New research says more people believe family suffers if women work full-time - what do you think?

(165 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Aug-08 14:34:22

The research is reported here. Do your experiences back up the findings, or contradict them?

Twiglett Wed 06-Aug-08 14:37:58

I read that this morning

wasn't it just a percentage drop from around 50% to 46% over 15 years or so

I thought at the time that it's hardly a robust scientific study .. you are asking groups for value judgements there is no control feature

and even if it were robust a 4 or 5% margin of error over 15 years is hardly OTT

one is not allowed to profess the belief today that you believe 'family' suffers without a full time parenting figure in the early years so I won't comment on what I believe is best for our family

Sunshinetoast Wed 06-Aug-08 16:15:44

I agreed with the comments from the Fawcett Society. Equality needs a bigger transformation than just enabling women to work the way men have traditionally worked (which assumes someone else is looking after children) without any change in the culture of work, or much change in what men do.

And why are we still stuck asking about whether women should work full time, rather than how both parents can balance work and caring?

poppy34 Wed 06-Aug-08 16:20:18

agree sunshinetoast... predicatably more balanced article than the daily mail take on it link

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Wed 06-Aug-08 16:21:57

Er yes I think they do - by which I mean my experience is that full time work when trying to care for a pre-schooler a primary aged child and a severely disabled child is pretty bloody difficult- and I have a very flexible job. It's too much though ( when I finish the thing I'm doing in 2 years time I won't work full time again for a while although I will work part time).

Although agree with sunshine- it's about parents both working full time - or trying to balance the childcare- rather than just the mother.

And it will depend on individual circumstances.

Sunshinetoast Wed 06-Aug-08 16:43:44

Daily Mail is never good for my blood pressure. I love the way it moves from a survey about attitudes to women working full time to women working at all! Interesting comments afterwards though - particularly about poverty being the thing that really damages family life

cornsilk Wed 06-Aug-08 16:44:36

I found full time work more stressful and was more stressed at home as a result. However if money is an issue then it is going to be stressful to be a SAHM. Swings and roundabouts I think.

WilfSell Wed 06-Aug-08 16:45:51

Sorry GeraldineMN but your question is problematic. As Twiglett says, the study is reporting a 5% change in 'beliefs'... Hardly earth-shattering nor particularly interesting. And perhaps bearing no relation to what families actually do: beliefs change for all sorts of reasons unrelated to the things the belief is about.

If you're asking whether MNers have changed their beliefs on this issue over the last few years, then the answers make sense.

But if you are asking whether people's experience is that families suffer if women work part-time, I'm afraid that is not backing up the findings: it is being misleading on the findings (a category error).

Sorry to be a pedant on this, but the misreporting of research is a big problem.

twinsetandpearls Wed 06-Aug-08 16:51:58

I think families suffer is both parents or the main carer have to work full time. Unfortunately that sufferance is becoming a necessary norm. In the case of our family we have made the choice for dp to work at home and reduce his hours. But that will mean going without some things especially as we have just moved to a more expensive area. But I recognise that is not a choice open to everyone. Agree that it is not down to mothers but parents.

nkf Wed 06-Aug-08 16:52:10

It was measuring a slight shift in attitudes wasn't it? And so not particularly illuminating. What is interesting is that it is still assumed that long hours worked by men are fine for families. I'm amazed that more men aren't enraged by that assumption. Perhaps many of them prefer the office to their home.

ScottishMummy Wed 06-Aug-08 16:56:19

i laugh when MsHorlick is referred to as "superwoman".i would be too if i had staff and a nanny

in fact amazing with little recogmition is parents who work, students who study without a posse of staff and city size salary to boot

that is Super

Gizmo Wed 06-Aug-08 17:09:27

When it comes to attitudes I have certainly become more aware of critical attitudes about working mothers in the past 3 years. These are not from my immediate friends and family, but from the cross section of the media that I am exposed to.

Of course, attitudes bear no relation to the objective realities of why women work, but there is a danger that they become self-reinforcing,and at some point cross the bridge into a common cultural belief, which is going to undo several decades of hard work sad.

motherinferior Wed 06-Aug-08 17:18:15

From my reading of the research - and I've not read the research, just the Guardian coverage - the problem seems to me to be that women are still expected to do a disproportionate amount of all household-associated tasks, including but not solely limited to parenting.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Wed 06-Aug-08 17:21:10

Yes I think that's important MI. Part of the problem with me working full time(ish) now is the everything else I'm doing. DH works very long hours (commonly until 11pm). He does quite a bit of cooking and shopping, but I do all the kids food, all the washing, all the clothes washing, all the coming home early to meet ds1's bus (which means I have to work in the evenings too), all the paperwork associated with ds1, all the organising workmen etc and I'm teaching non-verbal ds1 to read and write.

If we had a more balanced household me working full time would be less detrimental.

Sunshinetoast Wed 06-Aug-08 17:23:52

It's interesting that a survey showing a fairly small shift in attitudes should generate so much attention. And also interesting how easily the Daily Mail and others translate that change in attitudes into further 'evidence' that women working after they have children damages families.

motherinferior Wed 06-Aug-08 17:26:28

'Among young people there remained an expectation that women should perform more of the household chores.'

I'm always taken aback by how much that expectation is perpetuated on MN - and no, it's not just because of parenting, because a lot of male partners appear never to have done much housework.

motherinferior Wed 06-Aug-08 17:30:15

I'm not saying, btw, that I think in all families both parents should work full-time. (FWIW I've taken a conscious decision to work fairly school-friendly hours - but then I can do that, you see, because of the kind of job I do.) But I do think that we are not going to get any kind of sensible discussion of parenting while women are simply expected to do all the other stuff. And, as I say, not just because they may be at home more hours but because their partners 'don't notice the house' or 'have always left clothes on the floor' or a million and one other subjects of complaint currently running on MN, albeit in a 'ah, boys will be boys' way angry

nkf Wed 06-Aug-08 17:31:35

Most men just won't do significant amounts of housework. There is a book by Barbara Einreich (not sure that's the spelling) which looks at the way feminists used to argue for the equal division of domestic chores and have largely abandoned the argument and instead either do it themselves or, if they can, they employ another woman to do some of it.

motherinferior Wed 06-Aug-08 17:33:15

I think a lot of women enable that 'not doing', though.

Swedes Wed 06-Aug-08 17:35:42

Motherinferior - What's your own personal experience? Do you do more than your DP/DH (if you have one)?

nkf Wed 06-Aug-08 17:35:55

Absolutely MI. Some men are just so stubborn about not doing it that women give up the fight.

sarah293 Wed 06-Aug-08 17:36:09

Message withdrawn

Gumbo Wed 06-Aug-08 17:38:00

I feel that this report is fixated on women (and their partners) working full time, but not looking at the option of women who work full time, but who's partners are SAHDs. Does that also cause the 'family to suffer'? Because it seems to work extremely well in my household! Is it something specific about being a certain gender and working that causes the 'suffering'?

I honestly feel that my family has flourished since my DH gave up a good job to be a SAHD and I went back to work full time, rather than it being detrimental to my family.

LittleMyDancingForJoy Wed 06-Aug-08 17:40:56

For my part I think it's fair to say that I think family life suffers if both parents work full time - but except for the first year, I don't think it matters which parent works part time or not at all, as long as one of them does.

The ideal would be two parents working part time and complementary hours so no childcare required, but who has the luxury of that?

(Except those smug people you see in Red mangazine telling us about how they relocated to the Bahamas because all their work is done online and because they're freelance (or sell cakes and bunting) they can arrange their hours how they please and how wonderful it is for the children to grow up on the beach etc etc etc barf)

Sunshinetoast Wed 06-Aug-08 17:45:16

I agree with MI about a lot of women enabling men not to do much at home. I work part-time and so do more at home than my partner but when he's here he does as much as I do. And that did require some shouting reasoned discussion at the beginning and the odd reminder but I'd rather have that than years of resentment and frustration.

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