Men who sometimes work from home ‘are the happiest’

If you consider that day nurseries in the UK can charge £70 a day per child it’s hardly surprising that unpaid carework and household chores are estimated to be worth a staggering £1 trillion – more than the whole of the manufacturing and retail industries put together.
And who takes responsibility for all that unpaid work? No surprises to learn that according to ONS figures for 2014, women carried out 26 hours of unpaid work on average per week compared to 16 hours by men. And many women would probably dispute the male average figure of 16 hours!


The home has undergone substantial change in recent years with both couples having to be wage earners in order to afford to get on the property ladder. The traditional role of the woman devoted entirely to running the home while the man works full time,  gave way to women working part or full time and frustratingly trying to juggle the demands of work both inside and outside the home.
People often have to commute long distances to their workplaces, work long hours and couples are rarely able to relax together in the evenings.  Many are anxious and feeling overstretched and their children are equally anxious if they not able to spend enough time altogether as a family. When the family is struggling, relatives and elderly neighbours living alone get overlooked and loneliness creeps into their lives.
Hence the wellbeing of the whole of society is dependant on the state and happiness of the home.
But a ‘third way’ is now gaining ground – shared responsibility or the rapidly growing demographic of the stay-at-home Dad. No longer reproached by wives for their absenteeism from the home, men who are able to redesign their work schedule to take a more prominent role at home are reporting increased levels of contentment and engagement within the family, especially when they take on equal parenting roles. A recent US study claims that Dads who wash the dishes raise more aspirational daughters.
“As a man, there is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that you are at least contributing toward the physical care of your family. The best case scenario is being able to do that while at the same time spending time with them at home,” commented one blogger who has “done the entire range” – worked in an office 100% of the time, worked from home 100% of the time, and now works part time in the office, part time at home. “Dads who work from home, at least some of the time are the happiest,” he says.
While it’s generally accepted for women to rearrange their hours at work to balance home responsibilities, there’s still a bias against men doing the same.
But as the demands of an aging population add to the number of hours couples need to devote to caring for their extended families, perhaps companies will find they must provide a more flexible work schedule for both men and women if they are to retain their trusted employees.

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Calls for a ‘digital detox’ in the home

There’s no denying that the internet is immensely useful – connecting young people with their friends and with just a few clicks, a world of information comes to our screens. But as most of us have discovered, it comes at a price – it’s hugely addictive!

We all know people who just seem unable to look away from their devices and see so many youngsters today absorbed by their phones as they walk along the street. Their eyes become glazed and it takes a lot to peel them away from tablets, laptops or smartphones. Technology is controlling us rather than the other way round. The only way to keep it in check is a digital detox at least once a week where everyone puts away their devices and speaks to each other, before we risk turning into social recluses. And where does most training begin? Naturally, in the home – it’s where our core values are nurtured and reach fruition.  It calls for a day a week when the family sit down together and chat or go out for a walk come rain or shine, when we challenge ourselves to achieve something rather than retire to the comfort of the smartphone when the forecast doesn’t look too bright.

According to Dr Tim Elmore, Founder of ‘Growing Leaders’, an organisation dedicated to mentoring young people to become the leaders of tomorrow, parents need to stop mollycoddling their children. They have to teach youngsters to possess true “grit” if they are to survive the digital era of instant communication, where everything happens at the click of a switch and people can feel overwhelmed by the demands being made of them. Dr Elmore, whose two children both suffered severe bouts of anxiety as they were growing up even though they came from a “healthy” home, states in his book ‘Stressed Out’ that today’s adolescents are “overcommitted”, “overexposed” and “overprotected.”

“Parents have often nurtured them, coddled them, and done a much better job protecting than preparing their kids for the world that awaits them as adults. We’ve prepared the path for the child instead of the child for the path. It would be easy to assume this is only true for adolescents from very busy and affluent areas….. but it’s happening everywhere,” says Dr Elmore.

“One could argue we should be the happiest, most well-adjusted people in history with more technology, more conveniences, more stress-saving devices available than ever. Sadly we seem to be more depressed than previous generations. Times in the past were simpler and we expected to get less done during the days, we attempted less during any given day. All of the clutter and expectations are catching up on us. There are lots of things screaming at us to stimulate us –so when we are experiencing periods that are not stimulating we can feel down,” he said.

He recommends that the quickest steps children can take to maintain happy lives is to have “margin” in their days. “Those who are emotionally healthy are those who create margin in their calendar,” he says. “They schedule portions of their day to create space. They remove noise and clutter during those portions of the time. They experience solitude, quietness, simplicity. They take control of their day instead of remaining at the mercy of the busyness going on.”

According to neuroscientists, it’s when we’re bored that we can be most creative. So let’s all ‘unplug’ periodically, show more empathy and use our imagination to greater effect!

‘Generation sensible’ find contentment at home

By Rosemary Roscoe

As thousands of ‘sixth-formers’ head back to school or move on to university after a glorious summer break, it’s encouraging to hear that the majority prefer home life to hanging out with their friends.

AdolescentAccording to a recent poll of 1,000 16-18 year olds they are far more focused on their studies than indulging in drugs, alcohol and sex. Dubbed ‘Generation sensible,’ two-thirds of the teenagers surveyed said they had never had sex and 24% said they had never drunk alcohol – which may explain the sharp fall in teen pregnancies since 2007.

More than 80% of those surveyed said performing well in exams or succeeding in their chosen career was a top priority, compared with 68% who said spending time with friends was a top priority. And many admitted to spending 4-5 hours a day on social media, with work and study commitments making organising time to meet up with friends difficult.

Young people were also more likely to view time with their family as of high importance than time with their friends.

Have teenagers always secretly craved a happy home life rather than going out and getting drunk with their friends – or are the latest generation of social media savvies so well informed about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse they won’t risk going down that route?

Whatever the reason, it says something about the importance of the home for our mental and physical wellbeing.

The culture of the workplace has its roots in the home

By Rosemary Roscoe

I’m not normally given to public airings about private matters but I can’t help speaking about this one.
I’ve recently been treated for colon cancer at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, one of the best performing NHS hospitals in the country – and you can see why.
I was given an appointment at the hospital just over a week after my GP requested fast track treatment. A few days later I had a colonoscopy and soon after the biopsy results came through the operation went ahead.
Thanks to the superb skills of a leading Consultant Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgeon and the medical team who performed the challenging 7 hour partial colectomy, the operation was a great success. I was discharged after 3 days and almost back to my normal self within a couple of weeks.

During those few days recovering on the ward I was impressed by how graciously doctors, nurses, health care assistants and physiotherapists attended to every need of some very poorly patients, treating them with such dignity. And their willingness to help each other was reassuring to witness. You would hear someone call out “I’m going to need help moving my patient” and immediately help was at hand. Staying in bed too long was actively discouraged for your own good, with the enhanced recovery team gently coaxing you out of it and into a chair the next day and later on inviting you to walk along the corridor to get the circulation moving.

The nursing staff were constantly monitoring your blood pressure, temperature and oxygen level, administering drips and painkillers or antibiotics, changing dressings and checking how much you had drunk so far that day. Without exception they were professional and polite and remained cheerful throughout their 12 hour shifts. The healthcare assistants were also wonderful – attentively filling up jugs of water, offering hot drinks, asking what you would like to eat, giving bed baths, emptying catheters and drains, putting clean sheets on the bed.

The medical staff appeared to not get a minute’s peace – one nurse worked all weekend while her husband looked after their young child and did night shifts during the week to save on childcare costs. One of the nurses on night shift was heavily pregnant and another worked permanent nights – and yet they were so positive and self-giving.

Their wages are low, hours are long, work often arduous but they choose to work for the NHS. Why? Because they know that what they’re doing is worthwhile and they are people imbued with a deep sense of service who genuinely care about the welfare of others.

Many of the staff were of African or Asian descent and you could tell by the respectful way they spoke to everyone around them that they had come from loving homes where they had been taught patience and understanding and the need to help others. The nurturing that stems from the home clearly must influence the way people work and make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.

Feel good food

With all the hoo-ha about hormones and antibiotics in our meat, it’s hardly surprising that ‘flexitarianism’ is the new vogue. ‘Flexitarians’ apparently eat a vegetarian diet most of the time but splash out on ethically sourced organic meat occasionally.

Addressing the 4th International Conference ‘The Home, a place of growth, care and wellbeing’ at the Royal Society of Medicine in London in November, Dr Timothy Harlan emphasised the proven health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. It traditionally composes of very little meat, some fish, fermented dairy, wholegrain, pulses and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. American Professor Michael Greger goes a step further claiming that all meat and dairy are bad for us – as harmful to our health even as smoking! Others advocate a ‘paleo’ diet consisting of food that early civilizations hunted or gathered such as lean meat, eggs, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Whatever our food fads, with grocery deliveries direct to our doorstep and hosts of online recipes boasting hearty meals in half an hour,  it’s never been so quick and easy to prepare nutritious home-cooked dinners. And it doesn’t have to break the budget to eat healthily – a shopping bag full of vegetables can be bought for the price of just one ready meal. Meat and fish may be expensive but if you can stomach the alternatives such as lentils, beans and soya products they’re a fraction of the price and quick to prepare with many dried pulses not requiring any pre-soaking.

The secret is in planning ahead –  deciding menus at least a week in advance means it’s not much trouble to turn out tasty dishes in no time and sit down to a relaxing meal with family or friends.

New family dynamics- the advent of the Granny nanny

There’s a quiet revolution visible across Britain, repeated throughout the world – the rise of the Granny nanny.

Grannies and Grandads can be seen pushing buggies up and down the country, meeting children from school and accompanying youngsters to sports centres or after-school clubs. While it’s nothing new, it’s certainly on the increase with many mothers finding they need to return to work to provide a roof over their heads or save up the deposit for a mortgage. Because of exorbitant nursery fees, grandparents are now stepping into the role of child minders.

Research by the International Longevity Centre UK has found that grandparents save their families an average £1786 a year in childcare costs, which equates to a national figure of £16.1 billion. Nine million grandparents spend at least eight hours a week looking after grandchildren, while 2.7 million of them are heavily relied upon to regularly provide childcare.

But there’s a win-win on all sides. Having swapped the sedentary lifestyle of the archetypal  grandparent for full-on nannying, they juggle housework with keeping the baby clean, fed and entertained.  Exuberant toddlers can be exhausting but very entertaining. Grandparents invariably find they are getting fitter and feel more contented and working parents appreciate their help and feel under less of a strain, knowing their children are being lovingly looked after and they don’t have to worry if they’re delayed by traffic on the way home.

The children benefit the most with one-to-one care, often lacking in a crèche full of infants, whereas with both grandparents helping out they receive a double dose of love and attention. A friend who used to help in a primary school said the teacher told her she can tell straight away the ones who have spent all their preschool years at nursery as they constantly distract their classmates and crave the teacher’s attention simply because it wasn’t there when they needed it from parents and siblings.

Extended family nearby is ideal for child support but I know of one middle-aged mum who commutes by train and stays a couple of nights with her daughter in London to child mind three days a week and another who makes a 20-mile round trip when needed to meet her grandchildren from school.

While some understandably don’t want to be tied to providing daycare for their grandchildren, others seek out the opportunity to become surrogate grannies. A friend with grown up children loves the company of little ones so much that she volunteers to meet them from the local nursery to save their mums the stress of rushing to be back in time. Another lady, who used to look after her two granddaughters full time, also stood in as babysitter for most of the children in her road. Now in her eighties, her neighbours affectionately refer to her and her late husband as the “grandparents of the street”.

What’s more, according to European research presented by UN advisor Renata Kaczmarska at ‘Home: a place of growth, care and wellbeing’ conference in London last week, among grandparents who actively care for their grandchildren “mortality rates are 37% lower.” And it’s across the board, whatever their socio-economic status, age or health issues.  The Evolution and Human Behaviour report states: “The neural and hormonal system – originally rooted in parenting and thus grandparenting – that is activated in the process of caregiving has been suggested as a potential proximate mechanism that promotes engagement in pro-social behaviour towards kin and non-kin alike.  Evidence and theory suggest that activating this caregiving system positively impacts health and may reduce the mortality of the helper.”

So surrogate grannies can live longer too!