The way in which we care for our children creates the foundations for the society in which we live. At the moment it feels like the weight of responsibility lies heavily with parents. The majority of parents are trying incredibly hard to give the best life possible to their children. Most of us are struggling.
Why is this the case?
I read somebody’s lovely post a while ago about the fact that all of the things we expect ourselves to do as adults we probably won’t manage. You won’t be able to keep your home clean, be athletically fit, have fabulous meals on the table every day, have thriving children who you spend lots of quality time with, a successful career and be rested and rejuvenated…. Unless perhaps you can afford a paid entourage to help you.
The reason for this is that it is not one person’s work. The social model that still prevails has it’s roots in a time when one half of a couple would go out to work and the other would take care of the children and household. Fitness was a given for a lot of people because of less reliance on cars: In the 1970s the average person walked six miles per day. For many couples in 2020, looking after their children is seen as a joint responsibility. If it was the case that both parents could work part time and share childcare it could lead to an improvement in quality of life.
Many employers, however, still operate out of this model with the expectation that people will work forty hours per week, often within set hours. Part time work is often low skilled and low paid making it difficult to both care well for our children and be fulfilled in our work. Self employment comes with it’s own set of challenges. It is easy to be seduced by success stories but the reality is running your own business takes a great deal of painstaking commitment.
Integrating Family Life
This week I did an interview with equality activist Michael Ray, who campaigns for a better integration of family and working lives. This includes recognition that time spent taking care of children is not a gap in the CV but time spent developing new skills. As parents we learn things which are incredible valuable in the work place for example how to see and draw out the best in another, kindness, compassion and patience, efficiency and time management. All skills which are important in team building and leadership roles not just at home.
Perhaps employers have a role to play in better accommodating parents.
Flexible and part time working options could help employers to benefit from these skills and help to produce healthier families. Lockdown has meant that many people have been required to work from home. There is an opportunity, therefore, for employers to continue offering this to parents, benefits of this include reduced travel times and the possibility of structuring work to maximise efficiency.
2 to 3 days are doing amazing work in helping mums find engaging employment opportunities which fit around family life.
Can we look to change the way in which aspects of society are structured in order to facilitate emotional health for us and our children?
According to unicef Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Estonia and Portugal rank highest for family-friendly policies in OECD and EU countries. Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom and Ireland among lowest ranking countries. In my next post I would like to start having a look at what countries like Sweden and Norway do better than the UK.
“There is no time more critical to children’s brain development – and therefore their futures – than the earliest years of life. We need governments to help provide parents with the support they need to create a nurturing environment for their young children. And we need the support and influence of the private sector to make this happen.” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.