It’s easy to feel rushed off your feet and short of time at Christmas but as working dads take on more of the domestic duties things might be getting better for everyone.
All parents know the feeling of just wishing they had more hours in the day to fit everything in. And that feeling is amplified at this time of year with extra demands on our precious time.
It might be the school nativity play, it might be the Christmas shopping, it may be the morning lost to the post work Christmas drinks hangover. (For what it’s worth I advise a fried egg sandwich before bed, water on hand for the inevitable thirst in the middle of the night, and mainlining Irn Bru the day after as the best solution. I mean for the hangover, none of those will help with the nativity.)
So the research that dropped on Monday into how hassled parents feel was timely and interesting.
It was conducted by NatCen. They are proper researchers (no made up public relations percentages for them), and to my mind they are nice people. They’ve a special place in my heart after I chatted to their then boss at Labour party conference once (I was there in my capacity as a political correspondent in those days) and she always remembered me and said hello when I saw her about Westminster after. I don’t expect everyone I meet to remember me. I really appreciate it when they do.
The upshot of the research is that parents feel pushed for time. That is hardly a revelation. But the interesting bit is what’s changed. (General election watchers: this applies to political polls too, the interesting bit is the change between polls rather than the bald numbers).
So the proportion of parents essentially reporting that they are too stressed has fallen. The proportion of parents reporting that they struggle to fit everything in has climbed. You can tell it’s proper research because it’s nuanced like that. Do folk feel more able to cope these days because we are more open about mental health and we understand a bit of self care matters? Hopefully. It’s an important lesson over the festive period to keep things in perspective, understand there’ll be many competing demands but accept you can’t do everything.
Or could dads hold the key to stress levels? The NatCen research found the differences between mums and dads stress levels evening out. Could it be that dads are feeling more rushed because they are taking on more of the mental load from mums? As parenting becomes more equal the tough bits and the good bits are shared out between mum and dad. Separate evidence found that where that happens it makes for a happier relationship.
It feeds into a feeling we found in our survey results earlier this year; mums and dads experience of parenting – whether that be juggling home, work or both – is becoming increasingly similar.
That’s not unmitigated good news. Far from it. It means everyone is rushed, fed up with a lack of flexibility and desperate for the Christmas break.
But it also means we’re on the same side. When men and women, mums and dads, demand change they’ve got to be listened to.
The trouble is, we’ve all got find the time to make our voices heard!