If you’re a time-poor working parent, you will hardly be surprised by the results of a new national survey which has found that 62 percent of working parents find it difficult to look after their own physical and mental wellbeing while juggling the demands of career and family.

The National Working Families Report, which surveyed 6,289 Australian parents and carers from a diverse range of occupations, also found half of all women and one-third of men reported they were under “a lot”, or “a great deal” of stress while attempting to balance the dual demands.

Further, one in four parents and carers reported they had considered – or actively intended – leaving their job in the next 12 months because of the difficulties keeping all the balls in the air.

And a third of those surveyed said the combination of work and family responsibilities contributed to stress and tension in the relationships with their partners and children.

Work is fulfilling but more support needed

Emma Walsh, the CEO of Parents at Work, which commissioned the inaugural study with the support of parenting advocacy group Karitane and a network of employers, said while most of the people surveyed found their job personally fulfilling, they needed more support to better manage the pressures.

“These stresses have important implications for both families and employers,” Ms Walsh said.

“Two-thirds of working parents and carers reported struggling to look after their own physical and mental health, and that’s a startling statistic by anyone’s measure. Working parents and carers also find it difficult to manage household chores and caring for family.

“Two-thirds reported feeling too emotionally or physically drained when they got home from work to contribute to their family and half had missed out on family activities in the past month, due to time they had to spend at work.”

The top five things parents said would help them manage the juggle more effectively were

  1.  More flexibility (having more control over when or where they work) – 44%
  2.  Access to caring support (childcare at work or rebates from their employer) – 38%
  3.  Family-friendly role models in the workplace – 36%
  4.  Reducing job pressure and workload – 29%
  5.  Family-friendly training for managers – 27%

Karitane CEO Grainne O’Loughlin was quoted in the report’s media release as saying that parents taking stress home from work impacted their personal and family wellbeing, particularly when there was a lack of employer support.

“Parenting can be stressful and with the added pressures of working it can have a profound impact on the individual and on the child,” she said.

Employers urged to act

The report’s website calls on workplaces to embrace family friendly practices.

“We’re calling for employers to step up and implement best practice work and family policy and practices that respond to the changing needs of their employees,” the website says.

“This means addressing some of the structural and cultural challenges to support parents and carers manage work-life responsibilities such as:

  • Gender equal parental leave: addressing gender bias around caring: disrupting the breadwinner vs caregiver cultural and structural barriers that hold back gender equality progress
  • Normalising flexible work for all
  • Having a clear strategy and defined success measures on supporting families at work.

“We’re also calling on Government, Business and Community leaders to design a National Working Families Framework, aligned with the health and wellbeing needs of children and families. This is critical to ensure Australia does not lag the world in work and family policy.”

Find out More

Read the Executive Summary and Key Findings here

Find more information about the survey partners and read media releases here

Need Support?

For parents of teenagers: ReachOut One on One Parent Support service

Free counselling for parents and carers in Queensland and the Northern Territory: Parentline