The stresses associated with a career are one thing, the pressures and anxieties connected to parenting are entirely another. The fact that our society and culture have drastically shifted away from the traditional, “stay at home mom” home family lifestyle that was the norm for “the greatest generation”, that is the people who birthed the baby boomers. Even before the world wars, humanity had been dominated by the traditions of women being in the home and men being the breadwinners.
While there are plenty of social, cultural, psychological, and physical reasons that supported those standards, things have changed, and with it, the challenges will accompany the roles of employee and parent.
Women’s labor force participation rates peaked in 1999 at a rate of 60.0%, and among those the rate of mothers with children under the age of 18 was almost 71% in 2011. While the rates are lower now, hovering around 47%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6 in 10 women are now considered the sole, primary, or co- breadwinners of families.
This article is not to focus on the labor percentages of women’s employment though, instead it is to point out how the shift in our societies family and labor values have changed the ways that people can live life in a balanced way.
Sadly, only 14% of Americans think that public and private workplace initiatives have kept up with the changes that have occurred in the workforce over the decades. While the consequences of this are many and far reaching, one of the most interesting and, possibly immediately obvious, is that statistically, working parents are less happy than nonparents.
A study published in the National Library of Medicine looking at a nationwide examination of the variations between parenthood and happiness in societies found evidence of lower levels of happiness among parents than nonparents in industrialized societies. Possibly not surprisingly, the U.S. showed the largest rates of disadvantages in parenthood.
The point in sharing this is not to make someone depressed but rather informed, because the findings in the article also showed that workplaces with more generous family policies like paid time off and childcare support, are associated with the lessening of that unhappiness rate.
The bottom line is, industry standards as a whole have a significant impact not only on people’s ability to parent but an inseparable link to the emotional processes connected to the challenge of being a working parent. When combined with the usual stresses associated with parenting— emotional, financial, physical, and psychological— parents who are working and raising kids have a lot to be stressed out about.
Fortunately, these problems have become commonplace and prevalent enough that conversations around how to rectify the issues have turned into ideas for action. Here are some of those workplace policies from around the world that research shows would be beneficial implementations to make your life easier as a parent.
Creating New Culture of Support
Companies that make the space and time to hear the thoughts and concerns of their employees are demonstrating not just sympathy, but a proactive approach to changing workplace culture. Companies that honor the various needs required for working parents to maintain a healthy work life balance are a powerful way to align corporate goals with employee goals.
Companies that encourage a culture of listening, where people can tell you what is helpful and important to them are a powerful force in the workplace and at home. In the workplace, people who feel heard, cared for, and supported are much more likely to stay with that company and even be excited to work. This drops attrition rates and improved morale adds up to more productivity.
In the home, the flexibility and support from employers allows for greater engagement at home and with families serving to help mitigate and maintain lower stress levels. So whether that means a shorter work week, or more flexible work options, both sides win.
Maternity and Paternity Leave
According to a Boston college study, nearly 90% of people polled said that maternity/paternity leave is a major factor in how people decide if a job is right for them. Interestingly, 86% of people said that they would only take that time off if the leave was paid. The average amount of time being taken off in relation to a new baby’s birth was only around 2 weeks’ time— which falls on the short end of what is considered the ideal range of 2-4 weeks.
Currently in the U.S. as a result of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks’ worth of job protection for either parent to take, the policy only applies to unpaid leave. Sadly, but not surprisingly, only one out of every eight jobs in America today offers paid leave. Workplace policies are not only behind the times, but they are also not in line with what people want or need to be able to support themselves and a job well.
The complexities of work and parenting should be the responsibility of employers. Employees would be better off for it, and so would the country’s health. When taking such factors into account, costs and benefits, new workplace policies are clearly great implementations for an easier life as an employed parent.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.