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?

ElfOnTheTopShelf Wed 06-Aug-08 20:07:32

DH and I work full time. He can do about 60hrs a week, I do 35.
I do the housework when DD is in bed. I also study when she is in bed.
Week day evenings can sometimes be me and DD in the evenings, we pack it full of cooking together, playing games, reading etc. Weekends we visit family, go to the park, play football, run around, go for long walks, go swimming, every minute is packed of us being a family.

Its catch 22. I can work full time to keep the roof over our head that we would frankly struggle to keep if I didn't, and DD suffers, or I could stay at home, potentially lose my home, and see how DD suffers then.

Nobody is happy as a parent unless they have something to beat themselves up about.

I dont ask anybody to walk my path, its my path, my choices, my daughter. I take my cues from her. She's a well adjusted, clever cloggy nearly three year old. Shes happy. I dont need to be made to feel guilty by articles that tell you no matter what you do, you're screwing up your kids.

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 20:15:35

these surveys are bollocks aren't they. And I've never been asked. On all my years on this planet, I've not been asked, nor has dh and nor has anyone else I know at work (was talking about this today) so goodness knows who they are surveying wink.

I don't know what you define as 'suffers' for a start.

As others have pointed out, there is a suffering involved in having to move house and change school because without both parents working full time, you can't make ends meet. And there is a suffering in terms of not spending enough time with each other. But then again, how do you define 'enough'.

girlsallaround Wed 06-Aug-08 20:18:22

since you are asking specifically how does our own experience compare -

balancing a full time job, 2 children and a third on the way, is a lot of work, especially if you want to be fully dedicated to all. however, i do not feel that that is what helps or hinders family life. that is up to too many other factors from each couples personality, to their relationship, their financial capabilities etc.

i can think of some fabulous mothers who work full time and have large families 3+ children. i can think of some mothers who stay at home and their relationships are falling apart. a lot of it comes down to your personal attitude and your partners

in my case it works fabulously, plus my dear h is the biggest child requiring the most attention in the family

WilfSell Wed 06-Aug-08 20:48:20

OK just to defend surveys a leeetle bit, even though I think the headlines from this research are being misconstrued...

Just wanna point out that the research originates from Cambridge University. That makes it pretty credible TBH.

And looking at the report in the Grauniad (haven't read original research but I'm not a bad judge of these things and reading between the lines...) the surveys used are national govt ones, such as probably in the UK case, the British Social Attitudes survey and European Social Survey.

These surveys are definitely not bollocks: just because any one individual has never been asked doesn't mean that they are crap. On the whole, govt surveys are carefully sampled so that they fully represent as much as possible the UK population.

British social attitudes asks lots of controversial questions that are often supposed to be interpreted together (eg they construct attitudinal scores by adding up answers to individual responses). So reading out percentages for any single answer is not necessarily the best way to go.

Like many attitudinal surveys they also ask contradictory questions: when you ask something in one way you get a different response to asking it in another way...

I imagine there has been a LOT of translation of the findings: from the original research, to the University's press office, to the Guardian Journalist, to the editor who wants it sexed up a bit...

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 20:57:10

I don't know anyone who works who has been asked. No-one in my office, no-one in my old office, no-one in dh's office. In fact, we had a discussion about this at one of my very old places of work where there was a global employee base of over 1000 people and in our specific office of nearly 400 people, no-one had ever participated in a survey. I guess they have to get hold of people by phone? or rely on them signing up to do surveys? All I'm saying is that I don't ever think surveys are properly representative of all types of people so say working vs unemployed vs stay at home vs retired (for example) - and that sort of survey, if you ask a disproportionate number of a certain group, you're going to get a certain answer.

You may be able to claim they are statistically represntative based on the number of people they ask but that's it.

Oliveoil Wed 06-Aug-08 20:57:54

I would hate to work full time and I don't particularly like working part time tbh, would love to be at home

dh doesn't do long hours so chores are split quite equally in this house

I personally think that if both parents work full time, something has to give, whether it is the job/child/house/relationship

we are not machines to take on all this stress and work without a break imo

TheOldestCat Wed 06-Aug-08 21:05:54

Agree with Oliveoil - something has to give.

In my case (we both work full-time, although I'm able to be flexible, with two days a week working at home while leaving the office early and working after DD is in bed, and DH works 7am-3pm), that something is the house. We live in glorious slatterny.

I'd love to be at home too, but it's just not possible. DD is happy and that's what matters to me - like someone said earlier, it's me that misses out. And I can handle that (most of the time).

I'm glad this thread has mainly concentrated on what people think and how it relates to their circumstances, rather than generalising wildly. I guess that's why we have surveys...

WilfSell Wed 06-Aug-08 21:06:44

no oi, I'm afraid you're wrong - about the representativeness bit, not what people you worked with said, obv!

They actually control very carefully in order to be representative of all types of people. They endeavour to fully represent all classes, ages, working statuses, ethnicities etc

What this means is they spend an awful lot of money and time trying and trying to get hold of people who are hard to get to participate (for example, rich middle class people, isolated older people and the homeless and unemployed are particularly hard to find or unwilling to participate...)

And in cases where they simply cannot gain a fully representative subgroup, what they do is then 'weight' the scores so a better match for the national population is reached.

This is for the main government funded surveys - can't speak for smaller scale individual ones. But any research project worth its salt will try to use such an approach or have a sound set of reasons why it doesn't.

Your ad hoc 'survey' of 400 employees at your work is likely to have been much more biased and less representative of the general population than any govt survey which is perhaps why you didn't find anyone who had been surveyed.

I've been asked twice FWIW!

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 21:12:51

lol so they fix the results when they can't make them representative wink!

my friend works as a statitician for the government and I think has started to dread having a pint with me in case I bring this up! I fail to be convinced. It's my conspiracy theory and I'm sticking to it!

I imagine the government polls ARE a lot more representative than others though, I do agree with you. I have spoken with people commissioning polls (mainly for newspapers) - it's amazing how you can 'rig' the questions to get the sort of answers you're looking for!

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 21:13:42

in fact, maybe it's you and you're now running to the door screaming NO SHE'S FOUND ME

hatwoman Wed 06-Aug-08 21:27:03

I nearly burst a blood vessel in the supermarket today when I peered into the DM and saw this (don;t ask why I peered into the DM...) The Guardian coverage was better but still depressing. Like most people here I just do not understand why this research fixates on women working ft (thus facilitating the dm to, essentially, tell us to get back in the kitchen)instead of looking at the dynamics and economics of a whole household/family (including non "traditional" families).

To me, if you start to think about the whole househole picture there's something bloody obvious: If you have a situation (in the 1950s, say) where women do 99 per cent of family and household work you cannot move to a situation where they become equal participants in the work place unless someone else picks up the slack. You can;t have equality in the work place unless you have equality at home. It's not rocket science it's obvious. And, tbh, I'm pretty hmm about the Fawcett society and that family org response - which seems to be saying lets make it easier for women to do all their parenting and housework. no, let's make it easier for people who want to

hatwoman Wed 06-Aug-08 21:28:38

that'll be a household. although looking at mine at the moment a househole is probably more appropriate

WilfSell Wed 06-Aug-08 21:31:06

ha ha oi: I wouldn't believe a single word of a newspaper poll... wink

No am not a statistician but do use govt surveys a lot and do related research...

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 21:31:30

lol yes it's silly isn't it but makes a great DM headline

I wish they'd do more surveys about fathers working (if they have to do surveys) - I don't know if my workplace is representative but I've certainly noticed fathers being more 'out' about their family committments than the last time I was working full time, almost 6 years ago.

TheOldestCat Wed 06-Aug-08 21:33:05

<<takes her hat off to hatwoman>>

Well said!

I don't think looking at the DM piece will be good for my blood pressure.

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 21:33:12

ah yes Wilf. Didn't mean to personally slag off your work purpose like wink. I am, as you can see, strangely fascinated by the whole strange business. Like think tanks. They are another thing that get me.

Gizmo Wed 06-Aug-08 21:34:25

Oh God

Have just heard the trailer for Radio 4's 10'o'clock news programme: 'and we'll also be asking if a family inevitably suffers if the mother works outside the home.'

FGS angry. This is exactly how it begins... people's attitudes are somehow being reported as facts. I am seriously pissed off with R4 for giving fuel to this fire.


stealthsquiggle Wed 06-Aug-08 21:35:06

if I were to work FT (currently 4 days/week) I believe my family would suffer (more). I base this on what DS(5) says - he would hate it if I couldn't pick him up from school at least once a week (with juggling I usually manage 2 or 3) and the fact that if DD (21mths) doesn't get her day at home with Mummy for any reason she becomes a clingy monster instead of bouncing happily into nursery.

I suffer from lack of income this way but I can't really see it changing until the DC are at sceondary school.

hatwoman Wed 06-Aug-08 21:40:05

hatwoman wonders if she dare even watch the will be bad for my health. I'll get over excited and dh (who works 2 days a week and does more than his fair share of housework and parenting) will try to calm me down and/or counter what I say and say something that will result in me laying all the world's ills at his feet. it will be terrible.

oi Wed 06-Aug-08 21:40:25

I still don't know how you'd define 'suffers' though.

And I also don't know whether you have to look at full time versus not working or full time versus just errr what exactly?

I work full time now, so does dh. I only see the kids after work. Some weeks it's really bad and busy and I hardly see them at all. That I find hard and I imagine they do too. Some weeks I get a good hour/90 mins with them every night which is great and lovely.

What is key is the help you have I think.

mrsruffallo Wed 06-Aug-08 21:47:30

I have always felt that it is very important to stay at home with my children, especially in their pre school years.
I feel very in tune with them, very attached and in tune with them.
I have never had any doubt that this was better than sending them to nursery as it sets them up with a security and closeness that can't be bought.
I don't know if if families suffer from both parents working full time, and sadly it is becoming a neccessity for many families, but I know I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.

rookiemater Wed 06-Aug-08 21:48:00

I can only talk for myself. I work 4 days a week with slightly reduced hours and I don't think our family could cope with me working f/t.

I already feel guilty that I am tired when I pick up DS from the CMs although he loves going there btw and I think he gets more from going there than he would if he were at home with me going slightly loopy 24/7. I enjoy my one day a week with him and wouldn't want to lose it.

I think the person who gains most from my working is DH. It means that we have enough money to go on holidays and buy luxuries, but at the end of the day it seems to be me that does the laundry, unstacks the dishwasher, does the shopping and cooking,sorts out complicated childcare arrangements and generally takes on the lions share of the parenting, just because I work 9 hours a week less than he does. And yes we have had discussions too numerous to mention and to be fair he picks up more of the paperwork

So I don't know what the answer is. I don't think both parents working f/t is ideal for families, but then like Bree they may have a flexible arrangement which means they can be there for the important stuff. I'd go mad if I were at home all the time, but equally I'm finding my current position tiring and stressful. I'm glad women have opportunities for working and rights during and after pregnancy but somehow they seem to have changed into expectations and that doesn't to my mind appear to be something that was really worth striving for.

sfxmum Wed 06-Aug-08 21:48:51

personalty I think both parents whether together or not, should be the main carers for the first few years and I would rather live in a society which facilitated that and made that important.
I would also like to see proper quality childcare widely available
it is good for women to have a career/ work/ interest besides motherhood/ family obviously as it is good for men to play a full role in the upbringing of children/ home life.

I don't think these days in Britain this is possible, mainly from a financial point of view.

these headlines help no one

hatwoman Wed 06-Aug-08 21:48:51

it's also the case that "suffering" - in this context is being measured against something. ie mother and father both working ft is being compared with mother working pt/not at all and father working ft. in which case an awful lot of people are going to say - possibly not unreasonably - that the former situation is tougher than the latter.

My own experience (to answer the op) is that the hat house has done all of the following:
both working ft (10 days total/week)
father working ft; mother pt (8 days total pw)
both working pt both in offices with childcare (7 days total pw)
both working pt at home, flexible hours without childcare (6-7 days total pw)
and without a shadow of a doubt the most stressful is the laat one. looks great on paper but it's fecking awful.

rookiemater Wed 06-Aug-08 21:50:40

hatwoman which was the best option for you ?

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