The cost of guilt for Britain’s working parents & Greens

A strange combination at first sight, hardhitting survery results and a cake mix company; but what Greens are doing is ensuring that the time we do spend with our children is fun and well spent! Greens recently revamped their cake kits to include puzzles, games and stickers so each kit could stretch into hours of fun that we can do together. I review one of the new kits here.

To the survey, which Greens commissioned to explore how we spend time with our kids. I work from home full-time so can’t really identify with these findings, which is why I’m curious about what other people who do work outside the home think of the findings!

New research out today reveals that working parents are spending as much as £2,000 on gifts and treats for their children each year to compensate for a lack of quality family time.  One in two British parents (50 per cent) guilt buy presents for their children, while nearly a third (31 per cent) worry they spend less time with their children than their parents did with them. According to the study by leading cake mix specialist Green’s, the average working parent spends two hours a day with their children.  However a worrying 38 per cent of the parents polled spend less than seven hours a week with their brood – the equivalent to 15 days a year.

Proving that Brits are willing to dig deep when it comes to making up for lost family hours; the research found the average parent forks out £1,278 on gifts and treats for their little ones every year.  This means that each minute a parent spends with their child effectively costs £2.46 when measured against the amount spent on treats and presents.

That’s a hard-hitting comparison really, £2.46 a day? I’m not sure we can put a price tag on the time we get to spend with our children but I’m interested, do you think as a nation we buy more for kids out of guilt etc or would we spent this amount of toys, games and activities anyway? (Pretty sure I don’t spent £1k+ a year myself!).

The research revealed that it is men who are more likely to splash the cash with fathers spending an average of £1,371.45 on gifts, treats and days out for their children, while mothers spend £1,156.82. Parents with young children are amongst the biggest spenders with adults under the age of 35 lavishing a whopping £922.24 on gifts including sweets, magazines and toys in an average year, compared to parents aged 35 to 44 who spend on average £518.09.

Well when you consider the price of a magazine for kids now with a cheap plastic toy, and half an hour max in entertainment you can see why people might spend more!! (Sorry magazines are my bugbear. When Kieran was ill recently I bought two magazines for him, not something I usually do, and I asked the girl on the till to check the price as I was sure nearly £9 wasn’t right. Gah!) Fellas – do you think you splash the cash more? I think Roy would probably spend more than me but then I sort our budget / do all our finance etc so I know the proportion of cash we can use for such things.

Half (50 per cent) of the parents polled admitted that they do not spend enough one-on-one time together with their offspring, while 43 per cent said they do not get to spend quality time with their children until the weekend. Nearly a third (30 per cent) cited time pressures as the biggest barrier to spending quality time with their children, with a quarter of parents (25 per cent) blaming longer working hours.

It’s a competitive world out there, long hours seem to be the norm in some professions. I believe weekends are so important, not just for people who work outside the home but who do work from home. Kieran is at school for 8.50am, we get home at 4pm, he gets out of his uniform, crashes on the sofa or with his toys, eats tea, gets sorted and goes to bed for 6.30/7pm. He’s shattered and takes himself off if we don’t. The only quality one-to-one time I get with him is when we are curled up on his bed reading, so I can certainly appreciated those findings!

Despite this, the study found that over half (55 percent) working parents believe fathers are spending more time with their children now than ten years ago.  One in two (51 per cent) of the parents polled think mothers are spending less time with their children than ever before. The findings support wider research into family life showing how flexible working hours now mean parents are blurring ‘work  and ‘family’ time, with mothers spending more time in the workplace than ever before.

Roles have changed. It is no longer given that Daddy will go out and work, and Mummy will stay at home full-time to care for the children. Thank goodness the dark ages are over and we have the opportunity to go out and work as we did before children. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that things have evened off, with Mums & Dads spending more equal time with the kids, do you?

Some eye-opening numbers but what it boils down to, I think, is that we are a hard-working nation. These findings aren’t about whether both parents being out of the home working is “better” or “worse” than having a parent at home. It’s about exploring how the time people do spend with their kids is spent and how people feel about this time.

Child psychologist, Donna Dawson comments, ““Most parents today are under considerable pressure to balance their working lives against their parental responsibilities, and often the easiest thing for parents to forgo is ‘quality time’ with their children. To make up for this, guilty parents will spend more money on their children to ensure that their children feel ‘loved’. However, children, especially young ones, have no concept of the value of material things – what makes them feel ‘loved’ is any time spent with their parents. Shared activities such as making a den, doing a jigsaw puzzle, looking for wildlife in the garden or baking a cake together cost little or nothing, and go towards creating the happy childhood memories that will be most treasured when your children are older.”

Brand Manager at Green’s Emma Calder comments, “With the average Brit working more than 40 hours a week it is no wonder that parents struggle to find time to relax and have fun with their children.  However it is important to remember that spending quality time together does not have to involve taking huge chunks out of your day – or cost the earth. At Green’s, we have worked hard to create a range of cake mixes that give kids the feel-good factor of home-baking but without the hard work or mess for parents.  And with baking, you have the added bonus of enjoying a tea time treat together too!”

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