Family stress work life balance case study myra mawby
Family stress work life balance case study myra mawby

Fears for next generation as family life ‘collapses’

MOST working parents are too drained when they get home to put any effort into family life, a shock report released today reveals.

One of the nation's top psychologists has labelled the National Working Families Report the most horrendous expose of the collapse of home life that he has seen in 30 years.

"This research lays bare the extreme failure of work life balance for so many parents and the findings have me seriously worried about the next generation. If children do not feel safe, valued and listened to then parents are laying the seeds for depression and problems later on," Dr Michael Carr-Gregg told The Courier-Mail.

Two-thirds of parents say they feel too emotionally or physically drained when they got home from work to contribute to their family and half missed out on family activities in the past month due to work commitments.



Working parents report high levels of stress.
Working parents report high levels of stress.

"Parenting should not be an exercise in martyrdom. Instead of just accepting the situation where something has to give, parents need to prioritise their children. To be able to do that they must put on their own psychological and physical oxygen mask. If they are not looking after themselves then they will be useless to their children," Dr Carr-Gregg, who is an expert in the family area of psychology, said.

Parents At Work chief executive Emma Walsh says that the majority of working parents and carers were aware that they struggled to find work and family balance and it made them unhappy in their jobs.

"These stresses have important implications for both families and employers. One in four parents and carers reported an increased intention to leave their jobs in the next 12 months because they struggle to combine caring with their job," she said.

Half of all women and one-third of men admitted to high levels of stress.

Ms Walsh says most people reported that their job helped them feel personally fulfilled but highlighted the need for more support to better manage the pressures of work and care demands.

"Top priorities included a need for more flexibility over when and where they worked, reduction in job pressure and overall workload and help with care services such as having access to child care at work or being offered child care rebates from their employer," she said.

"Individuals also reported wanting more role models or 'champions' that foster a family-friendly workplace culture as well as personal health and wellbeing and parenting education programs at work.

"When it comes to the gender divide, the report found that women continue to carry the 'caring load' and that employers could do more to support men to use flexible work and parental leave. This means employers need to address the financial, social and cultural barriers that prevent men sharing the caring load to level the playing field for both women and men to contribute at work and home."

Parent and child health care services provider, Karitane chief executive Grainne O'Loughlin said parents taking stress home from work impacts on their personal and family wellbeing, particularly when there is 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.

"This report found half of all parents returning to work after parental leave report significant fatigue, a third are worried and anxious and one in five report feeling depressed. We need to find ways to better support parents and families at this crucial time," she said.

The research was commissioned by Parents at Work and carried out on more than 6000 parents and carers by The Australian National University and La Trobe University.



Stirling and Myra Mawby with their two children Lyla, 2, and Arthur, 5. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Stirling and Myra Mawby with their two children Lyla, 2, and Arthur, 5. Picture: Liam Kidston.

PARENTAL guilt is "never ending" for Carindale couple Myra and Stirling Mawby.

Life is hectic for the pair, who are parents toArthur, five and Lyla, two, (all pictured above) with a third baby on the way, but they always find a way to make it work.

Stirling, a business development manager, and Myra, a legal secretary, also manage a small earthmoving business outside of their work.

Mrs Mawby said finding balance was about "understanding your stresses and triggers and putting practices in place as a family to avoid them", but often at the expense of something else.

"With a new baby on the way and ­Arthur starting prep next year, we ­already recognise that next year will involve more adapting and adjusting our lifestyle," she said.

"Despite the fact we do a lot with our kids, there's alway the never-ending mum/dad guilt that you could be doing more," Mrs Mawby said.

"I often feel more physically drained on the days I am home with the kids ­because I have so many hats to wear, things to juggle and achieve that by the end of the day my body is exhausted." But finding moments to exercise, or do something for herself, helped manage the stress.

She said the challenge of both of them working, and managing a business outside of their work was that there really was never down time, or time to spend together.

So they place "a big priority on family holidays" and spending anytime they can together.

In order to have a work/life balance, Mrs Mawby said their weeks have to be "structured and routine-based and there's not a lot of free time".



Cecily and Martin Canning with Harry, 6, and Sienna, 4. Picture: AAP Image/Josh Woning
Cecily and Martin Canning with Harry, 6, and Sienna, 4. Picture: AAP Image/Josh Woning

MARTIN and Cecily Canning say that it's impossible to juggle everything when both parents work.

The couple, who live in Upper Kedron, said their own health or the kids' priorities had missed out at times.

Mr Canning, a hospital pharmacist, said that between his and his wife Cecily's long work hours and mounting commitments for their children, Harry, 6 and Sienna, 4, (pictured with their parents), their personal health "absolutely" came last.

Mr Canning said he knew many other families in a similar situation, overloaded with commitments and trying to do what needed to be done.

"It's stressful, particularly when we're both busy at work, which leads to stress at home. I think that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel, we just work towards that and do what we can, take it one day at a time," he said.

"Sometimes for the kids, it's a bit hard. Harry is in Grade 1 and we might come to Friday morning and realise we haven't had any time to help with homework, or music practice, or help on his school work," he said.

"But we try to prioritise the kids' needs and their development."

Mr Canning said some of the sacrifices included going months between doing something for themselves, "because you just don't have the time to do it".

"We're usually pretty tired all the time,'' he said.

"You look through the calendar and for the next five or six weeks, we've got barely any time free.''


- with Antonia O'Flaherty