Millennial parents are striving to “have it all”, but are struggling to maintain their family and work commitments and prone to burnout, according to a new study of family life.
The 2016 Modern Families Index, published by work-life charity Working Families and Bright Horizons, is based on a survey of 1,000 parents. It reveals that millennial parents are more likely to both work full time, with 78% of parents in this age group working full time. Millennial fathers are the most likely to be working flexibly and sharing family obligations – for instance, they said they were equally likely to be called as mothers if there is a problem with their child. Some 69% of millennial fathers work flexibly compared with 54% of fathers aged 36-45 and 52% of fathers aged 45+.
However, millennial parents are nearly twice as likely to feel burnout. Some 42% of millennial parents said they feel burnt out most or all of the time, compared with only 22% of 36-45 year olds and 17% of those over 45. Millennials are also the most likely to say they would like to downshift and the most willing to take a pay cut to find a better work-life balance. Some 38% of millennial parents would consider a pay cut, compared to 28% overall. Career progression that means working long hours and missing out on family life is less appealing to younger parents.
Millennial fathers feel the most resentful towards their employers and also represent the group that is least comfortable asking employers for working time limits. More than half of millennial fathers (58%) would not feel confident asking their employer about reducing their hours, working remotely or placing boundaries on responding to calls or emails. Some 42% of millennial fathers feel resentful towards their employers, compared to 32% overall.
Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “The sands are shifting – younger parents are more likely to share care than the generations before them. But they’re on shaky ground because working life hasn’t caught up. Long and inflexible hours remain the norm with many parents telling us they work up to 10 extra hours a week. If we want children to have the time with parents that they need, and for parents to give their best at work, employers need to tackle unrealistic and unmanageable workloads. Otherwise we’re short-changing families and we’re short-changing the economy.”
Overall, a third of all parents reported being burnt out often or all the time. Some 46% of parents said that their working life was becoming increasingly stressful. More than a third felt that work negatively impacted their family life and 35% of parents said they take annual leave to cope and 28% of parents said they would take sick leave to cope.
The study also reveals that the traditional arrangement of a father working full-time and a mother working part-time is no longer the most common working pattern for these families. Almost half of all working families have both parents working full time.
Some 86% of respondents with children three years old and younger said that the planned increase in hours of free childcare will not have a significant impact on their decision to return to work or increase their working hours.
The report also shows:
– Evidence that people on higher incomes are more likely to work flexibly: nearly 80% of those earning between £50,000 and £70,000 reported they are able to access flexible working. Only 50 per cent of those earning less than £30,000 did
– Parents continue to put in extra hours just to get the job done. In some cases an additional ten hours a week – this is almost 74 days a year for someone contracted to work seven hours per day
– Women remain more likely than men to consider childcare responsibilities before taking a new job: over 60% of women strongly agree that they would need to do this compared to 36% of men
– Although all parents prioritise spending time with children when getting home from work, traditional gender roles still persist in the home. Mothers (nearly 45%) are more likely than fathers (just under 25%) to start doing domestic chores straight away.