Tag Archives: employee wellbeing

Working Mums: Balancing Being a Mother and Employee

65% of the working age population in Northern Ireland are women, with 39% of those employed part time. Almost an equal amount are economically “inactive” due to family/home commitments.

Some mothers choose not to work, or to work less hours while they are raising children. However, for many other women, they effectively have little or no choice. If they did not work, they would not be able to bring enough income to support their families.

Despite these realities, the truth is that many mothers worry about the impact of their employment on their children. They are concerned that they might miss out on important developmental milestones or feel guilty that they are “putting work ahead of family”.

In 1984, 49% agreed with the statement: “A man’s job is to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family”. In 2017, just 8% of respondents agreed.

Although this suggests that society has begun to see working mothers as "the norm", many of the structural barriers continue to exist. Mums have the double pressure of managing a career and the home and family. Research shows that the majority of childcare and housework is still undertaken by women. 

Is it good for me?

Mothers will naturally worry most about the effects their work will have on their children first. However, it is important that they also consider the impact of going back to work will have on themselves. Parents who are stressed often find it more difficult to parent effectively, and being a working mother is likely to cause stress.

Some women will be very keen to return to a career they are passionate about. Others will be less enthusiastic about going back to full time work. A study in the United States looked at the impact on mood and happiness working had on mothers. It found that both positive and negative impacts are possible. Women who went back to work often felt more accomplished and self-confident, but also more stressed. The source of this stress was found to be juggling being a mother and an employee. Additionally, the researchers suggested that these stresses may be more heightened for mothers than for fathers, because they found women were more likely to process their role as a mother and an employee at the same time. Fathers on the other hand tended to deal with these roles one at a time. This is at least partially because mothers are more likely to be called in the event of a family problem – such as a sick child.

The Working Mother Research Institute conducted a survey in 2015 of working mothers asking how they felt. They found some unsurprising findings – that mothers that make less money are less satisfied for example. They also found that mothers tend to de-prioritise self-care when there are high levels of stress between work and home life. The biggest single contributing factor to satisfaction for working mothers was flexible working.

This conclusion was supported by a survey of mid-career working mothers in Ireland. They found that family structure and parenting responsibilities were central to predicting levels of stress. The more support working mothers had, the less likely it was for them to experience burnout. They also described the centrality of flexible working, and divided it into two forms:

Is it good for children to have a working mum?

Some older studies note there may be negative impacts. A 2010 Australian study noted that there was a link between mothers working longer hours and children watching more television. In turn, this led to increased weight gain in children and decreased exercise. The study found that women working longer hours had less direct supervision of their children and therefore often felt uncomfortable letting their children play outdoors, leading to more time watching TV.  Additionally, less time to cook meals caused an increase in the amount of “junk” food consumed.

A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in 2001 found that when mothers returned to full-time work before their child was 5 years old, risks of lower outcomes for their children increased. They suggested such children had lower educational attainment and more unemployment. The reason suggested in this report for these outcomes was that mothers would have less time for direct interaction with their children during these crucial periods.

However, the report also notes that there significantly less negative outcomes for mothers who work part time as opposed to full-time. Additionally, it suggested that when women work, it increases the household income which is likely to have positive impacts on children that were not measured in the report. Given the deleterious effects poverty has on families and children, it was proposed that any negative impacts of working could be outweighed by a mother’s work avoiding financial strain in later life.

The positives...

A 2016 LSA and the University of Oxford study found that children whose mothers worked had better social and “everyday” skills. These results included children who were considered to be “very young”. They found that where mothers (and fathers) were active and engaged in their parenting, children’s outcomes improved. Therefore, it can be suggested that a mother working is not necessarily negative for even young children. Rather, it can be positive provided that mothers are careful not to allow work to interfere with having an engaged parenting style.

A more recent study, conducted in 2018 looked at the positives for children of having a working mother. This extensive report looked at the impacts across a very large number of countries including the UK, France, Finland and the USA. Overall, it found a positive link particularly between daughters of mothers who worked and:

Higher levels of employment

Higher pay in employment

More supervisory
roles

They also found that sons of working mothers had significantly more egalitarian gender attitudes, and were more supportive of women’s engagement in the labour market. They also shared responsibilities better in household work. While girls were more likely to benefit, boys did not experience any negative impact from having a working mother.

Many mothers are concerned not only about the later outcomes of their children, but their emotional wellbeing as well. The feeling of guilt associated with working and missing time with children, particularly younger children is a major motivating factor of many mothers seeking to leave employment. However, a report by Harvard Business school found that children of working mothers are just as happy as adults as those whose mothers did not work.

A study in 2014 by the University of Wollongong in Australia found that children whose mothers worked more than 35 hours a week were more likely to pursue higher education as well. Unlike the earlier report by the JRF, this report focused on teenage children. It found that teens whose mothers worked full time were also less likely to leave school at 16.

“Formal” flexibility

E.g. flexi-time, part time working or contractual arrangements allowing mothers to predict when they would be able to take more/less parental responsibilities.

“Informal” flexibility

This referred to employers being more or less willing to allow for sudden changes in circumstances (like a child needing to come home early from school).

Both types of flexibility were considered helpful, but whereas mothers felt they should be entitled to formal flexibility, they felt they needed to earn informal flexibility. Either way, it is clear that the more flexible the working pattern, the better outcomes for working mothers would be. As such, when a mother is considering returning to work, she should seek out flexible working patterns if at all possible. The good news is that the law in the UK provides the right to ask for flexible working as long as you:

Are an employee, but not an agency worker (other than those returning from a period of parental leave) or in the armed forces;

Have worked for your employer for 26 weeks continuously before applying;

Have not made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months.

If you meet their criteria, your employer must legally consider your request seriously, and only reject it if there are good business reasons for doing so.

Striking a balance

It is clear that there are potential negatives and positives relating to being a working mother. It is inevitable that lower levels of supervision provide more opportunities for undesirable behaviour. However, the positives are significant – especially for daughters and for women themselves. Mothers who are already working should not feel guilty, and can reduce stress on themselves by considering any possibilities for flexible working. The best way to safeguard against any negative outcomes, will still enjoying the benefits of the positive aspects is to ensure that your parenting is not affected. If a working mother is careful to continue to parent in an engaged and active manner, there are few meaningful negative consequences to working.

The good news for mothers is that the evidence suggests that working or not working is not determinative. Research suggests that both can have positives or negatives, and that those negatives are not set in stone. Therefore, women should feel empowered to do what they feel is right for their children, their families and themselves. If they choose to stay at home, or to return to work, they should not feel guilt or fear about the impact it will have on their children. Instead, they should simply be aware of the realities and adjust their choices accordingly.

Listen to our podcast on this topic:

Download the full report

Find out more about the research in the full report.

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Find out about how we help employers support their parent employees.

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Parenting NI and Bank of Ireland UK have their Eye on the Ball for Working Parents

Left to right: Gail Toal, Bank of Ireland UK, Charlene Brooks, Parenting NI and Simon Fitzpatrick, Irish Football Association. Parenting NI partner with Bank of Ireland UK to host a special event at the National Stadium focusing on workplace support for parents.

It’s often said that being a parent is the most important job you will ever have; but for many parents it’s not their only job, and the challenge of trying to find a balance between work and family life can be difficult.

A breakfast networking seminar will take place in the Danny Blanchflower Room at the National Stadium on Monday 22nd October which will explore how businesses can support staff with work life balance and engage them on issues relating to gender equality and diversity.

Award winning ex-CNN journalist and author of ground breaking book All In, Josh Levs will be keynote speaker at the event. When Levs was denied fair parental leave by his employer after his child was born, he fought back and won. In the process he became a leading advocate for modern families, now working with corporations and organisations to build policies that support men as equal caregivers, a crucial step towards ensuring equal career opportunities to women.

Parenting NI CEO, Charlene Brooks, said with all the pressures on modern families it’s time for a change of perceptions and workplace culture.

“We believe it’s important for workplaces to move with the times when it comes to family friendly policies. Employers who support and respond to the needs of working parents are helping to shape a workplace for an evolving workforce.

“We are encouraged at the number of employers Parenting NI are working with in Northern Ireland who help provide support to their parent employees. The rewards for businesses who do so include a more productive, engaged, motivated workforce, reduced absenteeism and employers are more likely to be successful at recruiting and retaining staff.”

Charlene Brooks explained that Parenting NI hopes the event will open up more conversation in businesses about how they can help ease work life balance stresses for families in Northern Ireland.

“We are particularly excited to be hosting this event with Josh Levs and our partners Bank of Ireland and Citi. Parenting NI hope that the event will help start a wider conversation within more organisations about offering more support and flexibility for their parent employees, not only to benefit children and families but also to the benefit of their own businesses.”

Ian Sheppard, Managing Director Northern Ireland at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “Bank of Ireland UK are delighted to be supporting our partners, Parenting NI, with this exciting ‘Make Parenting Work’ networking seminar. As an organisation, our purpose is to enable our customers, colleagues and communities to thrive. At the heart of this purpose is our commitment to Inclusion & Diversity and to foster an inclusive working environment where all colleagues are enabled to reach their full potential. Collaborating with Parenting NI, a leading organisation for supporting parents since 1979, has given us the tools to support our parent employees through a range of needs-led sessions.”

Parenting NI Celebrates Working Mums at Maryville


Leading local parenting organisation, Parenting NI, is hosting a bespoke network event today, Thursday 8th March to celebrate working mums on International Women’s Day.

The ‘Maryville Mum’s Network Event’ held exclusively for working mums aims to bring together over 40 professional working mums to share a special afternoon tea experience whilst engaging and networking with peers. Special guests include Dr Lisa Neligan, Private GP,Kingsbridge Medical, part of the 3FiveTwo Group, alongside Lisa McLaughlin Director of Global Law Firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

On what is the globally recognised ‘International Women’s Day’ over 40 local businesswoman (including SME owners, lawyers, Business Development Managers and Financiers) are all coming together with one special bond – they are all balancing their busy careers with being a mum.

After hearing some excellent advice and best practice from Guest Speakers Lisa Neligan, GP (Kingsbridge Medical) and Lisa McLaughlin, Overseas Director (Herbert Smith Freehills), Parenting Education Consultant Lauren Spiers will deliver information and advice including top tips on understanding children’s social and emotional behaviour, promoting self-esteem and tactics to achieve the balance between being a working mum whilst still succeeding in the workplace.

Event Organiser, Lucy McCusker said, ‘I am delighted that we have so many working mums attending Maryville House today – coming together on International Women’s Day makes this event so much more poignant. Parenting NI is committed to offering support to all working mum’s across NI and we are excited at the amount of employers who now recognise the importance of supporting working parents.’

With the ever increasing demands of both work life and family life often coming head-to head some working mums can find it difficult to take some time out themselves, this is why today is so important.’

The ‘Maryville Mum’s’ network event is a unique event organised exclusively by Parenting NI – a similar event for working dads was organised at Ulster Rugby in October and was also very successful.a

Parenting NI offer a range of tailor made employee wellbeing workshops and seminars to help employers support their parent employees. Keep an eye on our website for information on future events and for more about our employee wellbeing work click here.

Working Dads Talk Tactics

Leading local parenting organisation, Parenting NI, hosted its first ever 'working dads' networking event at Kingspan Stadium on Thursday 12th October.

The 'Talking Tactics' event held exclusively for dads was held in partnership with Kingsbridge Private Hospital (part of the 3fivetwo Group) and Bank of Ireland UK. Special guests included Ibe Sesay from Q Radio, Ireland and Ulster Rugby Captain and father of three, Rory Best and Ulster Rugby Operations Director and father of two, Bryn Cunningham.

Over 40 local businessmen had the opportunity to network with other professional working dads during the unique event, before sitting down to a delicious full Irish breakfast.

A Parenting Education Consultant also delivered information and advice including top tips on understanding children's behaviour, promoting self-esteem and tactics to achieve the balance between being a 'hands on' dad and holding down a stressful job.

As part of the interactive session, delegates got the opportunity to question a panel made-up of Rory Best, Mark Regan, CEO Kingsbridge Private Hospital and William Thompson, Head of Consumer Banking, Bank of Ireland UK, on their experiences of juggling fatherhood with work commitments and how they make precious time with their children and families count.

Event Organiser, Lucy McCusker said, "Evidence shows that many dads are striving to be more involved in their children's childcare and activities but can sometimes find it hard to make this goal a reality.

"For some working fathers, their employers are unsupportive of their goals to achieve a better work-life balance. This unique 'Talking Tactics' event allowed best practice to be shared amongst peers and showcased some positive approaches from employers and individual experiences. I really hope all dads leave the session feeling better able to achieve a healthy balance between fatherhood and career aspirations and demands."

Panellist Mark Regan, CEO at Kingsbridge Private Hospital, part of the 3fivetwo Group emphasised that giving staff flexibility is key. He said,

"I'm a firm believer of 'give and take'. If one of my team needs to take a few hours off for a school play or if their child is unwell and they need to work from home, I know I get this time back and more", said Mark.

William Thompson, Head of Consumer Banking, Bank of Ireland UK, said:

"Bank of Ireland is proud to be working in partnership with Parenting NI on a number of initiatives including this 'Working Dads' session.

Being a father of four, I completely understand the challenges facing dads and families today. A session like this provides an ideal opportunity for peers to come together to acknowledge and talk about common work life balance challenges and hopefully go home with some practical tips that we can all apply in our own lives."

Following on from the success of a previous event for working mums, this event exclusively organised for working dads, is the first of its kind.

Media Enquiries

Contact Emma Lyttle, Communications Officer at Parenting NI on 028 9031 0891 or email.

Parenting NI call for More Support for Working Mums

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It’s often said that being a parent is the most important job you will ever have; but for many parents it’s not their only job, and the challenge of trying to find a balance between work and family life can be difficult.

Mums are finding it harder to return to work after having a baby due to struggling to find flexible employment, a lack of affordable, available or suitable childcare, and feeling less confident. As Mother’s Day approaches Parenting NI is highlighting the challenges mums face in the workplace and is calling on employers to place a greater emphasis on supporting their employees who are parents.

Charlene Brooks, Interim CEO at Parenting NI said, “Pressures on families are ever increasing and the added stress that can come along with being a working parent means it can often take its toll on our health and wellbeing.

Mums who are working have told Parenting NI they feel guilty about going out to work and worry that not being around as much as they might like could have a negative impact on their children. Although this is an understandable concern, mums can take comfort in the fact that research tells us differently. Having a mother who works is beneficial for children, especially girls whose mother’s have careers in business or are professionals.”

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Working mum of two boys (aged 5 and 2) Leigh Osborne recently had to leave a job she loved when work life started spilling over into family life, “I found myself working over 40 hours a week and checking emails on my phone when I should have been playing with my kids. I knew something had to change; so I took a temporary pay cut and now work in a role that allows me to maintain a career in my field and also gives me a better work life balance.

Being a mum to two young boys and holding down a job certainly keeps me busy I often say being a working mum is the hardest job of all but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel the most important thing is to make sure you maintain a work life balance that is right for you.

I enjoy working, it’s part of my identity and of course I love being a mum and I feel by doing both roles I am setting a strong example to my kids that will teach them that to earn rewards in life you must work hard.”

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As part of a Mother’s Day celebration, Parenting NI have teamed up with Women in Business to host a special event for working mums to provide an opportunity for networking and discussion on what could be done to help support better work-life balance for families.

The leading parenting charity want to help working mums recognise that support is available and to show employers that supporting their parent employees can reap real rewards. In order to help employers gain these benefits, Parenting NI offer Employee Wellbeing workshops to businesses and organisations on a range of parenting issues.  Charlene explained, “The demands of work and family responsibilities can impact on parents’ happiness, and therefore ability to fully focus on work.  Employers who respond to the needs of those working parents are helping to shape a workplace for an evolving workforce. Workplace support for parents can make a positive impact on performance, job focus, attendance and can ultimately improve employee morale and overall productivity.”

Call for More Support for Parents in the Workplace

Work Life 2016
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National Work Life Week runs this week from 3rd – 7th October. This campaign offers employers and employees an opportunity to focus on wellbeing at work and managing work life balance.

Local charity Parenting NI is calling on employers to use the week to think about how they support parents in the workplace. Research published by Working Families recently revealed that a third of employed parents in the UK reported being ‘burned out’ often or all the time and many will take annual or sick leave to cope.

Interim CEO of Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks says “The pressures on families are ever increasing, and adding work stress into the mix can take its toll on parents. As a parent of 3 young children myself I am very familiar with the challenges of juggling the many tasks modern day parenthood presents us with. It’s important that parents know that support is available, so this Work Life Week we are encouraging employers to consider what they can do to support their parent employees in the workplace.”

Growing research demonstrates the importance of parent employee’s health and wellbeing in relation to work performance and effectiveness. Workplace access to parenting support leads to reduced work-family and family-work spill over and improved worker morale and performance.

Charlene Brooks continued, “Whilst we are encouraged by the increase in the number of employers who are contacting Parenting NI about wanting to provide support for parents in the workplace; there is still a need for employers to recognise that a family friendly workplace will make for a more productive, more engaged and more motivated workforce. Absentee rates are also much more likely to reduce and employers are more likely to be successful at recruiting and retaining staff.”

The organisation are also encouraging employers to embrace ‘Go Home On Time Day’ on Wednesday 5th October, ensuring staff are not working late and get home in time to spend quality time with their families.

Parenting NI offer a range of workshops that are specifically tailored to help support parent employees. Get in touch or visit our Employee Wellbeing section of the website to find out more about the sessions.