Throughout this week, in recognition of International Women’s Day on 8th March, we will be publishing 5 posts based on this year’s theme #PressforProgress for gender parity.
This first post is focused on pressing for progress for working parents.
The historic family model that has pervaded for centuries – families consisting of two parents, one who goes out to work and is the breadwinner (father), whilst the second parent raises the offspring and runs the family home (mother) – is outdated but still has a strong influence over decisions made in the world of work, within families, service providers and policy makers.
The majority of the UK’s 19 million families do not fit this traditional model. 30% of families are headed by a single female parent; women make up 47% of the UK workforce and whilst working mothers are more likely to be the parent that works less than full-time hours, they are working longer than previously and are also the fastest growing demographic for setting up a micro-business. So women are more economically active but they are more likely to be found in lower paid roles than men, leading to a national average gender pay gap of 9.1% (2017, ONS) for equivalent full-time earnings. It is predicted that the gap will take many years to close and for the UK to reach anything close to gender parity.
So here are 5 ways in which working parents can press for progress and create families that thrive:
1. Family values
Work out what’s important to you as a family and regularly review these. What are your priorities, both in the short term and over the long term? What are your financial priorities? What are your dreams? What do you want for your family? Do you share a family vision that each member is committed to making happen? What do you agree upon? What can you compromise on? What are your points of difference? All these will be influenced by your family demographics, such as age of children, number of children and other caring responsibilities, as well as professional and personal ambitions, interests and preferences.
A family that thrives understands each other well, can support each individual to pursue their goals, is resilient and is flexible to cater for changing situations.
2. Childcare choices
Children grow physically and emotionally with consistent and reliable care as a foundation. The wise adage that it takes a village to raise a child still holds true, and so as working parents it’s important to create the village for your children. This might not be the traditional, geographical village, given that we are less likely to live as close to our extended families as in previous generations, but it’s important that you create a support network for your family – providing regular as well as contingent childcare when you are not present, providing positive role models for your children and support for you as a parent, as well as giving opportunities to educate and develop your children, in addition to school: risk, friendships, play, independence, risk, faith, etc.
Many working parents report feeling guilty about not being at home to look after their children all the time. If you experience guilt, take steps to be comfortable and confident about the decisions that you are making and free yourself from an unhelpful emotional state.
Families that thrive will have a mix of parental care and childcare from their “village” appropriate to the age and needs of each child, with an eye on the long term towards developing functioning and responsible adults.
3. Working arrangements
Select working arrangements that work for you as a family unit. At different ages, children will have different needs and the demands of parenting will change – whether you have a nursery-age child through to a college-age child. Increasingly, employers are recognising the need to support working families and offer degrees of flexible working opportunities – whether this is to attend an occasional school assembly or provide an activities club for your children during the school holidays.
Identify work opportunities that will work for you and your family. Pursue flexible working requests. Challenge your organisation to provide you with the support that you need, so that they can retain you as a valued, productive and engaged employee.
Families that thrive work together as a team to support each other to perform in their role whilst having the flexibility to support their family – financially and in terms of time spent together. Afterall, the one thing that children desire from their parents is to spend quality time together.
4. Domestic and emotional burden
Research shows that women are more likely to spend greater time involved in domestic tasks, afterall this is what generations and generations of female predecessors have spent most of their time doing.
With the exception of pregnancy, child-birth and breastfeeding, all other parenting tasks are gender-neutral. We recommend that every family spends time recognising and acknowledging everything that goes into creating a healthy and thriving family – from food shopping, meal preparation, budgeting, cleaning, car maintenance, laundry, celebrations and rituals, school administration, etc …. it’s a huge list! Ensure that one person is not taking responsibility for everything – organising and sharing out roles and responsibilities, tasks delegated to children and outsourced as necessary so that each member of the family has time to do the things they love to do as well as have time for themselves to relax and rejuvenate.
Families that thrive separate domestic tasks from parenting responsibilities. The domestic burden should be understood, shared and work efficiently, so that you can focus attention on parenting and whatever brings you joy.
5. Time for yourself
Being a parent can be a joyful experience but also relentless. Many working parents report that they feel stressed. Generally this di-stress comes from not having a “balance” of getting your needs met either at work, as a parent or as an individual. Afteral,l we only have 24 hours and 7 days in each week to take care of everything. What you do in this time, and how you do it, will impact on your sense of balance and achievement.
Families that thrive support each other to get their human needs met, including time to rest and time to be you – adding to your wellbeing.
If you feel as though you are not getting your needs met as a working parent, that you don’t have a sense of balance between your different roles and you would like to explore strategies for enabling you and your family to not only survive but thrive, check out our Working Parents coaching.
To achieve gender parity as a nation, it is important that there is parity between partners and within families. Are you setting your children up to value each other equally so that they have equality of opportunity now and as they mature?
What are you doing to #PressforProgress for working parents?
#CM5in5 for #IWD2018
This week we’re publishing 5 blog posts:
Monday: #PressforProgress for working parents
Tuesday: #PressforProgress for new parents
Wednesday: #PressforProgress for family-friendly employers
Thursday: #PressforProgress from leaders
Friday: #PressforProgress from the government
These can all be found on our website: www.career-mums.co.uk and social media channels.
Career-Mums Partnership helps parents to return to work after a career break and thrive as working parents as well as working with employers to improve gender diversity for the benefit of their business.