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Today’s economic climate makes it really hard not to see a two-parent working household. But, in the process of working so much to support one’s family, are we actually negatively impacting them in the process? Maybe not as much as one might think actually as long as we actively make time to attend recitals and soccer games. But more importantly, when we are there physically, we have to be there mentally as well. Research has found that parents’ working, even for long hours, did not hurt children but parents who were distracted by, or obsessed with their work, did see an impact on their children.

Be mentally present 

Work is important but it should not always be at the forefront of one’s mind. Technological advances have made it possible to work from home and answer ‘important’ emails right in the palms of our hands but, if you are focussed on work the whole time you were at your child’s hockey game and didn’t even see them score the winning goal, were you even really there? 

Impact on child’s emotional health 

A study found that there are many factors regarding a parent’s attitudes towards work that can have correlative effects on the behaviour of one’s child which also offers insight into their mental health. The Child Behaviour Checklist was used in a study to cross compare the effects a parent’s work-life can have on their children, irrespective of time. Findings from the study showed that when parents felt that family life took precedence over work, a child’s emotional health was higher than a child’s whose parents felt work should come first. Another interesting finding showed that when parents thought of work as an interesting challenge and enjoyed it, their children were better off.  

Individual parent’s role 

When specifically looking at the role of a father, the study showed that when a father had a very psychologically demanding career, the result was behavioural and emotional issues. But, if when a father came home satisfied and was available to his children as well as relaxed psychologically, the children had fewer issues. When looking at the maternal role regardless of the type of work they had, if they were in charge of their time, and had time for personal self-care, the children showed fewer issues. This is unsurprising as most women usually take full responsibility of their children’s well-being which can get tedious and tiresome fast. Giving them time to take care of themselves allows them to really be there and present when they are with the children.  

All these findings are regardless of how much time a parent spends at work, but how they spent the time they weren’t at work. Being present and focussing on children and really being there when you are with them is what is important. So, if we care about how our careers are affecting our children’s mental health, we can and should focus on the value we place on our careers and experiment with creative ways to be available, physically and psychologically, to our children, though not necessarily in more hours with them. Quality time is real. 

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