Sharing work patterns and childcare

I was really interested to read the results of the Pew Research Center report the other day which suggested that in families where there are two parents present and both work full time housework and caring responsibilities are shared more equally.

Of course, it’s not the full-time working bit that’s the key thing, but the similarity in working patterns that links to greater equality around housework and childcare. What has also been good to see this week is the announcement of the Power Part Timer list and the growing number of men on this who are working part time to share caring responsibilities.

It can be difficult nowadays to talk about full time and part time working, given that full time can, in quite a lot of circumstances, mean more or less all the time. What used to be called full time – five days a week working nine to five – would now qualify in many jobs as “reduced hours”.

Should we distinguish between the two or just focus on the tasks associated with a particular job?
It’s definitely a topic I’ve heard debated over the last couple of years or so. Yet many jobs – not to mention childcare – are still, by necessity, very much hours-focused. As with all things, it’s hard to generalise and the devil is in the detail.

When we talk about two-parent households where both parents work full time, that could be both working from home full time and able to work around their children’s schedules; or a model where one person works full time from home and the other leaves the house at 6am and is back at 7pm or later; or one where both parents face long hours out of the house and commuting and are either constantly rushing to get back for childcare – and often struggling to afford to pay for it – or earn enough to employ nannies.

What is important is to make it easier for parents whatever way they choose or have to work. However, if men and women face similar pressures around managing work and family life surely the likelihood of the workplace being a more understanding place for all parents increases.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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