Over half of working parents in the UK feel guilty about the lack of time they spend playing with their children and nearly a third feel they bring the stresses of their work in to the family home, according to new research released by LEGO UK.
We’re supposedly one of the hardest working nations in Europe* but the time spent at the office is starting to take a toll on our home lives as parents struggle to let go of the boardroom and immerse themselves in the world of child’s play.
- • 24% find it very hard to switch off from work when they come home in the evening
• 26% struggle to shed their inhibitions and feel uncomfortable about role play with their children
• Over a third describe family life as more frantic than fun
• Nearly half of parents quote busy schedules and household tasks as preventing them from spending more time with their children
• 46% of men play with their children on a regular basis compared to just 26% of women
• 26% feel their child spends too much time watching TV or playing on the computer
The survey, carried out by LEGO, looked at how much time working parents spent playing with their children and how easy they found it to make the transition from boardroom to playroom. Nearly a quarter find it very hard to switch off from work and a further fifth take a good couple of hours to relax once they arrive home by which time their children have usually gone to bed.
A quarter of parents also struggle to shed their inhibitions and feel uncomfortable when faced with the prospect of role play and it seems that screen time is also partly to blame for the lack of time spent playing with our kids. A quarter feel their children spend too much time in front of a screen (TV, computer or games console) and would prefer them to spend more time playing with creative games such as role play, board games and construction toys.
It appears the pressures of modern life are taking their toll on women too as the demands of work, household chores and motherhood mean nearly twice as many men as women play with their children on a regular basis and 40% of men spend longer than 30 minutes per evening playing with their children compared to 20% of women. However, men find it harder to switch off from work, are more likely to bring work stresses in to the family home and find it harder to shed their inhibitions and get involved in child’s play.
Although parents would like to spend more time playing with their children they just don’t know where or how they can fit it in to their busy schedules. In fact, 37% of us describe family life as more frantic than fun and the most common reason cited for not spending time playing with our children was lack of time and impending household tasks. Other reasons included stress and the inability to forget about work; lack of energy and motivation; and their child’s preference for watching TV or playing on their computer, as well as not getting home before their bedtime.
However, when parents are able to make time to play with their children they actually find it enjoyable with over 40% describing it as fun and a further 20% as creative.
Parent coach, author and chief executive of The Parent Coach Academy, Lorraine Thomas, believes one of the main reasons parents feel stressed is because they have unrealistic expectations and it’s important they don’t try to be the perfect Mum or Dad because they don’t exist. “For working parents, it is a real struggle to find quality time to play and have fun with your children. There is always too much to do, not enough time to do it and definitely never enough Mum or Dad to go round”, says parenting coach, Lorraine Thomas. “Most working Mums and Dads say they are desperate to be ‘fun’ parents but because of the stressful demands of combining family and career – they end up as ‘frantic’ parents instead and ultimately end up feeling guilty.
“Connection is much more important than perfection. Stop thinking of time as a burden and start recognizing just how precious it is. Stop trying to pack as much as possible into every day. The housework will always be there but your children won’t be small for long. Focus on feeling good about the time you do spend with your children instead of feeling guilty about being away from them. Finally remember, it’s better to spend 15 minutes of quality time having fun than an hour with them when your mind is on other things.”
Lorraine also points out that a lot of high-tech games can be isolating: “Playing creative games encourages you to talk and helps children to develop really important communication skills. Creative games also boost your child’s confidence and self-belief – they can be a lot better at letting their imagination run wild than us.”
The fun and the frantic:
- • Parents aged 35-44, those working in construction and property development and unsurprisingly, Londoners, find it hardest to switch off from work, are most likely to bring the stresses of work home and find it hardest to slip in to creative play, feeling uncomfortable
• Women, people from Cardiff and legal executives are most likely to feel guilty about not spending time playing with their children and those employed in catering and hospitality find it easiest to relax as soon as they walk in the door
• Those in living in Oxford find it easiest to switch off from work (nearly half) whilst people from Aberdeen find it easiest to immerse themselves in the world of child’s play (nearly 60%)