have made their beds, and now they must lie in them. It is a shame they feel the need to take their frustrations out on friends and colleagues. I have no sympathy at all.
Richard, UK

Thanks Richard, for your very constructive comments. We realise reproducing is not compulsory but who would want to live in a world without children? Yes it is hard work, even for us dads, but a little bit of sympathy from bosses and work colleagues would make life much easier.
Jon Jones, Switzerland

Working mums get my utmost respect

Liz, UK
My colleague comes back from maternity leave this month, and I'm really worried about how she is going to cope. Working mums get my utmost respect - I don't know how they do it, but so many of them seem to be super-mums as well as high fliers in their work lives! I don't have kids of my own yet, but I find it hard enough just juggling the demands of my career, my marriage and my personal life and I rarely seem to get more than five hours sleep even without a crying baby! However, I do want to have kids in the future, as well as wanting to maintain the career that I have worked hard to build. I will probably end up taking a career break, although it isn't what I really want - I just can't see how else the kids would fit into my schedule! But I say good luck to those who try!
Liz, UK

If society and the media were more honest about parenthood and its drawbacks, and didn't go on about how rewarding it is, parents would not have unrealistic expectations about the experience and those who can't have children wouldn't feel driven to undergo stressful, expensive and for the most part unsuccessful fertility treatments in order to feel like full members of the human race.
Jane, Wales, UK

Jane from Wales- your comment is the one I most agree with, although I am sympathetic in one way or another with all of the contributors here. I am 35 years old, and to this day I cannot understand why anyone would willingly want to have children. I'm sure many would have been influenced by societies "rose tinted "nonsense of parenthood - that you're somehow obligated to have a family. Not only should the true gravity of what they're getting themselves into be advertised from every magazine and billboard, but those who do have children should be supported considerably more than they are to ensure that they bring up responsible human beings and less of the "animals" that appear to be making up some of our youth culture today
Samuel, UK

Mike, UK: What a short sighted comment to make. I am a father, both myself and my partner work full-time, and believe me, you can have both! We both have the enjoyment of pursuing our careers, satisfying our need to fulfil our lives, and bring up a child. Parents satisfied with their lives will reflect this onto their child. Our child, since starting daycare, has a thoroughly enjoyable day, and wouldn't miss it for the world.
P Gleave, UK

If both parents have to work to support a family, perhaps they shouldn't have started the family in the first place. A child needs a parent present during the start of its life. Couples should decide between a career and a family as I don't think both parents can have both.
Mike, UK

It is a fact of life that most parents do have to work to support the increasing demands of society

Bernice, UK
It is a fact of life that most parents do have to work to support the increasing demands of society, and a lot has been said, both in this debate and many others, about the harm that working mothers inflict on their offspring. However, whilst I do not denigrate anyone who chooses to stay ay home with their children, it could be argued that working mothers are an asset to a company, not only in saving the company time and money training a replacement, but also in the increased level of commitment that working mothers show.

Working mothers tend to work smarter as they get used to juggling work and family, and this is reflected in their job. Many women return to work part time, but feel they should do the same workload as if they were working full time. Yes, there will be times when a sick child inconveniences work commitments, but working mothers also try to get a good support network which minimises the impact on the workplace. And as for the child - I believe my child has increased social skills and independent thought from being in childcare from an early age.
Bernice, UK

Given the number of working mothers there are now in the workplace, it is not practical to tell us to all stay at home. Many of us are highly educated and have skills that could not be replaced if we stopped working. The teacher shortage and the recruitment problems in IT would both become worse for a start. The economy could not work without working mothers.
Katrina, UK

My wife and I have a young son, and without a doubt he is very demanding. My wife and I both work, but we share the workload to ensure that one of us gets a good night's sleep most nights. We are not permanently tired, and we enjoy life, and our son to the full. If we didn't share the workload in this way, one of us would be exhausted. Having children is not compulsory, it is a free choice, and we each choose to have them with the partner of our choice. If you are thinking of having children, look carefully at your partner. If he/she doesn't share the domestic workload before having children, then you're in for a very rough ride.
Andy, UK

I am now a grandmother and am encouraging my daughter to stay at home while they are young

Liz, England
Having been influenced by the feminist 'you should have it all' climate of the 60s and 70s women did take it all on, and have lived to regret it. When my child was born in the seventies, I gave up work until she was five. We had no money and lived in one room but had a wonderful time together and I was astonished at the suggestions from friends that I might be "deprived". You really don't need a lot of money to bring up children - they just need fun and love, which costs nothing. When I did go back to work my daughter hated it.

The government's urge to get mothers of young children back to work is short sighted and will result in worse behavioural problems in the nation's children and WHY are people SURPRISED to find that working full-time and bringing up young children is too much for anyone? It should be obvious. We only have our children for a short time and that time is precious - if we miss the first few years of their development our lives are the poorer for it and theirs! I am now a grandmother and am encouraging my daughter to stay at home while they are young. If you want children - then care for them - don't pass them on.
Liz, England

Don't worry parents. When you join the Euro and hand all your employment laws over to Brussels, then you will have child care, health care and all the help and encouragement you need including employment protection etc. Stick with it and join us enlightened Europeans.
John, France

When my wife and I decided to have children, I carried on working. I was fortunate enough to be able to take 1 month off on the birth of our daughter, and during that time we shared equally the daily chores of changing, feeding, washing, meal preparation etc., etc. When I returned to work, the roles had to change, but when I return at the end of the day, I take time to relieve the work load on my wife, and to help out wherever I can. I understand some of the comments above about how it can be considered unfair for "non" parents to "suffer" for those who have children, but I believe that employers need to be mindful of the stresses and strains involved in raising children. As I said, I have carried on working, but if my daughter is sick then I get anxious and am worried for her. If my manager sends me home an hour early so I can be there to take her to hospital then I appreciate that gesture, and will go out of my way to make up the time by some other means. I feel better about my employer, and will work harder as a result. If my employer was not understanding, then that would breed resentment, and I would only work the minimum required. Who benefits from that little bit of understanding now?
Johnathon Brock, UK

I'm the light sleeper in our family and I'm the one who gets up for the kids during the night

Martin, Ireland
It would appear that only women were questioned for this poll, so it's hardly surprising that it came up with the results it did. I'm the light sleeper in our family and I'm the one who gets up for the kids during the night. And I know I'm far from the only dad who does so. The difference is, we don't feel the need to whine about it. And in future, before publishing such polls, at least ensure that they are based on a representative sample of the population - not just the female half.
Martin, Ireland

Mothers still bear the major responsibility for childcare, housework and added to this they may also be working out with the home. Very few fathers accept an evenly balanced share of the work involved in bring up children. Women are balancing being a mother to her children, being a wonder woman in the house, being a wife to her husband and in many cases being out in the workplace part time or fulltime. Something has to give... a build up of all these pressures take their toll on the quality of life of mothers/house keepers/wives/workers.
Mrs M Jasem, Scotland

Seems to me that there are two groups of family who can really 'afford' to have children. Those who live off the state, and the super rich who can live on a single income. Everyone in the middle needs two incomes for even a basic lifestyle, whilst at the same time being taxed and taxed again.
John B, UK

Of course having children is a choice but it is our children that will be the future workers, including the care workers and providers of pensions for those who have chosen not to have children. Parents need support both emotionally and physically. I think that it is now time to give tax concessions to parents in order to encourage more people to have children to reverse the demographic trend towards an older population. Work is certainly not parent friendly and more needs to be done to make life easier for them. You probably find that parents are more committed to work than non-parents.
Peter, England

Parenthood is a choice. It's obviously something that's difficult financially and emotionally, however I do agree that more support needs to be given to parents. These days most parents seem to have no financial option but both work full-time. Why should a woman (or man) give up on a full-time career just because some people in society expect one parent to be a full-time carer? Even if both parents work full-time out of choice rather than necessity, they should still be given all the support they need. I'm female and in my mid-20s and am at the beginning of what I hope is a continuous full-time career, and I do not have the urge or intention to have children. Yes I am selfish, but in a good way.. why should I have children just because I'm able to? The world isn't exactly suffering from a shortage of people. Couples can have both a family and a career. Plenty of children have and are being brought up successfully in such a situation. However parents need more support, not criticism. If you want to work and have children.. do it. If you don't.don't!
Julia, UK

What about us working fathers who get up in the night?

Alan Green, Germany
What about us working fathers who get up in the night, feed and change children that are as much ours as their mothers', clean up after the little darlings have been sick, take them to school when they get older so that their mothers can sleep late? As usual we are being completely ignored. Tantrum over. This morning (School holiday), I dropped my daughters into the creche provided free of charge by my employer (yes - free of charge). When I go to pick them up this afternoon I know that they will have had food thrown at them all day, and will have spent this afternoon on a supervised trip out to a play centre appropriate to their age group. The trip out costs, but obtains discounts for bulk bookings so it's hardly expensive. Happy kids - happy me. This allows my wife and I to have a meaningful relationship with each other and the children without being stressed, we can sort the family finances, keep the house tidy and still have time for me to play my guitar and my wife to have piano lessons. Now, how many employers in the UK provide free creche facilities?
Alan Green, Germany

Look, working mums. You need to learn the simple art of prioritising. People who don't, end up trying to do too much and doing none of it very well. So the bottom line is this: have children and shelve your job, or keep the job and don't have children. If you are determined to do both then you need to learn how to apply the principle of delegation. You have a partner? Then firmly delegate part of the child's night-time care to him. It's called rock-it science. Problem solved. Sleep well!
Chris B, England

Now I know why I left the UK eight years ago, to work here in Germany. Children are respected, so is parenting, so are working mums, especially single ones. Childcare is cheaper, full-day kindergarten places are available, most colleagues are understanding. I keep thinking about coming back to live in England to bring mine up in their own country, but now I know why I haven't actually done it. A population without children is a dying one, the Germans understand that. Seems like the UK could do with a little less of the Victorian attitude and get up-to-date.
Emma, Germany

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