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What is Home Front?
Mumsnetters' top tips on making family life work
Household chores and organisation
Work
Relationships
The family
You
Surviving arguments
Maternity leave and pay
Going back to work after maternity leave
Paternity leave and pay
Time off for emergencies
Flexible working
Help with childcare costs
Useful links

What is Home Front?

In a recent mini poll on Mumsnet 46% of dads said they were unhappy with their work/life balance, and while 62% of mums thought they'd got the balance right, over 44% were unhappy about their partner's working life. With this in mind Mumsnet are working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Dad Info to create a high profile national debate about how parents organise work and caring for children. The project is called Home Front: what do mums and dads need to make life work? At the end of the process we will compile some policy suggestions about what can be done to make life easier.
You can talk about any topic arising from the Home Front debate on the Home Front section of Mumsnet Talk.
Read on for some valuable Mumsnetters' top tips on making family life work, plus some basic info on what rights parents have to take leave from work. If there's an area you'd like us to cover in this section drop an email to editorial@mumsnet.com

Mumsnetters' top tips on making family life work

Once upon a time there was a band called Sister Sledge who sang a happy little ditty entitled "We are family" while maintaining big smiles and even bigger hairstyles. At the time we thought they rocked. In hindsight it's become blindingly obvious that they didn't have to deal with a) arguments about washing-up and night feeds b) knackered libidos and c) piles of ironing. In short, they only meant family in a sister-sense. (The clue was probably in the name.)

Undoubtedly, real family life can be something worth singing about, but it can also be a mighty struggle at times. So how do you juggle the work/life balance thing whilst still having enough time for your kids, your partner and yourself? We're darned if we at MNHQ have all the answers, so here from the people that know best (the mumsnetters) are some top tips on making family life work.

Household chores and organisation

When we talked about having it all we didn't mean all the cleaning, ironing and nappy-changing. So how do you keep on top of family life without going under? 

  • We're both adults and we both pull our weight. If ever he doesn't, I tell him so and he puts it right and vice versa. wickedwaterwitch
  • Overestimate the time it takes to do anything. Whenever you can, build in time to do nothing. You won't end up doing nothing, but it takes the edge off all those other deadlines. tigermoth 
  • We have a whiteboard which has all the details of what we are all up to: shopping list, bills, jobs that need doing, pocket money earned… We call it the Motherboard. miaou
  • Share tasks out equally (e.g. changing nappies, taking turns on bath time, one owns school admin and one owns organizing /supporting extra curricular activities) redpanda
  • Everyone has their tasks; they know it, there's no confusion. I constantly remind them that this family is a team and cooking, tidying, washing, drying etc is not exactly my idea of fun times either. custardo
  • You can have it all… but only if you have enough help - a cleaner, a gardener, an au pair - and you share the chores. quattrocento
  • If you've some spare cash, throw money at the situation. We have a cleaner, an ironing lady and a dog walker.  We could have more money, but we'd have a poorer quality of life. BreeVanDerCampLGJ 
  • Don't be a control freak. Let your partner do some of the work, not as you'd like it done, but as they do it. And shut up about it. ahundredtimes
  • Men are not incapable of sorting out clothes/school bags/laundry/packed lunches! Soapbox

Work

Can you have it all? And if so, how?

  • Decide on your priorities - as a family with two full-time jobs, we don't have the making the house and garden immaculate high up on our list. Neither is socializing without the kids. This leaves us with the maximum amount of time to do things as a family at weekends and evenings. SOAPBOX
  • If you're finding that the lack of work/life balance is making the family miserable, do an audit of what you spend time/ money on. We were lucky enough to be able to both go for more flexibility at work and found that although we earned less, we spent less on childcare so weren't that much worse off and life was so much better. Bizageza
  • Most large corporations use outsourcing for a good reason - emulate their forward thinking in the home. Get whatever support you can afford: there are 50 crap weeks in the year if you don't have a cleaner… are you sure that 2 weeks in the sun is worth that! SOAPBOX
  • If you're looking for flexibility at work, present it to you boss or HR in business terms - not emotional ones. Try and find sound business reasons why the job-share/early start/early finish whatever it is will work for them. Even if they don't quite buy it, it makes it looks as if work is still one of your top priorities (even if both of you know it's no longer THE top priority). BigBertha
  • If you are senior enough, never try to explain your absence to your staff - you are just 'unavailable' for the afternoon. SOAPBOX
  • Remember no one is indispensible. Learn the art of delegation at work and ring-fence holidays - warning clients/ colleagues etc well in advance that you will be unavailable. Children can't easily move their half term (spoken from bitter experience). Hollee

Relationships

How do you keep the magic alive when the baby's screaming, the bins need putting out, packed lunches need making and the ****** chickens have come through the cat flap again?

  • Let the children know that some mummy and daddy time is sacrosanct. bittirednow
  • We go away to hotels without children sometimes. We do kind things for each other. We back each other up. We're very happy but I haven't got all the answers; we have rubbish times like anyone else. wickedwaterwitch
  • Back each other up – it's hugely important. The one time this didn't happen recently it caused huge ructions. UnquietDad
  • Find a shared interest/passion/dream, you can work on together, so you raise your eyes above domesticity. Minum
  • Turn off the TV one night a week. Pigleto
  • Alternate lie-ins, compromise and alcohol are the answer. rubyslippers
  • Don't take each other too seriously. Put the marriage on equal par to the children. daisylaisy
  • We're a team; if one member of the team is operating under par, the other works harder to make up for that. And we prioritise - time together is more important than weeding the garden! hairtwiddler
  • Listen to what your partner says. Listen very carefully. Nod a lot. Smile. Nod some more. Then do what you wanted to do in the first place. reversethepolarity
  • If your partner is not one for long "deep and meaningful" discussions write it all down instead! Very cathartic and in my case helped me to spot that I only felt awful for one week each month...  tigana
  • Don't turn into his mother/her father. morningpaper
  • We guard our time off and plan what we're going to do with it and stick to that. We work hard, and plan well. deanychip
  • We neither of us did Latin, but we have a phrase contra mundum, which to us, at least, means us against the rest of the world. Rather than taking out your stress on each other, regroup and as a unit you can tackle more than you can on your own. Munchpot
  • Marriage Counselling. Marvellous. booboobedoo
  • Ditch the waste of space husband. Then family life will work. overmydeadbody
  • Sex. Chocolate. Alcohol. (Repeat as necessary, in no particular order.) pestomonster
  • I just asked the husband what his top tips were and he said 'have lots of sex and keep talking' - not sure whether he meant talking during the sex? Should check.  smellyeli
  • Yes keep the sex going, even if you reeeeeeaaaaallly don't want to. It will be much better than you think; you might even enjoy it. flum

The family

To quote Custardo "family doesn't necessarily mean two partners and comes in different formats" – but whatever form your brood takes, how do you keep ‘em all happy?

  • Remind yourself how much fun your family are and how much you love them. Laugh together - sometimes we don't laugh for quite a while and when we do it's so cathartic. ClutteredUp
  • Our only absolute rule is unity and consistency - even if I disagree completely with something my partner has done/said I will never say so in front of the children. Stealthsquiggle
  • Remember there are many different types of family and you are doing the best with the hand you have been dealt. Never let anyone else undermine you. bittirednow
  • Have a family tradition that you do at least once a week - ours is Friday pizza night - we all eat pizza under duvets and watch a dvd together. bittirednow
  • Think about all the things you have got and not the things you haven't. Don't try to have the life you had before children; enjoy everyday… the next day they'll be a day older. maltloaf
  • Make time for one on one time with all members of the family each week (including your spouse)! soapbox
  • We talk; we decide as a couple how our children are going to be raised, boundaries, discipline etc. If one is not coping then the other takes over. SophieWD
  • I read somewhere that the marriage has to be the most important thing in the family. Everyone has to know that and this helps children to learn the importance of making effort in relationships. So it's acceptable to boot the kids out of your room on a Sunday morning for time with each other, even if it isn't for sex! Flum
  • Weekends are sacrosanct, and will only be spent with people who appreciate family life. BreeVanDerCampLGJ 
  • Explain stuff to your kids. Try to never say "I told you so". If you explain it thoroughly enough, drawing diagrams if necessary, they'll fall asleep, thus resolving the issue. Hassled
  • Other people's families are different - do what works for you and ignore well-meaning advice. TATT
  • Pick your battles. Accept any help. Delegate. Treat each other as friends not family. KaySamuels
  • Have the same ideas about parenting as your partner – I'd struggle if DH and I disagreed about how to handle something. (Not that I "chose" him after he'd completed a parenting questionnaire of course!) MamaG
  • Listen to each member of the family. Make sure that as soon as possible everyone can use language to express his or her emotions and feelings. LadyMuck
  • Don't care what anyone thinks about the way you manage your family, especially not the in laws. Keep your mother in law at arm's length from the outset and make up your mind very slowly indeed as to whether you wish to get closer to her or not. Anna888
  • Talk lots. Have rules and stick to them. Cod
  • Accept that everyone has a right to be fed up at times and let them be. It's not your job to make everyone happy all of the time.  Brokenbiscuits
  • Take the odd 5 minutes to step back and appreciate and enjoy what you have. This time with children only comes once and as hard as it can be at times, it's still so special. PussinJimmyChoos
  • Consistency, patience and a great big dollop of humor… that's what gets you through. Redpanda
  • Eat together as a family as much as is physically possible. Eating together that is. Don't try to eat as much as is physically possible, that will lead to obesity and constipation.  Slubberdegullion
  • For a lot of us, it doesn't work quite a lot of the time. The key is to try and manage/negotiate, day by day, something that's vaguely workable for everyone. And yes, that means not everything's a compromise or team effort; sometimes one person loses. (When I say manage/negotiate, obviously that means 'have frequent rows that degenerate into swearing a lot'... )? Motherinferior

You

Remember you? You know, that person who used to have time to read a newspaper without sitting on the loo? No? Then follow these directions and find yourself again.

  • Give yourself time not doing anything. Unstructured days when you are still in your pj's at 11am are as important as doing fulfilling and worthy activities. Slubberdegullion
  • Two words: online shopping. DarthVader
  • Get out of the house on your own to do something non-family related at least once a week. Don't be a mummy martyr; demand help when it's needed! TaliaC
  • Remember the children will leave one day, keep a life of your own. If you act like a doormat people walk over you. TATT
  • Don't spread yourself too thin; if you do too many jobs (paid and unpaid), none will be well done, and you'll end up feeling a failure (which you're not). wheelsonthebus
  • Make time for yourself, be it a pedicure or a night out with mates. Do what makes you feel really happy and relaxed. For me, it's a cappuccino and the paper in a local cafe after nursery drop off. MsDemeanor
  • Once children are on the scene, acknowledge that you can both have it all but not at the same time. Make time for yourself because no one else will (that applies to all partners). countingthegreyhairs
  • Try and fit in some exercise and a social life. Well, try… DaddyJ
  • Ensure that everyone does it your way!!! laughlots

Falling out

Show us the family that doesn't occasionally have a teeny weeny arguement and we'll, er, frisk them for non-prescriptive drugs. But how do you avoid things spiralling?

  • Think before you nag. suzywong
  • Accept that some issues are unsolvable and learn to live with them. saadia
  • When all else fails, resolve to practice good manners with your partner for the rest of the day. It's tough to stay very angry when someone is polite and considerate. Munchpot
  • Don't expect kids to have good days every day - you don't. Sometimes it's just a shitty day, but it will end and tomorrow will be better. whomovedmychocolate
  • Chocolate and ice cream are good resources to resolve minor conflicts without any spoken language needed. Everyone tends to feel better afterwards. Brokenbiscuits
  • Never go to sleep on an argument… even if it means screaming at 2am to get things resolved. As soon as the communication lines start to fail, work hard at getting things back on track.  DanJARMouse
  • Keep talking, even about the stuff you are bitter about. Morningpaper
  • Talk, but above all LISTEN. kittywise
  • Think the best not the worst of each other - recognise that everyone is working hard to make it work, even if you feel it's only you that's holding it all together. Soapbox
  • Try never to say 'you always' or 'you never' to anyone in the family. Try to respect everyone's wishes - even if you can't go along with them, make them see that you understand what they're saying. Bittirednow
  • Don't hold grudges/punish/expect psychic abilities from each other. Buckets
  • Speak up, even if it is to say how fed up you are. Say sorry if it is your fault. Can't argue rationally? Then punch a pillow, or go jogging. And don't neglect the wine rack. InLoveWithSweeneyTodd
  • Do nice things for each other. I stayed with friends recently who've reached the stage where they don't, and it has such an impact on everyone around them. They love each other but have forgotten how to be nice. Pruners
  • Harpsichordcarrier once said: "Keep having sex with your partner because it is harder to stay annoyed with someone you have a sex life with.” I've found this to be really quite invaluable advice. Pruners
  • Count to ten before losing the plot. And if all else fails remember wine and chocolate. sagacious

The Right to Parental Leave

One of the common questions on Mumsnet Talk is how much leave entitlement do mothers and fathers have after the birth of a child. As with most questions that involve ‘rights' there isn't aways an easy answer, but we've tried to condense some of the mind boggling government recommendations into words that even a pregnant woman (or sleep deprived man) might understand.

Maternity leave and pay:

Employees

If you are an employee you are entitled to 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave (52 weeks in total).

If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before your baby is due and earn over £90 a week you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). SMP is 90% of your normal pay for six weeks followed by 33 weeks at £117.18 a week or 90% of normal pay, whichever is the lower.

If you are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay you may get Maternity Allowance. To receive Maternity allowance you must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your baby is due and have earned more than £30 a week in 13 of those weeks (the weeks don't need to be consecutive).

More information about Maternity Leave and Pay from Working Families

Self-employed

If you are self employed you are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. You may be entitled to Maternity Allowance. You need to have been employed or self employed for at least 26 out of the 66 weeks before your baby is due. These weeks do not have to be in an unbroken block, and you could use some time where you were employed and some where you were self employed.
During this period you need to have paid class II NI contributions for at least 13 weeks, in which case you will be treated as though you had earnings to qualify for £117.50 a week. If you haven't paid class II NI but have a small earnings exemption certificate you will be treated as if you have earned £30 a week and will be entitled to £27 a week Maternity Allowance for nine months.

Agency workers

Most agency workers are classed as workers rather than employees. Agency workers are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay on the same terms as employees. If you are an agency worker you are not entitled to your old job back at the end of any time you have off after you have a baby but you must not be refused work because you have been pregnant or off work after giving birth.

Fixed-term contracts

If you are employed on a fixed-term contract you have the same rights as any other employee. If your contract ends and is not renewed because you are pregnant or on maternity leave this is automatically discrimination. If your contract is not renewed because there is no longer work for you to do this is redundancy. You have special protection as a woman on maternity leave and must be offered another suitable job if one exists. If you have worked for your employer for two years or more you are entitled to redundancy payment.

More information if you are self employed, or an agency worker from Working Families

Going back to work after maternity leave

If you take all your maternity leave (six months Ordinary Maternity Leave and six months Additional Maternity Leave) you return to work on the day after the 52 weeks end. You do not need to inform your employer. If you wish to return to work before the end of your maternity leave you need to give your employer eight weeks notice.
If you return to work at the end of the first six months of Ordinary Maternity Leave you have the right to your old job back on your old terms and conditions. If you return to work having taken some or all of your  Additional Maternity Leave you have the right to your old job back on your old terms and conditions unless it is not ‘reasonably practicable'. If this is the case your employer must offer you a suitable alternative.

If you decide not to return to work you need to give your employer the notice required in your contract. You do not have to repay Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance. If you have received additional contractual maternity pay your contract may require you to pay it back if you do not return to work.

More information on going back to work after maternity leave from Working Families

Paternity leave and pay

Fathers and the partners (including same sex civil partners) of a new mother may be entitled to paternity leave and pay. If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before your baby is due you are entitled to take one or two weeks paternity leave. If you earn more than £90 a week you will be entitled to paternity pay during this time of £117.18 a week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is the lower.

Leave can be taken:

  • from the date of the baby’s birth
  • from a chosen number of weeks after the date of the baby’s birth or
  • from a chosen date which falls at any point after the due date, as long as the leave is completed within 56 days of the birth (but see below for premature babies). 

 
If the baby is born early, leave must be completed within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the expected week of birth. If you are working on the day that the baby is born, and you have said you want your
leave to begin from the birth, your leave will start the next day.
 
There is only one period of leave available even if more than one child is being born. If a baby is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or is born alive at any time but then dies, you have the right to take paternity leave as usual. 

More information about Paternity leave and pay from Working Families

Time off for emergencies

You (and your partner!) have the right to unpaid leave for emergencies involving someone who depends on you. For example if your childminder is suddenly taken ill you might need to take emergency leave to sort out alternative childcare. The leave is limited to the time needed to deal with the immediate emergency and is usually unpaid (unless your boss is very generous).

Parental leave

Parents who have worked for their employer for at least a year are entitled to up to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave which can be taken anytime up until their child’s fifth birthday. If you are a parent of a child claiming disability living allowance you can take parental leave until your child is 18. Employees and employers may agree different arrangements for taking parental leave. If no arrangement is in place you have a legal minimum entitlement.

More information on parental leave from Working Families

Flexible working


If you are an employee who has worked for your employer for more than 26 weeks you can request flexible working to care for a child under six,  a child receiving Disability Living Allowance under 18 or an adult partner or family member. Your request must be made in writing. There is no absolute right to flexible working but your employer can only turn down your request based on one of the following reasons: (sadly this list is quite long!)

•    Burden of additional costs
•    Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
•    Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
•    Inability to recruit additional staff
•    Detrimental impact on quality
•    Detrimental impact on performance
•    Insufficiency of work during the periods you propose to work
•    Planned structural changes.
Your employer must show why the reason they are refusing your request applies to your situation and their refusal must be made on correct facts.

More information about your rights to flexible working and different ways of working flexibly from Working Families

Help with childcare costs

There are several different ways you may be able to get help with childcare costs:

Your employer may offer childcare vouchers for up to £55 per week, which is taken off your salary before tax.  If you are a basic rate tax payer this could save you up to £904 a year in tax and national insurance. If you are a higher rate tax payer it could save you £1195. You can only use vouchers for registered childcare providers. Because most vouchers work on a ‘salary sacrifice’ basis your salary will be reduced, which could have an impact on your pension or entitlement to maternity pay and other earnings related payments.

If you are on a low income you may be eligible for Childcare tax credit. This will cover up to 80% of the cost of registered childcare up to £175 a week for one child or £300 for two children. To be eligible you must be employed for more than sixteen hours a week if you are a lone parent. If you are with a partner both you and your partner must be employed more than sixteen hours a week each, unless one of you is in prison, hospital or otherwise unable to undertake childcare.

Three and four year olds are entitled to 2.5 hours nursery education per weekday during term time. This provision can come in the form of a free place at nursery school, or financial help towards the costs of a private nursery or pre-school. 

More information on help with childcare costs from the Daycare Trust

Useful links

Working Families
The Day Care Trust

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a wide range of information on your rights including:
Pregnancy and maternity
Family-friendly working
Part-time work

Dad Info
has information about:
Paternity leave
Fathers' rights at work
How dads affect kids


 

Last updated: about 1 year ago