Many working parents face the conundrum of finding that elusive work-life balance.
After all, raising a family is a costly exercise and increasingly more households have both parents in the workforce. Many critics would say that this move away from the traditional model of stay at home mother and breadwinner father is having a negative impact on children’s development.
Nothing like piling a little more guilt onto an already full plate, right?
Well, dual income families can rest a little easier with the knowledge that having two working parents isn’t all bad news. Your child isn’t going to grow up to be a delinquent just because you both work.
Research conducted nearly twenty years ago on work-life balance provides great insight into what children really need from their working parents. Interestingly, the answer isn’t necessarily more time.
The study looked at some key elements of parental work additional to time spent on the job. These included the extent of a parent’s emotional involvement in their career, how much parents are distracted by work when at home with family, control over work conditions and parental values about family vs career. Children’s mental health was measured by the prevalence of behavioural problems.
Findings relevant to working fathers included:
- Negative effects on children if the father was distracted by work when with family (psychologically unavailable) regardless of hours worked.
- Positive effects on children if father was satisfied with his job and performing well.
When it came to working mothers the study found children fared better when:
- Mothers had control and discretion regarding their work and conditions.
- Mothers took time out for self-care, not time spent on emotional or domestic non-paid work.
Our research showed that taking time to care for themselves instead of on the additional labor of housework strengthens mothers’ capacities to care their children. And fathers are better able to provide healthy experiences for their children when they are psychologically present with them and when their sense of competence and their well-being are enhanced by their work,” writes Stewart Friedman in the Harvard Business Review.
Regardless of parent’s gender, an attitude of “family first” was directly correlated to higher emotional health in children. They also benefited from parents who enjoyed their work and the challenges it offers, regardless of the time spent there.
Obviously, the physically presence of parents is also important to a child’s development however, as with most things in life, it is about quality not quantity.
It seems there isn’t much difference between being a good working parent or a non-working parents. It comes down to being present when you are with your child, instilling good values and taking care of yourself so you can be the best parent possible.