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Why working parents are feeling the squeeze—some more than others

Why working parents are feeling the squeeze—some more than others

“Having a child is a completely full-time job. But if you want to go back to work, you do it.” —Serena Williams

There are over 33 million families in America today, 80% of which have at least one working parent. Are most of them happy? What do they struggle with? Did many of them change their decisions about having kids because of their job? With unemployment at historic lows, are companies using parenting-related benefits to try to draw new talent in?

Using SurveyMonkey Audience, we decided to dig in. We asked a total of 838 people, including 473 who are or have been working parents, about their opinions and experiences when it comes to balancing family and work.

The struggles of being a working parent

When we asked working parents to describe what it’s like in 3 words, one word that did not come up a single time was “easy.”

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In fact, 35% of people have changed their decisions about parenthood based on their career, and 15% of people based their decision about whether or not to have kids around their job. An additional 14% changed their decision about when to have kids and 6% changed their decision about how many to have.

The most common challenges were hours in the office interfering with family time (57%) and affording childcare (42%). For 21% of people, affording childcare was the #1 challenge associated with being a working parent.

Juggling work and family challenges

Who gets hit the hardest as a working parent?

The financial impact of trying to juggle a job and kids came across again and again. One of the questions we asked was, “Do you think that it is easier being a working parent today than it was 20 years ago?”

  • Among respondents with a household income over 100K, 55% thought it is easier today, 21% thought it was easier 20 years ago, and 23% weren’t sure. 
  • Among households with under 100K, only 40% thought it is easier today and 35% believed it was easier 20 years ago.

There’s nothing shocking about the concept that families with fewer resources have more challenges to cope with, but it’s still eye-opening to see just how many Americans are impacted by the availability of affordable childcare.

And there’s another division: 40% of women say that they’ve struggled to afford childcare, compared to only 30% of men. 

According to Serena’ Williams’s SurveyMonkey research about working moms:

  • Women are 4 times more likely than men to be primary caregivers to their children than men are.
  • 47% of women are “extremely” or “very” comfortable taking risks to advance their careers these days. 57% of men say the same.

What does all of this suggest? Its seems like women are still struggling to find equal opportunities as they deal with the high cost of childcare, the gender pay gap, and the disproportionate pressure for women to take on child rearing responsibilities.

Benefits for working parents: what people have, and what they want

Benefits related to parenting have been around for decades, but there’s also been a lot of change. Forward-thinking companies like JP Morgan and Netflix are starting to help cover egg freezing and adoption, while companies like Johnson and Johnson and Nike offer onsite childcare.

So what’s the most common right now?

Common benefits

So if that’s what employees already have, then what’s on the wishlist? We asked people to write in the benefits that they’d love to have. The things that came up the most often:

  • Childcare in the office
  • Flexible morning arrivals
  • Flexible working from home
  • The ability to use sick days or PTO to attend children’s events
  • The ability to leave work to tend to a sick child without having to prove the child’s illness (this one came up surprisingly often.)

People were also more interested in a longer parental leave, with the majority of people saying that ~3 months is appropriate, while most U.S. companies hover around 8 weeks.

There were also some less common, but interesting ideas:

  • Funds to help parents finance college education
  • A ban on required overtime
  • Company-facilitated internal groups for parents where they can talk about parenting, take turns babysitting, etc. 

According to Glassdoor, 79% of workers would prefer better benefits over a raise. Hint, hint, you employers out there looking for talent. There’s a lot of room to grow.