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Amy Downes wants to include working dads in the #BanMumGuilt movement she’s launching this week
It will come as no shock to you that the mood among employees has dropped during lockdown, particularly for working parents.
The Happiness Index have shared the findings of their Employee Voice Tool. It shows that happiness levels have remained well below the pre-Covid-19 average of 7.6. Average happiness scores in March 2020 fell to 6.2 and dropped throughout the Spring to 6.0 in June 2020.
Never have the pressures of balancing work life with family life been more extreme than in the last 12 months. Unsurprisingly, working from home, while home-schooling and being forced to stay at home 24/7 have had a massive effect on parents.
‘During the two long periods of home schooling in the UK, we have seen many comments relating to the difficulty of home-schooling children whilst working,’ Caroline from The Happiness Index told me. ‘Comments mentioning home schooling are associated with low happiness scores and mentions of stress and anxiety.’
I think as a woman, in particular, there is a lot of concern around whether you are doing the right thing. You feel the desire to make something of yourself, but you also know that society is still essentially adapting to the idea of ‘gender equal’ families.
Shared parental leave, flexible working for all and a respect for parents and carers in the workplace are all things that are not common enough across businesses in the UK and the world, which leaves many of us feeling unfulfilled in all areas of our lives.
But I’m all too aware that it is not just us mums that feel the parental guilt. Dads do too.
The experience of parenting may differ from mums to dads, but there are some key things that we all go through: guilt about leaving our family behind while we go to work, guilt about whether we are giving our kids everything that they need, guilt about enjoying time away from them. The list goes on!
The thing is, as mums we have lots of safe spaces to vent our frustrations and share our feelings with others who are going through the same thing. Face-to-face groups, social media networks, online support all aimed at helping mums with their mental health.
My Facebook timeline is literally filled with the amount of groups I have joined to help me through this turbulent journey of motherhood: mums of autistic children, mums in business, mums who need wine.
But I am all too aware that support is not so forthcoming when you are a dad. A conversation with a good friend of mine recently made me think very carefully about all the content I do that reaches out to mums, I need to ensure it helps dads too.
This friend of mine is a stay-at-home dad who is also growing a new business from scratch. He’s had some phenomenal success in the last 12 months. No mean feat, given what has been happening in the world and the fact he has a toddler hanging round his ankles all day.
Now that the world is opening up again, I know that he is keen to start taking his little one out to groups. But where does he start? How does he know which groups he will feel welcome at? Where can he go to find the support I’ve been lucky enough to have over the last five years? It has reached the point where he has become so nervous about attending ‘mum groups’ that he has chosen to stay at home. And that has filled him with guilt about his child missing out on socialising with others.
Meanwhile, he is putting lots of energy into growing his business; but feels guilty about the time he is missing out on with his family. The struggle is real, it’s something we all feel.
Research by workingdads.co.uk shows this is something many of you are feeling. Having more time at home over the last 12 months has led to you wanting to spend more time with your family by way of flexible working.
Yet, even in a post-pandemic world, flexible working is still not seen as the norm. Employees are still put under pressure to approach employers and request it. And we know many men do not feel comfortable doing this.
To top it all off, there’s the guilt that we as women add to what men are feeling. Confession time: I am definitely guilty of making my fiancée feel bad about the things he hasn’t had time for or has forgotten to do.
As mums, we feel under pressure, we feel that the childcare is all our responsibility and we don’t always recognise how much you are contributing to our family lives. On behalf of mums everywhere, I truly apologise for that.
So, if you see my campaign this weekend asking women to #BanMumGuilt, please know that I am including you dads in that too.
I want to empower all parents to have more confidence in themselves and their decisions, to feel happy doing what they think is right and to stop questioning their own choices.
If you’d like to join with this campaign by sharing one thing you will do for yourself on Friday 7th May without feeling any guilt, please do and tag #BanMumGuilt on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Please know that you are very welcome in our community and your story of parenthood is important to us too.