Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Worth a listen.  Between ourselves today was a discussion with child Psychologists Laverne Antrobus and Oliver James.  (Oliver James of ‘They F*** you up, your Mum and Dad’ and ‘Affluenza’ fame)

It’s not very often in the mainstream media that you hear people talking sense about parenting and raising children but these two did, I thought.  Oliver James was particularly good.

Up for discussion was:  the importance of attachment, the craziness of institutional childcare and the fact it is BAD for our children, how children considered as ‘evil’ get to be that way via severe abuse, the phenomenon of the Supernanny approach to parenting and the unnecessary-ness of things like the naughty step and time out for all but the most damaged children and most refreshingly – the championing of the Good Enough Parent. 

A shame it was only 1/2 an hour – I could have listened for much longer.  You can ‘Listen Again’ for a while, not sure how long here:


I must get a copy of Affluenza, I’ve had it recommended a few times but not got round to it yet…


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 Birth Choices: your birth partner

The mountain of choices and decisions that face a newly pregnant woman can seem insurmountable. So it is not surprising that the choice of who will be there to support the mother during the birth can be overlooked. Many women assume that their partner will be there and is the best choice and give it no further thought. In fact there are lots of choices and the final decision could be one of the most important of the whole birthing process and needs consideration.

A fearful, jittery and unsure birth partner may not make the best advocate or birth supporter. Somebody who is forceful in their opinions and likely to override the birthing mother may also not be ideal. It may help when starting to consider birth partners to talk to other mothers about what they found useful during the birth and the kind of support and help that they needed.

Everyone is different, however, and one woman’s perfect partner is another woman’s nightmare! So maybe the best place to start is with yourself.

What kind of person are you?

Are you strong-minded? Do you value advocacy and support? Are you looking for an objective but knowledgeable voice during your labour? Are you happy to just go along with whatever advice your health professional gives you? Or do you feel more comfortable being left to your own devices? Do you value hands on support or hands off and mind-your-own-business support?

All these questions are valuable when considering your choice of birth partner. Once you have given thought to the kind of support you may want during labour you can then start looking for the perfect match. Sometimes this will be your partner, sometimes it won’t, sometimes it will be another person in addition to your partner. To go into labour assuming you already have the best choice of birth partner may be to overlook a great deal of wonderful people who could make a fantastic difference to your experience of birth.

What will the birth partner do?

Once you have visualised your birth partner and the personal attributes she will ideally have, it is then worth considering what you want her to do. Do you want somebody to come to antenatal appointments with you? Are you thinking that you want somebody with shared values and ideas but only need support at the birth? Do you envisage the supporter being part of your child’s life in some capacity afterwards?

You may think it is vital that your birth partner is experienced in some forms of natural techniques such as massage, aromatherapy, relaxation, hypnotherapy or acupuncture. It may be important to you that your birth partner has given birth naturally herself, or given birth at home, or breastfed her children. You may think it more important that she is an experienced supporter and that you are able to talk to some of the women she has supported. The answers to all these questions and clarification of these points could lead you in the direction of your ideal birth partner.

Place of Birth

This is another important consideration. If you have decided on your place of birth then you need to know the views of your birth partner, and whether they can fully support your birth choice. You may have a friend who is perfect but anti-home birth, or a relative who is not comfortable coming into a hospital with you. If they are not comfortable with this choice (or any others) then you need to know if they can advocate and support you fully during your birth. The very last thing you need is to feel undermined or unsupported.

So, what are your choices?

The father

Most women expect the father to be present during the birth and many fathers feel the same way.

For centuries birth has been ‘women’s business’ and the question of the father being present at birth would not have been entertained. Why has there been such a radical change? Michel Odent says that for the first time in history healthy, pregnant women are now expected to leave their homes and go to a large hospital to be attended by strangers during their births and the extended family has largely been reduced to the nuclear family so there are no female family members to assist or support during birth. Odent tells us that during the 60’s and 70’s theoreticians thought that the participation of fathers during the birth would be positive. It would strengthen ties between couples, reduce divorce rates and make birth easier as the woman would have a familiar face with her. Caesarean rates would drop as a result. I don’t think we need to examine these too closely or dig out any statistics to know that none of these things have come to pass.

There is lots of discussion about this among midwives who have experienced the difference between a wholly female birth and one with a male, including the father, present Having personally been a supporter during both kinds of birth I can vouch for the fact that the birth room consisting entirely of women seems to be calmer, have less words, be ‘earthier’ in some way and you can almost smell the female hormones in the air. The women, often, seem to be freer to express their needs and are less inhibited.

However, fathers being present is the norm now and many mothers and fathers are reticent to admit their reluctance at this prospect. In the case where both parents want the father to support during the birth, I think it is really worth considering having a second birth partner.


  • You know him well! You know his views and opinions, his strengths and weaknesses.

  • He has an emotional link to you and your baby that nobody else shares.

  • He normally doesn’t charge!

  • Many are happy to learn new skills such as massage and relaxation.

  • It is an amazing shared experience that you will never forget, or tire of discussing.


  • He has an emotional link to you and your baby – this sometimes colours his ability to advocate for you. It is virtually impossible for him to remain objective.

  • Many midwives recognise the presence of the father changes the behaviour of the mother and inhibits her. She can be preoccupied with him.

  • Sometimes, he doesn’t want to be there but feels unable to say no.

  • Usually, the father has never attended a birth before so the whole experience is totally new.

Friend or Relative

Once you clarified the ideal personal attributes you may find a person pops straight into your mind. Or you may not have had to think very hard at all before knowing the ideal person. You may know somebody who fulfils your criteria already.

If you have found the ideal birth partner is a friend or relative, don’t be shy about asking them! In my experience most women who have given birth themselves would jump at the chance to support another woman. They are also often very intuitive during the birthing process.

You may have taken some kind of course during your pregnancy – antenatal classes, pregnancy yoga or hypno-birthing – and found a natural affinity with the practitioner running the course. Most are very happy to be birth supporters for women who have attended their courses, and are used to being asked. If you have no friend or relative who is suitable, but know an ‘acquaintance’ like this who you think might be a good birth partner – then again, don’t be afraid to ask. Most women are flattered to be considered and will take the role very seriously.


  • You already know this person so don’t have to go through the ‘getting to know you’ stage of the relationship

  • This kind of birth support is normally free!

  • You will know the persons views and ethos around birth, and therefore know that they will support you as necessary.

  • They are normally quite happy to learn and practise massage, and endlessly discuss what you want your birth to be like.

  • Often they can play a part in your child’s life afterwards, if that is something you are looking for.


  • Often they have no prior birth support experience, so may not be the best advocate.

  • The mother can sometimes unexpectedly feel inhibited during the birth by the presence of a friend or relative.

  • They could say no, think about how you would feel if they did.


A doula is a ‘professional birth supporter’ who believes in ‘mothering the mother‘. If you know other mothers, ask around for a recommendation. Otherwise, you can find local doulas through Doula UK. Once you have a list of two or three local doulas you can arrange to meet them to discuss your requirements, get an idea of their views and see if they are a good ‘fit’ for you.


  • Most are mothers themselves.

  • A doula will be an experienced birth partner, who has supported women through a variety of different births.

  • They tend to remain calm and unflappable!

  • Many doulas have other useful birth skills such as aromatherapy and massage or hypnotherapy.

  • They are objective and can often advocate well. They are experienced at communicating your needs to health professionals, which means you can focus on birthing and not talking!


  • They cost money. Trainees cost no more than £200 but qualified doulas are usually more. Think in the range of £500 for antenatal visits, birth support and postnatal visits.

  • They won’t play an ongoing role in your child’s life, usually.

  • You won’t know them beforehand, though you do get to know them through antenatal visits.

Independent midwives

It may seem strange to mention independent midwives in an article about birth supporters, but some women do opt to hire one while continuing with NHS care. In this case the midwife becomes more of a doula, but an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable one. A woman opting for a home birth may opt out of NHS care with an independent midwife and not feel the need for any other birth supporter.


  • Experienced midwives who have attended lots of births.

  • All of the positives associated with a doula.


  • Expensive option, if you just want a doula. They tend to charge in the region of £2,500+ per birth.

  • Can be difficult to find. Thanks to overbearing government regulation, independent midwifery is a dying breed.

  • All of the cons of doulas.

Is it really important?

Choosing a friend or doula need not take away the role from the father. Women can have two birth partners in all hospitals and birth centres, and of course are free to have any number of people in their home. So you may decide to hire a doula who will advocate and look after both parents which then releases the father from the responsibility of advocacy in a field he may have limited knowledge about. This usually reduces his anxiety levels (and the mothers!) and allows him to spend his time looking after the mother. The mother won’t be left alone while he nips to the toilet, to get something to eat or make a phone call – all of these things which couples often haven’t thought about.

If the couple decide that the father won’t be present at the birth he can still support. He can be nearby, keep family informed of progress, fetch and carry, look after siblings, make sure there is enough food, fill up and empty birth pools and come straight in to meet the new baby and share this wonderful new experience and first precious moments.

Something I have learned during five years of teaching antenatal classes is that the vast majority of women don’t consider the importance of the choice of birth partner before they are in labour. The birth partner is such a vital part of the birth process that this decision deserves a great deal of thought.

A positive, supportive, intuitive and experienced birth supporter can make a huge difference to the process of labour. A woman will never regret spending time and energy finding the ideal birth partner.


Further Information:

Doula UK 0871 433 3103 http://www.doula.org.uk

Independent midwives 0845 4600 105 http://www.independentmidwives.org.uk

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Isn’t this a crazy idea?  That a child can be too attached to his or her parent.  Just the thought that anyone could think that makes me react in two ways: slightly-too-hysterical laughter and deep resounding sadness.

I have come across two examples of this within the last week.  One was a friend whose mother thought that her grandchild was too attached.  The ‘warning’ signals apparently included clingy behaviour and that the child was still waking regularly at night. 

Why do people think that a baby preferring to be with her mother is an abnormal state of affairs?  Why might we have evolved as a species to be like this?  Why can’t we accept that this is actually totally normal behaviour for a baby or young child?  Why do women, especially, have such an issue with other women allowing their children to have a natural attachment?  I can hazard a guess but genuinely, answers on a postcard please.

Similarly, why do we consider a baby waking in the night to be unusual, strange or a problem that needs to be fixed?  It is common.  So common to be considered normal I would even put forward.  It’s been documented that the vast majority of one-year-olds still wake regularly at night.  So why are we so focussed on the sleep patterns of babies?  Why is this biological disposition attributed the deciding factor of whether a child is ‘good’ (shudder)?

The second was while waiting in a queue at the post office.  A woman with a girl of around two-and-a-half was in the queue with her sister-in-law.  The sister-in-law was talking to a family friend.  The conversation went something like this:

“Yes, this is my niece Mia” gesticulating at child.  “She’s driving me mad today” (Annoying Aunt – or AA)

“oh” (embarrassed friend)

The friend tried to bend down to say hello to this child whom she clearly didn’t know, the child hid behind her mum’s legs.

This prompted AA to launch a tirade of aggressive ‘advice’ against the poor mother.  Was Mia always like this?  Answer, no she’s fine at home and with people she knows.  Well she needs to get out!  She needs to socialise.  She needs to go to nursery.  Her mother is stifling her development.  She can’t stay home all the time, clearly she can’t cope in the real world.  She needs to mix with other people without her mother…. etc. etc.  And on and on. 

Clearly AA had no children.  She was young, and yes, clearly an idiot.  But by no means is this an isolated incident.  I’m sure we all hear and meet people like this all the time.  But where has it come from?  This strange and consuming idea that young children need to socialise away from their primary carers in order to develop properly. 

Just a few minutes of thought would render the very idea ridiculous and unworthy of any more consideration.  And if a few minutes of thought are not available then the stack of evidence that ‘socialising away from a primary carer’ is harmful to young children should stamp out this loony theory for once and for all.  Yet, it is so incredibly persistant.  Everyone continues with this theory as if it’s sensible and obvious … why?  What do ‘we’ get out of it?  Obviously it frees up women to go into the labour market, and further provides lots of jobs to other – mainly – women.  Oh and lots and lots of opportunities for nursery owners to make a lot of money.  But surely this can’t be the only reason for ignoring facts, evidence and instinct.  Can it?

Assigning babies, toddlers and young children the ‘problem’ of being too attached to their parents or too clingy seems to be a national pastime.  I just can’t help wondering why? 

It seems as clear as day to me that a baby and/ or young child needs to be raised by one primary carer.  This person is his or her rock.  They provide safety and security – a soft place to land.  The child knows this person and is utterly confident in their love.  They know that they are always safe when this primary carer is around.  And if this person suddenly disappears then surely a normal reaction is anxiety until they reappear?  Until such time as the child knows that this person will always reappear.  

Surely anyone knows in their heart that this is right and good.  Compare to a young baby or child who is left with a wide variety of people and has no strong attachment to anybody.  Yes, aren’t they ‘good’.  They can be left anywhere, with anyone.  They never cry.  This child never feels safe, they don’t have a soft place to land.  We know from scientific studies that these children have abnormally high levels of cortisol in their bodies which set the ‘normal’ level for the rest of their lives at a level that is too high.  This causes them difficulties for life which include attention-seeking behaviour, risk-seeking behaviour and relationship problems.  (Check out my shop for the Margot Sunderland book which contains all the evidence and scientific data that proves this pretty convincingly.)

Would anyone honestly choose an unattached childhood for their child if they knew the lifelong consequences?  Would anyone actually think that a child could be too attached or that a normal attachment could damage a baby?  I hope not, but I fear so.  Such is the crazy world we appear to inhabit.

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This is something I have been pondering for quite a while.  Obviously life is full of contradictions but there are two that really get my goat.  Namely:

  1. Single fathers are considered to be heroic, while single mothers are treated as if they and they alone are the cause of all of the problems of society.
  2. Everyone who is half intelligent recognises the importance of mothers to young children and the value for a baby/toddler/child of being raised by his or her mother.  However a lot of these people draw the line at single mothers for some reason, and think that these women should get ‘back to work’ for the sake of their children. 

These two points baffle me totally.  Firstly, there are hardly any single fathers who are the full time carers of their children.  Those that do are in the lucky position of being looked upon with admiration and sympathy for all the sacrifices and difficulties that they must face.  I don’t take issue with this at all, but wish that this could be extended to the millions of single mothers who face equal difficulties and make exactly the same sacrifices.  Why are they not afforded the same admiration and sympathy?

There seems to be some strange assumption among aspects of the press and the public that a single mother is somehow to blame for the situation she is in. 

Whether it is the stereotype of the teenage mum trying to get a council flat (for goodness sake, how out of touch are these people?) or the woman with 5 children by different dads or whatever.  Most of the single mums I know are not so by choice, but through unfortunate circumstances.  Whether that be a violent father, a lazy father, a cheating father or an absentee father: in most cases the cause seems to be the father not the mother left holding the baby and trying to make the best life for her family.

Secondly, the single mother who chooses to listen to her instinct and/or the overwhelming evidence concerning the best care for young children (their mother) faces criticisms ranging from laziness to an inability to be a good role model.   Why is it that an arrangement that best suits the wellbeing of the child and, therefore, benefits society in the long term is almost universally ignored if the family in question consists of a mother only? 

Everywhere you turn there are ‘welfare to work’ programmes, nursery places for younger and younger children targetted at low income or lone parents and legislation cutting benefits to those who need them most if they dare take full responsibility for the raising of their children.

It drives me absolutely crazy and goes against common sense and reason.  I don’t know how single mums handle this so well, they are so maligned by society while doing such a difficult and amazing job single handedly. 

I would love to see any political party actually extending the hand of reason to single mothers, but as far as I can see all women get a rough deal but none harsher than the women who heads her family alone.

*I have used the term ‘single parent’ as opposed to ‘lone parent’ to account for the fact that many of the fathers are around and able, if not willing, to fulfil the other parental role.  No offence is intended.

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Thinktank DEMOS got quite a lot of publicity yesterday for it’s new report entitled ‘Building Character written by Jen Lexmond and Richard Reeves.

Building Character was funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and included such names as Penelope Leach and Penny Mansfield on the advisory board.  The EHRC commissioned DEMOS to undertake research into the development of character capabilities contributing to ‘life chances’ and factors influencing the development.

The methodology looks pretty robust.  They reviewed up-to-date literature, carried out a new statistical analysis of the Millenium Cohort Study and analysed policy initiatives.  The statistical analysis looked at information given by over 15,000 families.

The report first of all defines ‘important character capabilities’ which include empath, agency (locus of control), responsibility and self-regulation.  The authors state that these should be considered ‘hard skills’ if the definition of hard and soft skills is actually useful, which they doubt.

They go on to divide parents up into 4 groups:

  1. Tough love.  Parents are attached, warm and loving and ‘high control’ more rules, consistently enforced..
  2. Laissez-Faire.  Parents are attached, warm and loving and ‘low control’ have fewer rules/more variably enforced.
  3. Authoritarian.  Parents are not attached, have ‘low warmth’ and ‘high control’.
  4. Disengaged.  Parents are ‘low warmth’ and ‘low control’.

They then also look at parents capabilities, self esteem and so on.  They look at how children’s character develops in relation to the above style of parenting.  They also compare all the usual ‘risk’ factors such as low income, family make-up, employment, ethnicity and so on.

I think the findings are remarkable.  In virtually all cases, allowing for the capabilities of the parents the ‘risk factors’ become negligible.  The style of parenting is the most important factor in how children develop these ‘hard’ life skills.  Children of ‘tough love’ and ‘Laissez Faire’ parents develop character far better when all factors are taken into account than authoritarian and disengaged.  Children of Tough Love parents do significantly better and children of Disengaged parents do worse of all.

This is probably hardly surprising but it does bring about some interesting thoughts.  All the money being poored into providing childcare, welfare-to -work, reducing teenage pregnancies and so on is seemingly wasted.  In actual fact having working or young parents makes no difference to outcomes for children.  It is the style of parenting that is all important.

Demos make a very convincing case for refocussing public spending and energy on providing parenting skills and support to impact on the style of parenting.

There is really far too much information in this report to summarise in a blog post, but I’ve hopefully whetted your appetite enough to go and read for yourself.  If not, here are some quotes from the report which might convince you!  Check out the Breastfeeding one – one of my favourites 🙂

An analysis undertaken by Kiernan of the MCS found that family status was only very weakly associated with children’s development, once other factors – like poverty, maternal depression and so on – were controlled for.

When we control for other characteristics – namely parental style and parental confidence – the relationship between family structure and child outcomes disappears almost entirely.

Crucially, the outcomes for children of lone parents and step-parents are explained by the differences in other family characteristics such as parental confidence and self esteem; being a lone parent or a step-parent does not adversely affect child outcomes in itself.

There is a strong association between children’s development of character capabilities and breast-feeding to six months. This effect remains even after controlling for all other variables in the model, including primary carer attachment

There is no connection between paid employment on the part of either the main carer, or the second parent, and the development of character capabilities in children.

Parental disability and parental ethnic background are associated with significantly different outcomes for children at age five, but all differences are outweighed when parental ability was taken into account.

Now, I’m off to peruse the rest of the DEMOS website as this report is pretty good in my opinion.  Just wonder… is anyone going to listen?

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Raising Boys‘ is written by the same author as the well known ‘The Secrets of Happy Childrenyoung boysalong with a raft of other similar books.

I have had this book for about 5 years now, have read it cover-to-cover twice and dipped in and out a few times.  It is full of interesting thoughts and fascinating facts.

I first heard about this book when my eldest son was a toddler.  Within weeks of giving birth I realised that boys are inherently different from girls (unfashionable and controversial to say, I know) and I found this book useful as a guide to the ways boys bodies work and the things they need.

The chapters include The three stages of boyhood, Testosterone!, Developing a healthy sexuality and A revolution in schooling amongst others.

I found this book a useful insight, full of thought-provoking ideas for society as well as ideas on raising a happy boy for parents.  Possibly more useful for mothers, though I think dads would get a lot out of reading this too.  Several things just ‘clicked’ for me when I read this book and I feel that although it doesn’t necessarily have all the answers or have information that specifically relates to my boys all the time, it is still useful.

I would highly recommend this for anyone with a son or nephew or any young boy that is in their lives.  I wish teachers would read this book too!

Though-Provoking ideas:

  1. Early institutional childcare is not good for boys. If possible a boy should stay at home with one of the parents until he is at least 3 years old.
  2. If boys are going to be schooled they should start school a year later than girls.  As a guide.  Biddulph thinks that school starting ages and year groups should be more flexible and based on the child’s development.
  3. Boys need to be involved with a sport or participate in regular exercise.  To burn up testosterone and keep them balanced and happy, and reduce frustration and aggression.

Interesting information

  1. A 4 year old boy has the same testosterone levels as a teenage boy.
  2. Boys sometimes are deaf.  When they have a growth spurt the tube connecting the ear to the back of the throat stretches and thins, and can block easily causing temporary deafness.  Once the tube grows to catch up again it unblocks and hearing is restored!

There are also lots of ideas that I love: Having a ‘rite of passage’ ceremony when your son reaches the age of 10 which includes a discussion about love and relationships.

Also he talks about how lots of traditional cultures have coming of age or initiation ritual which marks the stage of the boy becoming a man.  They provide older male mentors to ‘show him’ the community ways and guide him on his journey to becoming a man. He talks about the difficult ‘life threatening’ initiation ceremonies and the pride the boy feels passing through and joining the adult male community.

What with all the talk about teenage boys being ‘hoodies’ or ‘thugs’ now, wouldn’t it be wonderful to give a boy the gift of growing into a man with pride.

N.B. Article about the demonisation of teenage boys.

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Another day, another study.  This one comes fromDad and Daughter the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The headline information is that ‘Fathers want more time with their children too.  Probably not something anyone with young children will be surprised about.

This is a quantitive yougov survey of 4,500 parents as part of the EHRC’s wider  ‘Working Better’ policy initiative which is aiming to explore ways of matching employers and employees expectations.

Dads’ working life

Unsurprising fact of the day: 6 in 10 fathers work more than 40hrs a week.  Bearing this in mind it is hardly surprising that over half then go on to say that they spend too much time at work and 4 in 10 fathers say they spend too little time with their children.

Almost half of dads believed that flexible working was available to them, but only 30% were taking up this option.   Flexible working in this survey meant flexi-time, staggered start and finish times and working from home.  Only 20% of dads believed that the option of part time working was open to them.  Tease these figures out a little more and some discrepancies appear.  Fathers in the financial and business or public sectors were more likely to be able to work flexibly than fathers in manufacturing, retail, construction and transport.


Another area where external inequality rears it’s ugly head is in ‘Meeting Aspirations’.  The survey posed the question:

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that your current [work] arrangements cause tension or stress in your family’.

The number of fathers who agreed or strongly agreed:

  • 21% of all fathers
  • 31% of ethnic minority fathers
  • 31% of fathers earning under £15,000 per year
  • 33% of fathers with a disabled child or children

So, for around a third of families where the father is from an ethnic minority, on a low income or with a disabled child the working arrangements cause tension and stress.  The report doesn’t focus in too much detail on this but gives evidence from other studies that shows that in large part this is due to financial pressure.  Fathers with a disabled child are more likely to be working part time and fathers from ethnic minorities are more likely to be on a low income.

Paternity Leave

At present every father is entitled to two weeks paternity leave, paid at the rate of £123.06 per week and 13 weeks of unpaid leave.  Perhaps it is no great shock to realise that 45% of fathers didn’t take the paternity leave.  And 66% of those fathers would have liked to have taken paternity leave.  The most common reason for not taking it was financial.

The report goes on to talk about aiming to have a transferrable maternity/paternity leave of one year so that in theory both parents could take six months leave, or the mother nine months and father three months or whatever variation they liked.  Apparently this is under consultation at the moment and may come in in 2011 but only if the mother returns to work.

So, if a family have opted for this and then decide that the best thing for their child is for one or both parents to raise the baby, I can seem to see what the situation would be.  Would they have to pay all the money back?  Another barrier to women being at home with their babies?  Another barrier to men sharing the raising of their children?

Where fathers and mothers differ

I have to say this made me laugh a little.  The survey asked if primary responsibility for childcare was shared between the mother and father.  31% of fathers said that it was compared to 14% of mothers.  The report considers whether fathers with shared responsibility would be more likely to answer a survey like this, but concludes that as these figures reflect previous study findings then it is just a discrepancy.

I wonder if it is a poorly worded question, and if they had asked ‘is childcare equally shared’ then they would have had a clearer picture.  Parents can take equal responsibility for childcare even if they decide together that one parent will do the majority of it.  And maybe the question posed isn’t clear enough in this.

Report Policy Recommendations

The report concludes that policy-makers should:

  • Introduce policy changes that enable dads to take up paternity and parental leave
  • Make paternity and parental leave longer, better paid and more flexible
  • Target fathers with a publicity drive to increase awareness of flexible working rights
  • Subsidise employers to enable them to offer flexible working

The missing conclusion

I don’t think anyone will be taken aback by this report.  We know that the families in the UK have the longest working hours in Europe and low levels of overall satisfaction and contentment with life.

I am saddened that it is being used in some of the press as a stick to beat mothers with (surprise surprise).  ‘See it’s not just you whining women, dad’s want to spend time with their kids too – spare a thought for them’ seems to be the tone of a number of media reports.

Something that seems to be repeatedly highlighted but never mentioned in these surveys is that people are under huge financial pressure and this leads to difficulties in family life.  Women want to work less, men want to work less but you have to be brave to go for it when the cost of basic living is so extraordinarily high.  And you have to be a very strong family unit to weather the financial storm that seems to accompany a more reasonable and enjoyable family life.

I would have liked to see recommendations that reflected the fact that children do better when raised by their parents (not academically necessarily, but holistically).  I would like to see an acknowledgement that a lot of parents would like to raise their children themselves and a commitment to policies that relieve the financial barriers that currently prevent many families from realising this aim.

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