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How can we make Britain more family-friendly?

(180 Posts)
Carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Aug-10 16:15:13

Mumsnet are launching an initiative to try and make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe (well...the world actually, but we thought we'd start small smile) Ambitious plan? Just a bit, but we think long overdue. We want to challenge companies - and we're talking everyone from travel firms to supermarkets, restaurants to mobile phone merchants - to join our programme and find out - from Mumsnetters - how they could make their industry more family-friendly. We're going to look at every aspect of how a company operates from how they market their goods to the welcome and facilities they provide to families. And then we want to encourage them to do business in a way that makes life easier for families not more difficult, and ultimately give Mumsnet Family-friendly awards to the ones that do it well.

Obviously we'll need lots of help and input from the folks who know most about all this - ie you. So before we really get going, we want to know what you think. What does family-friendly mean to you and what criteria should we use to judge whether a company is family-friendly or not? What do you love about what some companies are already doing and - just as important - what do you think they should stop doing? Is it the way companies try to sell products to you or your children that makes you cross or is it the fact that you can never squeeze your buggy down the aisle at your local coffee shop? Or both, or neither? If you could pick three things you'd change about any industry to make it more family friendly - what would they be?

Lots of questions but we'd love to hear your thoughts so please, post 'em here

Thanks

MNHQ

I'd like to see a move towards larger parking spaces in general. P&T spaces are often full at our supermarket and I don't feel the standard parking space size has kept pace with family sized cars. It would just make going out a bit less stressful.

My employer is very family friendly, they are generous about granting part time requests for both men and women and requests for unpaid leave and they are generally very flexible if children are ill etc. I can also 'buy' up to 2 weeks holiday if I anticipate needing a bit extra. I know a lot of people aren't as lucky.

I would also like to see more parks, playgrounds and safe outdoor spaces. Parts of London are really well equipped but the rest of us are not always so lucky.

I was surprised to get on a bus the other day and then realise it wasn't accessible and there was nowhere for my pushchair. Bit of a stressful time and I think it would be good to either phase out all non-accessible buses or at least make it clear at the bus stop and on timetables if the bus is not going to be an accessible one.

I think it's a shame that the SureStart centres have lost some of their funding too, all the groups I have been to have been really great.

loubielou31 Fri 09-Nov-12 17:13:42

Attitudes towards parents who need to take time off work because their children are ill need to change. Provision of better, cheaper childcare during school holidays is desperately needed.

loubielou31 Fri 09-Nov-12 17:11:22

The best nappy changing rooms have a loo cubicle in them too so mums/older potty training siblings can use them without having to fight the pram into another room.

Like many have said restaurants that make me feel welcome with my children are the ones that get my repeat custom.

Family attractions should not rob you twice, once for entry and then again if you want to buy anything within the park.

Decent play parks are always welcome but are in many places really hard to find.

sussextealady Wed 23-May-12 13:02:53

we need to look at how europe deals with child friendly policies, especially Germany and Sweden, excellent for children and parents.

Public transport in uk very difficult when you have young children in buggies. The London tube is horrible with young kids.

baby changing rooms few and far between, and if you find one , stinky and dirty!

breastfeeding rooms, also, difficult, very few places to go , apart from debenhams, mothercare. once was told i could use a staff toilet in tesco, not nice!

atttiude in british culture needs to change and women MP's in government need to lobby and try and improve the staus of parents in our society.

chocolatebiscuits Wed 02-May-12 22:57:04

Stop putting stupid radar keys on disabled toilets - there's not exactly a queue of wheelchairs waiting to use them and they are ideal for parents with a buggy.

I would love to see an end to pubs that don't allow children in.

And more affordable housing for families. So many lovely family houses with gardens are full of pensioners whilst families are crammed into tiny flats. Meanwhile the current government cuts benefits for families on all types of incomes whilst leaving pensioners untouched. Very unequal society between generations.

lumbago Wed 02-May-12 22:52:12

I dontbwant bloody kids everywhere. You go to a restaurant there they freakong are, parents pretending they are "oh so continental " as they pay a fortune for a pizza laced with hydrogenated vegetable fat.

I hiss at the maitre de " not near the kids" and smile beatifically.

Roseformeplease Wed 02-May-12 10:46:21

Toilets! Not enough and often nappy changing is in the disabled toilet so you get tutted at by people in wheelchairs / the elderly for changing a nappy in the only available place. Also, nappy changing in rooms without a toilet in them means that you then have to queue again for the toilet queue. Changing facilities in men's toilets for fathers to use.

Children's menus that are not made up of disgusting crap. If we go out to a nice restaurant with the children, they should be able to eat nice food (Indian, Italian etc) without having to either share a portion, eat just starters or eat something with chips. (Chicken aeroplanes - Yuck!) Too few places even offer children vegetables (other than peas -NB baked beans are not a vegetable IMO). Why can't they have a half baguette, pizza, portion of the adult stuff? Also, children's menus widely differ in portion size. What is suitable for a 4 year old is not enough for an 11 year old and yet 11 year olds do not always want to eat like adults. They do, however, on special occasions want 3 course so there should be flexibility built into menus.

Everything in the holidays costs a lot more and we are being spanked by the industry for having children. Why does it cost more to fly in July than it does in June?

Airlines that do not allow parents to board with children or have assigned seating for families. I have been on planes where they force you to fight your way on and often had to, embarrassingly, ask people to move so you can sit with your children.

Self- service restaurants can be impossible to negotiate with children. This is particularly bad in big supermarkets where you often want to eat after shopping. Why can't they, if you are with kids, take your order and bring it to you? It is not possible to manage two children and two trays (one is never enough).

Places to leave buggies, pushchairs THAT ARE SAFE. Sometimes there is no space and often there is somewhere where expensive kit is on fully display.

milk Tue 01-May-12 17:35:46

More breastfeeding areas instead of having to feed in a disabled toilet.

linessex Wed 25-Apr-12 23:15:41

hi, i am a bus driver with a daughter aged 8. On a scale i would say 5percent of the workforce are woman, and i can see why. It is very difficult to maintain a healthy balance with family and work. The job steels so much of my time,which leaves me feeling guilty and juggling the childcare is very difficult. I am on a waiting list for part time but this is proving quite difficult, been waiting 18months. Id like to see lots more flexibility. Especially to encourage single mums, which will cut back on unemployment, and improve the economy. And male dominated businesses please take notice of us mums!

linessex Wed 25-Apr-12 22:20:27

hi, i am a bus driver with a daughter aged 8. On a scale i would say 5percent of the workforce are woman, and i can see why. It is very difficult to maintain a healthy balance with family and work. The job steels so much of my time,which leaves me feeling guilty and juggling the childcare is very difficult. I am on a waiting list for part time but this is proving quite difficult, been waiting 18months. Id like to see lots more flexibility. Especially to encourage single mums, which will cut back on unemployment, and improve the economy. And male dominated businesses please take notice of us mums!

linessex Wed 25-Apr-12 22:05:49

hi, i am a bus driver with a daughter aged 8. On a scale i would say 5percent of the workforce are woman, and i can see why. It is very difficult to maintain a healthy balance with family and work. The job steels so much of my time,which leaves me feeling guilty and juggling the childcare is very difficult. I am on a waiting list for part time but this is proving quite difficult, been waiting 18months. Id like to see lots more flexibility. Especially to encourage single mums, which will cut back on unemployment, and improve the economy. And male dominated businesses please take notice of us mums!

Pallen Fri 30-Mar-12 09:41:10

I love France and Italy as they seem to have it right for their children / society. Over here (UK) it seems like kids can't communicate, people ignore each other and everyone seems to be just thinking of themselves. When you look at europe, it's not perfect, but the kids seem to grow up with love rather than the latest gadget, branded gear or endless material things. I would like to see more "chill-out" style cafe's (large sofas, calming background music, the smell of freshly ground coffee etc., which are family friendly not just full of commercially motivated singletons, small and unique eating-houses and some interesting and challenging places where kids / parents are challenged to engage with each other.

WideAwakeMum Thu 23-Feb-12 21:45:50

Working parents need pre-school and wrap-around childcare that is affordable. In the UK our childcare is considerably more expensive than other countries.

Why can't childcare be fully tax deductable? Why oh why did I have to spend MY ENTIRE salary for the last 5 years on pre-school childcare so that I could maintain my career in the longer-term?

Zon Wed 25-Jan-12 10:46:55

For me the key thing would be family friendly employers. Offering more flexibility (to mum and dad). E.g. Much more, and much more flexible parental leave days, so you can decide whether mum or dad takes them up in the first year. Allowing you to work 4 days a week, or take them all at once and extend maternity leave. That sort of things. Much more part-time and flexible jobs at senior level too.

Message withdrawn

candleshoe Tue 22-Mar-11 14:30:23

Longer maternity leave for Mums of twins/triplets etc. - I really*wasn't able* to go back to work when I was supposed to, and my career has seriously suffered as a result.

Crumblemum Wed 16-Mar-11 13:30:52

Family Friendly - hmmm think needed a bit more now, more than ever, so to speak.

I just wish the needs of families were seen as a priority when governments (and councils for that matter) are making decisions.

mjovertherainbow Tue 11-Jan-11 15:43:52

Message withdrawn

MichaelaS Fri 03-Dec-10 14:43:38

My two suggestions for things that could really help....

1) Allowing maternity leave to be shared between parents. So, if one year is allowed then perhaps the mother could take the first 3 months then the father the next 9 months, or both could take 6 months concurrently. This would reduce workplace discrimitation against women of childbearing age, whilst encouraging the attitude that childcare is not just a job for the mother.

2) For parents of premature babies, it would be great to get "extra" maternity leave i.e. to have paid leave between the birth date and the due date (perhaps fully paid "premature maternity leave" from the birth date to the 37 week gestation date?). My son was born 16 weeks early and spent his first 5 months in hospital. We're very lucky he survived, and I wanted to be able to spend "normal" time with him once he came home. It was upsetting that I only got 7 months at home with him before I had to return to work. Developmentally, premature babies are more like their corrected age (i.e. based on when they should have been born) so I was effectively forced to leave an 8 month old baby in full time care - something I didn't want to do. Some of the other mothers on our unit only got 6 months maternity leave, and one had to return to work before her baby came home - how desparately sad. At such a difficult time, why compound the situation by giving the same maternity leave as a term baby when her situation is drastically different?

Many prem babies have complex ongoing needs such as respiritory problems, feeding issues and mental and/or physical disabilities, so and it's crazy to make the mother of a disabled young baby return to work simply because the year is up. All this does is force you into dependants leave and holiday rather than maternity leave - you won't be at work either way!

There is a huge financial pressure on parents of premmies, and it does not help to be forced into low maternity pay months earlier than you have planned. The number of babies born prematurely is growing, and the survival rates for babies of 24+ weeks gestation is improving, so this is becoming a more important issue!

Good luck Mumsnet on your campaign, sounds great!

Vanillacandle Wed 01-Dec-10 11:46:21

OK - have skimmed through this thread, and would like to add my two-penn'orth!

1. Stop price increases for holidays/attractions in school holidays. There is no change in the quality of the holiday, so why should we pay more? It may mean an increase in demand, but instead of hiking up the price, what happened to "first come, first served?". For those of us who have DCs in school, and who work in school/education ourselves (both me and DH), we have absolutely no option but to go away in school holiday time. Others take DCs out of school, but our contracts forbid taking holiday in term time, so we're stuffed.

2. Family loos would be great - both my DCs old enough to go on their own now, but I'm still not too happy when DS has to go on his own. The Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire was fab when my DCs were small. In their restaurant, the loos weren't big enough to get a buggy in if you needed to, but had a changing table opposite a cubicle with a child-height toilet in it so you could keep an eye on toddler while changing baby. Also had straps on changing unit so you could secure baby if toddler needed attention. They also had plastic steps so small people could reach the washbasins, and steps and toddler toilet seats for the adult toilets for if the child's one was occupied. All in all, a big thumbs up!

3. Talking of restaurants, a plea for proper food for children! My DCs hated, and still hate, junk food. I would never let a chicken nugget pass their lips! DS would eat decent sausages and chips, but didn't like BBs, DD wouldn't even eat chips (and still isn't over-keen). I remember when I was little, children had half portions at half prices - why can't we still do that? It saves the restaurant having to buy in all that muck.
Again - a thumbs up to the PostHouse Hotel in York - we stayed there when DD was 21 months old. She had pasta for tea the first night, and the (very friendly) waitress came to clear the plates and said that as a special treat there was ice-cream for pudding. DD burst into tears. Waitress was a bit taken aback, but recovered enough to ask what DD would like instead. "Tawbies" came the reply. So she went to the kitchen, had a word with the chef, and said that he had offered to remove the strawberries from all adult pudding garnishes so that DD could have a bowlful for tea. The next day, he had ordered some specially for her, so she had strawberries every night. Very happy DD = very happy mummy and grandma!

4. Have more cafes open into the evening and on Sundays - we were in Italy last summer, and it was wonderful to see whole families (at least three generations) sitting together having a coffee/milkshake/ice cream etc at 7, 8, or 9 o'clock in the evening. Over here, unless you have gone for a meal in a restaurant, there's only pubs and wine bars - not great for teaching kids about sensible drinking when the example in front of them doesn't bear that out...

5. And last (for now, at least) - please could people stop treating all children as if they were a bloody nuisance? I've had complete strangers come up to me in the street before in holiday time when I'm with my DCs, and say things like "I bet you'll be pleased when they go back to school!". No, actually, I had children because I wanted them, and I enjoy spending time with them. They are (by and large) extremely well-behaved, especially in public, and I really resent people being so rude!

Flexible working hours. I'd like companies to treat their employees like professional adults who can manage their time and not like children trying to bunk off school if they request an afternoon off to see a concert. Your employee will make up the hours and will make sure that they don't take the proverbial, please just trust them!

Sorry, rant over blush.

moonbells Wed 24-Nov-10 14:14:24

Only just spotted this thread hmm

As a full-time working mum, I have two major grumbles.

School hours do not equal work hours. I have two options when ds goes to school - pay £££ for breakfast and after-school clubs, or pay £££ for a childminder to do the dropping-off and picking up for me.

When I enquired about after-school clubs at one local school, they said they didn't allow reception-age children to stay longer than 3.15 as it was such a long day otherwise.

Nurseries go until 6.30pm usually! And they don't seem to have a problem with the babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers!

my other bugbear is things for pre-schoolers at weekends. I want DS to have swimming lessons, but all the 3+ lessons at the local pool are during the week. None at weekends! We asked why, they couldn't answer! They have baby/toddler ones though!

EmilyMaryDavis Wed 17-Nov-10 20:28:50

40 years of the family-unfriendly Page 3:

The Sun’s page 3 feature has now been going for 40 years, and some say is central to its success. However, the Conservative now say they want to halt the ‘sexualisation of children‘.

Would Cameron consider taking action or making a comment regarding the Sun’s ‘page 3′ soft porn then? It is of course widely consumed in public spaces where children are often exposed to it.

Or would he not want to confront the paper in this way?

Some argue the Sun isn’t really aimed at kids, so it’s not really the same issue. But it’s culturally acceptable for adults leave it around kids of all ages in cafes, schools, hairdressers, and even at home.

I know I remember the unsettled and ashamed feeling in seeing such soft-porn in newspaper rags on the floor when I was too young.

Conversely, teenage girls may decide, for example, that these “glamour-models” are a role-model for them before they have even become emotionally mature enough to make an adult decision.

And boys have regularly brought it into schools I've worked in - and it has been seen as acceptable and not commented upon by other teachers at all.

In his explanation of the Conservatives pledge, Cameron talked of the importance of not exposing his children to Lily Allen lyrics because he thinks they aren’t appropriate. But Lily Allen too would argue that her songs aren’t necessarily made for consumption by children.

David Cameron should at least state whether he thinks newspapers with soft porn content are inappropriate to consume in public places, as he says of Lily Allen’s lyrics.

And if the Conservatives, or Cameron himself, would not consider raising the issue, then what is the point of their pledge?

Might it have more to do with their concern for the business interests of News International, than their wish to make Britain ‘the most family-friendly country in the world’?

Vickimumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 20-Sep-10 15:44:04

completely agree - and I think fathers find it especially hard to get their bosses to rememeber thy have families to go home to. Within this campaign we'll be auditing companies so they will have to demonstrate what they actually do - not just what they say they do. We'll be doing some mystery shopping as well.....

philmassive Fri 17-Sep-10 09:39:21

The thing with workplaces is more to do with finding out what actually happens rather than what they claim happens. Maybe a poll where mumsnetters grade their workplaces and then compare to the claims they make?

My dh's 'family friendly' workplace expects him to work until 8pm every Christmas eve and be in work at 7am on boxing day. No leave allowed, yet check their website and they claim to have family friendly credentials. Not the best example but you can see what I mean?

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