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Aussie families chase more time: survey

Parents with small child
Credit: iStock.com/miodrag ignjatovic

Our first national survey of family life in Australia has confirmed we’re all chasing more time – with our children and for ourselves. 

More than 60 per cent of parents surveyed in the First Five Years Snapshot of Australian Families, believe more quality time for themselves would positively influence how happy they feel in their role as a parent.

Other things that would influence their happiness included more quality time with their child (53%), better financial resources (45%) and more sleep (43%).

In an effort to better understand the balance between work and home that contemporary parenthood brings, First Five Years conducted a survey of more than 1000 Australian families.

First Five Years managing editor Belinda Reilly says the survey results have painted an interesting picture of what’s happening in Australian homes, along with the challenges families are facing and the things that make parents happy.

“By sharing what happens behind closed doors we can gain a better understanding of the genuine issues facing families and the questions that we need to answer as a community to help families flourish,” she says.

More than 1000 families from across Australia responded to the survey. Of these, almost 80 per cent were nuclear families with blended families, grandparent families, single parent families and same sex families also represented.

Of the 1000 + parents who responded to the survey, they had children under 15 and almost 95 per cent were women and almost five per cent were men. Most came from double income families with one parent working full time and the other working either full or part time.

When asked to reflect on family life and describe how they felt, more than half of respondents said they felt happy, 35 per cent said they were stressed and 34 per cent were overwhelmed.

Time was one of the greatest themes of the survey responses.

“Most of the survey respondents said they rarely took time out to relax and clear their minds in order to be better parents, and 32 per cent were dissatisfied with the amount of time they had to set aside to spend time with their children,” Belinda says.

Family time was also lacking, with 53 per cent of parents saying they spent less time with their children than their parents spent with them.

Belinda says when they did have time together as a family, it was generally during mealtimes.

“The night time meal took priority for the majority of parents with 37 per cent gathering as a family for dinner every night and 36 per cent insisting on a family dinner most nights,” she says.

However, breakfast wasn’t as much of a priority with only nine per cent of families eating breakfast together every morning, however, 31 per cent of parents said they had family breakfasts on the weekends.

Reading with their children was another priority area for time-poor parents, with almost 33 per cent saying they often set aside one-on-one time to read with or to their children for at least 20 minutes, and 26 per cent said they almost spent 20 minutes reading with their children.

When it comes to the kind of information parents are seeking to help make family life easier, an overwhelming majority said they would like more information about how to deal with difficult behaviour.

More than 60 per cent said difficult behaviour was the topic they would most like to ask a professional about; it was followed by families and relationships (45 per cent), health and nutrition (41 per cent), early learning (37.7 per cent) and milestones and development (35 per cent).

“Finances were also of particular concern to families, with 40 per cent of parents reporting they have struggled to meet essential expenses like food, mortgage/rent, utility bills, child care or important medical care over the past 12 months,” Belinda says. 

“And 29 per cent didn’t believe they had enough money to purchase things they really wanted, after they had taken essential expenses out of their budget.”

Other Snapshot of Australian Families findings:

Discipline

73% of parents would rarely or never intervene if they saw someone else’s child misbehaving in public and their parent was unaware.

Behaviour

40% of parents say they rarely or never give in to their child’s demands to avoid a fight or to keep them happy. Meanwhile 12% say they often or always give in.

Future

54.5% of parents believe their children face a tougher future than the one they have grown up in. Only 3.5% thought their children would have fewer problems, and 42% thought the level of challenges would remain the same, they would just be different.

Areas of concern

When asked to rate the level of concern they have with specific issues, parents listed the following as the top five areas as being of most concern:

  • Exercise
  • Finances
  • Weight Loss
  • Work/life balance
  • Chores and housework