Busy parents are not there for their children?

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Balancing the demands of working life and raising a family is one of the constant challenges for those trying to do both.  New Canadian research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and reported in The Telegraph on Sunday, 23 February 2014, suggests that “well paid workers” derive less meaning from parenting.

That might sound a little controversial at first blush, but the point is that those parents, working and earning a higher income, are feeling the strain of the demands of their jobs while caring for their children.

Here are some of the observations:

  • Some parents report a significant “pull” to do other things (work related) when with their children;
  • This “pull” impacts the quality of their experience while with their children; and
  • This urge was felt more strongly by mothers, suggesting the conflict between career goals and parenting goals was greater for them.

The article, written by Lisa Power, also provides information about the costs of raising children – bringing up two children to the age of 24 in a middle class Australian household will cost more than $800,000 – something I will remember next time I give my children the “money doesn’t grow on trees” lecture.  The urge to provide financially for our children and families is a strong one (especially given these costs!) and balancing that against the sense of loss of something important when with our children is tough to resolve.

The tips for improvement?

  • Try to keep work and spending time with your children as separate as possible;
  • Don’t check your emails when you are spending time with your children (and probably don’t text either!); and
  • Be “present” with your children when you are with them.

Sounds simple…or not? as our “always connected” culture is hard to resist.

One of the best pieces of advice I received about parenting came from a client of mine who was doing a remarkable job caring for her disabled child while dealing with a high conflict and difficult separation.  She said it was simple.  With everything she did for her child, no matter how menial or routine, she paused, slowed herself down and consciously did that thing, with love.

I try to channel this advice on those days when the clean laundry basket takes on Magic Pudding–like characteristics…but I do keep trying, and that is the real point, to do it with love.

Di Simpson is a Partner at Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Family Law Specialists, 18 Kendall Lane, NewActon, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600.