In the first phase of the research, we invited Mums and Dads to share their experiences and challenges. We always have a lens to diversity within our research and the initial call was for parents of any sexuality, gender or ethnic background. Predominantly the qualitative interviewees in the first stages were with heterosexual parents and some same-sex parents, from different ethnic backgrounds and inclusive of those with families including adopted children. For the next quantitative stage, we will include parents from a range of demographics and backgrounds and we will be able to explore differences in the data in more detail.
At first, the experience of Mums and Dads seems very similar, it is clear from parents that Love is universal… but then a subtle but profound difference starts to emerge.
As you would expect, there is an abundance and breadth of love. Loving the child, the time spent with them, loving the little things children do, watching their partner with their child and sharing stories about them. They all talked about loving being a parent, a working parent and loving their jobs. It is clear from the research that we can love our child and love our job. However, the relationship between the two is described differently by Dads than Mums, and the extent to which we can love both seems to depend on whether you are a working mum or a Dad.
DAD: “I love my child AND love my work”
For Dads they describe a love for their child AND a love for their work. The Dads we spoke to had confidence and belief these two worlds could co-exist and they could enjoy them both.
As one Dad asked us:
“Am I living a life of luxury here, having both the career and the shared parental leave?”
Sometimes this was tinged with guilt and a feeling of being fortunate compared to their partners.
MUM: “I love my child BUT love my work”
For mums the picture is a little different, they describe a love for their child BUT they love their work. There was tension between these two worlds. As one Mum said:
“There’s a perception that I’ve gone from being someone who really cared and was good at work to someone who doesn’t care. And that’s really not true. I love my job”.