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New Report Shows That Most Working Parents Are Struggling To Cope

Luke BenedictusBy Luke Benedictus.
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Since becoming a dad have you found yourself becoming more stressed? Do you wrestle with the pressure of trying to juggle your work around your family commitments? Are you reluctant to take advantage of more flexible working opportunities for fear of damaging your career?

If so, you’re not alone.

Findings from the National Working Families Report analysed data from more than 6000 Australian parents and carers. It found that 62 per cent of parents and carers report difficulties looking after their own physical and mental health as they try to balance competing work and family pressures.

The survey was commissioned by Parents At Work with the support of a national network of employers and the parenting advocacy group, Karitane.
Parents At Work CEO, Emma Walsh, said that the majority of working parents and carers reported difficulty striking the right balance between their work and family commitments.

“These stresses have important implications for both families and employers. One in four parents and carers reported an increased intention to leave their jobs in the next 12 months, because they struggle to combine caring with their job,” she said.

“Two-thirds of working parents and carers reported struggling to look after their own physical and mental health, and that’s a startling statistic by anyone’s measure. Working parents and carers also find it difficult to manage household chores and caring for family.

“Half of all women and one-third of men who were parenting or caring reported they were under a lot or a great deal of stress when juggling work and family roles.

“Two-thirds reported feeling too emotionally or physically drained when they got home from work to contribute to their family and half had missed out on family activities in the past month, due to time they had to spend at work.”

Greater flexibility in the workplace may be the answer. But dads, in particular, often fail to take advantage of those support mechanisms if they’re available due to fears of the consequences.

Dads often failed to access flexible work citing the impact on their career and reputation, how it would be perceived by their employer or colleagues and whether they could afford it. 
Two-thirds of parents (64 per cent) reported that it is more acceptable for women to use family-friendly work options than for men. Meanwhile nearly half of all parents in the study said that a workers’ commitment to their job was questioned if they used family-friendly work arrangements.

Men often receive negative comments from managers about their involvement in family caring responsibilities. Meanwhile the persistent belief that ‘flexible work is for women’ stops men from re-thinking their working habits and forces women to take on the bulk of family care work.

“When it comes to the gender divide, the report found that women continue to carry the ‘caring load’ and that employers could do more to support men to use flexible work and parental leave.

“This means employers need to address the financial, social and cultural barriers that prevent men sharing the caring load to level the playing field for both women and men to contribute at work and home.”

Parent and child health care services provider, Karitane CEO, Grainne O’Loughlin said parents taking stress home from work impacts on their personal and family wellbeing, particularly when there is a lack of employer support.

“Parenting can be stressful and with the added pressures of working it can have a profound impact on the individual and on the child,” she said.

“This report found half of all parents returning to work after parental leave report significant fatigue; a third are worried and anxious; and one in five report feeling depressed. We need to find ways to better support parents and families at this crucial time.”