‘My daughter felt forgotten’: parents on working late

21 06 2017
man with child on his shoulders with both smiling
 Less time at work can mean more time to play with the kids. Photograph: Bbernard/Shutterstock

According to a study by the charity Working Families, only one in three parents leave work on time. We asked readers to tell us why they work late and how their absence from home affects their families. Some names have been changed to protect identities.

Tina, 38, analyst, France: Small kids don’t need you to earn lots of money, they need you to spend time with them

There is no culture of presenteeism at my company – no one gets brownie points for staying late. If I chose, I could work at home more (I currently do one day per week at home), and leave earlier. However, I would miss out on social and professional contact, and the career and development opportunities that brings, as well as feeling more part of the team. No one is directly discriminating, but if I am not there, I do not get the opportunities that others do.

My kids would love it if I could pick them up from school. My son was asked recently what he would change if he were boss of the school, and he said: “No after-school club, the parents come every day.” When I do make it, they are so happy to see me there. If I could get home on time I would be with the kids more, to play with them, teach them things and help them with their development. It would give me more time to feel on top of things in life, not just scraping by day to day.

My mother gave up work to bring up three kids. She went back when I was about 11. We clearly benefited enormously from all her input in terms of our education and development. I feel like kids of parents who are around more get a head start in life. It may seem strange coming from a family where both parents have good jobs and are relatively well paid … but small kids don’t need you to earn lots of money, they need you to spend time with them.

Tom, 40, financial analyst, the Netherlands: I am sick of staying so late

 Staff reductions with increased workloads make for a permanent sense of job insecurity. As the primary source of family income, covering all expenses, including mortgage and school fees, I feel the pressure to ensure I can continue to support them. I seldom work less than 50 hours a week.

It is often hard on my children, who complain about what time I return home. My wife can be stressed by having to deal with the children for long periods without additional support, and I am sick of staying so late. That said, in the time away from work I do try to ensure that I’m present and available: that we spend good-quality time together, doing things like reading bedtime stories and walking the dog. But I’m a person who also needs alone time, and getting anything like a reasonable balance no longer feels possible.

Molly, 34, architect, Dublin, Ireland: Having to leave early for work means I can’t breastfeed my son

I think a lot of architects are still recovering from the last recession, which left many of us unemployed or out of the industry for several years. So when the whole office is still there at 7 pm it is difficult to be the only one leaving on time each day. It has a terrible impact on us. I have a young son and he will only go to bed for me. If I am home late he goes to bed late and is exhausted and upset. My current office is relatively flexible if I come in early but it is limited. The only reason I stay late is that being unemployed again is worse than the stress of working late and having a tired baby.

An unexpected problem I have is that it affects breastfeeding because with my working hours it is difficult to be there both when my son wakes and falls asleep. He only has milk at those two times, so some days he misses out on that crucial nutrition. That is an extremely difficult thing for me – to leave early for work with him asleep because he is exhausted, and me knowing he isn’t getting his milk.

Owen, 41, manager, Washington DC, United States: It’s affected the kids’ concentration at school

There is more work to do than the staff can deliver. I know that to keep my manager’s salary I need to continue to deliver the same results so I end up working until 7 or 8pm. I used to take work home to do after the family dinner when the kids are in bed, but as I get older I find it harder to motivate myself back to work once I’ve switched off. Hence I stay later. Mealtimes and bedtimes get pushed back. This was fine for a while, but recently it’s affected the kids’ concentration at school and even their grades – although I can’t say this is definitely the reason, it just feels like it. It also puts a strain on my wife, who has the kids all by herself for longer. If I had more time with my family I think they would be happier as the day-to-day events wouldn’t always come second to work.

Stef, 38, PR manager, Scotland: I probably don’t play enough with my kids

I like my job, so staying later at work is satisfying; I get home around 7.30pm most nights. It also helps to delay having to face the chaos of over-tired children, the bedtime battle and hours of chores that wait for me. I probably don’t play enough with my kids; my husband does that more than I do. I end up having very little time with them during the week, but I don’t work Friday afternoons so I make up for it then, if I can. Also, my house is an absolute tip – all of the time. If I didn’t stay so late at work, my kids might have a better bedtime routine if I were there, as I am strict about trying to get to bed on time.

Jason, 38, software developer, Nagoya, Japan: We feel guilty when we can’t do things as a family

The primary reason I stay late is the workload. The workload in an average week is about 65 hours, and falling behind is considered a sign of poor performance that can seriously limit a person’s career. I have no plans on staying in the same job beyond 45, and this means needing to stay late to stay afloat. Our son is less than a year old and quite an active child. My wife is always exhausted. She just doesn’t have time to accomplish everything she needs to do for her work, and everything she wants to do at home. I help out as much as I can with the laundry, dishes, nappies, bottles, and everything else, but there’s only so much noise you can make after 10 on a work night. When the weekend comes around, we want to spend as much time together as a family, but end up dedicating half of our waking hours to cleaning. We feel guilty when we can’t do things as a family. We feel awful when the house is a mess. But we feel exhausted by nine every night. Going home early would open up our evenings and weekends more.

Karina, 55, teacher, England: My daughter felt forgotten

As a teacher, it was impossible to complete work duties in a regular eight hour work day. As a single parent either my teenage daughter spent lots of time alone at home or she had to spend afternoons at my school watching me work. I was tired and completely overwhelmed. My stress levels were sky high and my daughter became resentful of my career, and she and I were on antidepressants. My daughter felt forgotten and acted out by ditching school. The irony of teaching, was that I spent more time with other people’s children than I did with my own child.

How to Be Healthy When Your Family Isn’t

5 05 2017

College students may be able to get advice from a registered dietitian within campus student health services. (GETTY IMAGES)

You can’t ask a 7-year-old to do the grocery shopping for a family.

Similarly, children’s “choice” of what they eat is largely made for them by parents – based on what options are brought into the home. Not surprisingly, research finds that children’s eating habits – the amount of fruits and veggies they eat, for example – are greatly influenced by parents’ own dietary proclivities. If parents care about eating well, their kids are more likely to eat well.

Likewise, whether parents prioritize physical activity – and if they’re active with their children – tends to be positively associated with children’s own activity levels. Parents’ caring about physical activity, higher exercise levels and encouragement of physical activity in kids is also linked to lower rates of obesity in kids. In short, parents’ and kids’ activity levels are closely aligned. “They’re very strongly correlated,” says Paul Veugelers, a professor of epidemiology in the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health and director of the university’s Population Health Intervention Research Unit, who has studied parents’ influence on kids’ health behaviors. “Parents are the role models for the children.”

Certainly families don’t live in a vacuum. Socioeconomic factors – whether a family grows up in poverty, which is strongly associated with how much education parents have – can have a huge impact, since less education is linked to poorer health choices. (Also, families with fewer resources may have more trouble affording healthy food and may have less access to parks in certain impoverished areas, among other disadvantages). So experts say it’s important to think in terms of environmental influences in the broadest sense, from schools and communities to society as a whole, particularly as an obesity epidemic has expanded the waistlines of kids and adults across the U.S. and in many places around the world.

However, at a most elemental level, the influence of the family on an individual’s well-being and choices remains strong, even as one gets older and leaves the home. “Families are central to how we eat [and] how we live,” says Marina Chaparro, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in children and families based in Miami, and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Really parents shape a lot of our habits and are a key influence in how we grow up in general.”

So when it comes to changing kids’ health habits – like improving how a child eats – it’s always a family affair. “Although individualized kind of treatments can work, when we’re talking about children, really we need to focus on a family-based approach,” Chaparro says. “It’s going to be really, really difficult to see any kind of change, especially behavior change that is long-term when not all the family is aboard.”

But where young kids’ healthy – and unhealthy – habits are largely established for them by their parents, as children reach adolescence, begin to challenge norms at home and grow into young adults who leave the home, there’s opportunity to break from unhealthy family traditions. Of course, even when not living under the same roof, making changesthat run counter to how a person grew up to live well can prove a tall order.

“Change is hard,” says Emily Ozer, a clinical and community psychologist and a professor of community health sciences at UC Berkeley School of Public Health in California. So she recommends starting with small tweaks. For example, for all the talk about diet and exercise, one could easily forget the third pillar of health: sleep. Instead, make a goal to get adequate rest if you’re among the 1 in 3 adults the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates don’t get adequate rest. In addition to the overall mind-body benefits of getting at least seven hours of shut-eye (and some adults need more like eight or nine hours of sleep), being well-rested can reduce the likelihood you’ll eat more to get through the day or to stay up at night, plus boost energy to support physical activity goals.

Trying to break from an unhealthy family tradition, and not sure where to start? Consider seeking guidance from a professional. That could be talking to a trainer at a local gym to develop a workout routine, if you’re out of your element or don’t know how to maximize your sweat equity, or seeing a registered dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan you actually want to follow. For those in college, some campus student health services have registered dietitians on staff who will work with students – including those with diabetesor who wish to lose weight or simply eat better – to develop an eating plan, Chaparro says.

Remember, too, that just as your home environment may have contributed to your eating poorly or spending a lot of time on the couch when you were growing up, if you’re living on your own, you’re likely to have more say in creating an environment that better supports healthy living to reduce the likelihood of slipping back into old, unhealthy habits.

If you have a choice in where you live, you might pick a walkable neighborhood and perhaps even find an area with access to bike paths, Veugelers says, where you could pedal to work rather than driving.

5 Steps to Help Your Children Build Good Credit

7 12 2016

As if negotiating young adulthood weren’t hard enough – with the perils of dating, starting a career and figuring out how to keep your whites from turning pink in the washer – young people leaving the nest also need good credit. Without it, they face obstacles getting a car loan, a credit card or an apartment, and could end up paying higher interest rates for loans they do get. To build credit, young people need to show they can use credit responsibly, but how can they do that if no one will give them credit?

Fortunately, there are ways you can make it easier for your children. Start by educating them from an early age and making sure your own credit habits provide a good example. Follow these other five steps, and by the time they’re flying solo, your kids should be well on their way to a solid credit score.


1. Help them open savings and checking accounts. A savings account is a basic building block for helping children understand the financial world. Help them open an account when they’re young, and then let them deposit allowances, birthday money and cash from odd jobs. Encourage them to save up for something they want to buy to introduce the concept of delayed gratification. As the account grows, your child will also see first-hand how compound interest works.

When your children hit their early teens, help them open a checking account. Show them how it works and teach them about penalties if they overdraw or bounce checks. Once they know the basics, ease them into a debit card. This will give them some spending independence, but will limit their spending to their checking account balance.

2. Have your teen get a job. A solid work ethic goes a long way toward making your child into a responsible adult. Getting a part-time job in high school helps teach children the value of money, the thrill of seeing savings grow and the disappointment of watching it disappear if they make bad decisions. All of this is a precursor to understanding credit. Having income also helps in later years, when they’re ready to apply for their own credit cards.

3. Add them as authorized users on your credit card. Assuming your own credit habits are sound, and your card will allow it, this is a good way to help your children establish their own credit record. As authorized users, your teens will usually get a card in their names, tied to your account. In many cases, the account goes on both your credit record and your kid’s record.

While the authorized user can make purchases on the account, only the primary cardholder is liable for making payments. To help your child’s record as much as possible, together you should use only a small portion of the credit line and pay the bill every month on time.

If you think your teens are not yet mature enough to handle a credit card, you may want to add them as authorized users without giving them access to the account. Their credit will grow as you use and pay off the card every month, but there’s no chance they’ll ring up charges they can’t pay for.

Once you think your children are ready to handle credit cards, set ground rules for what they can charge and how payments will be made. Monitor their charges, and if your children turn out to be irresponsible with spending or payments, you can remove them from your account.

There are a couple of ways to smooth this process. One is to let your child be the only one who uses the card. That way, you don’t have to sort through who made what charges.

4. Have your college-going child apply for a student credit card. Once your children reach their late teens, if they’ve established good financial habits, they may be ready to apply for their first credit card. College students may be able to qualify for student credit cards, which usually have lower credit limits and higher interest rates than general credit cards carry.

Still, by law, applicants under age 21 will have to show that they have enough income to support a credit line. A part-time job is usually good enough proof. The other way for them to qualify is for you or someone else to co-sign for them. But you get less control as a co-signer than when you add your child as an authorized user. For instance, you may not receive notice of late payments, which can harm your credit score. For that reason, it’s better for your children to get their first solo card on their own.

5. Help them apply for a secured card. If a student card is not an option, an 18-year-old can apply for a secured card. A secured credit card requires cardholders to put down a deposit of a few hundred dollars, which is usually equal to the credit limit they’ll be given. Because there’s little risk to the bank in these situations, most people can get approved for a secured card.

The downside to secured cards is that many of them charge hefty fees. But if your child uses the card regularly for small charges and pays off the balance every month, in six months to a year, your kid should qualify for an unsecured card.