Even in the 21st century, many people still struggle to find a balance between work and family life.
In fact, a new report finds working parents feel conflicted about their careers and personal lives, fearing they can’t be open with their employers about family obligations.
The report from Bright Horizons Family Solutions (BFAM), an employer benefit child-care and early education company, finds 48% of working parents fear family commitments and issues could mean they lose their job, while 39% say it may cost them a raise. Others (26%) worry their home life could lead to a demotion, and 19% say it could leave them excluded from meetings.
The company’s “Modern Family Index” was conducted by Kelton Global online among 1,005 Americans 18 and older, who work at least part-time and have at least one child under 18 in the home.
Bright Horizons CEO Dave Lissy says while the workplace has evolved over the past two decades to help create a more family-friend environment, workers still have a lot of anxiety.
“This stems from an employer that may not foster this culture,” he says. “A lot of this depends on the relationship a person has with a supervisor or manager. If a company doesn’t have great functions in place, and family obligations pop up and you can’t have that discussion with a supervisor, it all breaks down.”
Lissy joined President Barack Obama at this week’s White House Summit on Working Families, which focused on encouraging more family-friendly policies in the workplace.
Bright Horizons’ report finds working parents spent 51% of their time dealing with family responsibilities while taking paid vacations and that 35% would sacrifice a higher-paying job for reliable child care. In addition, 31% would sacrifice a raise, and 25% say they would forego a health benefit like vision or dental for dependable child care services.
Parents’ anxiety may be bolstered by the recent financial crisis, which has led to a much tighter job market. While May’s jobs report showed the economy has recouped the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession, workers are still cautious over the labor market’s stability.
“In a recession when the labor market is competitive, people are less open about talking about [family issues] because they are worried about their employment,” Lissy says. “But I think the reality is that for the economy to be productive as a whole, we need parents to make this work. The workforce needs men and women who will make this work.”
But striking a work-family balance isn’t just employers’ responsibility—but they play a role. Lissy says 49% of respondents say having a partner who shares in household duties helps bring equilibrium and 41% point to a supportive boss.
Workers’ aging parents are also making achieving a balanced life hard: 1 in 5 respondents expect to be caring for their parents in the next five to 10 years. Known as the “sandwich generation” workers caring for their kids and parents are often juggling both group’s financial and time commitments.
Working dads foster as much anxiety as mothers, the survey shows. For example, 63% of dads say they are nervous to tell their boss about family commitments, compared to 68% of moms. Twenty-nine percent of working dads have faked sick to be more involved with their family, compared to 32% of moms.
As a working dad, Lissy says wasn’t too surprised by the results.
“These [family issues] have been misunderstood as only women’s issues, which they certainly are, but they are also men’s issues,” he says. “The modern dad cares just as much about being involved as working moms do. It can be harder for dads to be open and honest about this, given cultural norms around that issue.”