'It takes a village to raise a child'. How easy is it to be a parent in the UK?

How easy is it to be a parent in the UK?
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  • The UK ranks 6th, after the US and before India, in 'ease of parenting' while Sweden, Chile and Germany are the easiest places to raise a baby today.
  • Pressure, both internal that parents put on themselves and external from the world around them, is the biggest challenge facing parents today.
  • 2 in 5 parents in the UK said they experienced loneliness in the first few months after welcoming their baby, even before [we consider] the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • 82 percent of parents in the UK admit raising a child has a strong impact on family finances despite feeling they have good financial resilience.

 

Pressure and loneliness are the biggest challenges faced by parents in the UK, followed by support for working life and parenting confidence, as revealed by The Parenting Index report, a first-of-its-kind study into global parenting experiences.

The Parenting Index, commissioned by Nestlé as part of its ongoing commitment to support families in the first 1,000 days of life*, is a unique new tool measuring the ‘ease of parenting’ around the world, reflecting the views of over 8,000 mums and dads of babies aged 0-12 months in 16 countries. The aim of the study was to identify the universal issues impacting parents today and to see if they are similar around the world.

The UK was among 16 countries in the world where the research was conducted and ranks 6th just after the US and before India indicating parents’ mixed experiences of raising a child in this country.

While UK parents report many positives, including feeling they have good financial resilience, access to health and wellbeing resources and a supportive environment for parenting, these are counterbalanced by the feeling of pressure. Strong impact on family finances, support for working life and parenting confidence, are reported as pain points as well.

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Of the two kinds of pressure facing by parents, external pressures are by far the stronger. They have the biggest negative impact on parents, and they are things parents have the least control over. The most common and harmful experience of this comes in the form of judgment from strangers, but sometimes even friends, on social platforms.

Jessica Jones, mum of three from London, who took part in the research, said: "Parenting is hard and as a mum of three, I know how tough it is trying to figure out what’s right for your children. Layer on top of that being bombarded with unsolicited advice from others who think they are the experts on how you should be raising your kids! I think what I’ve learnt though, is when it comes to my children, I need to trust in my own instincts."

New parents, especially mums, often feel alone in the first few months after welcoming their baby into the world, with 40% of UK parents admitting that they felt particularly lonely. It’s easy to see new parents’ updates on social media and believe their life is as perfect as it is presented online and to feel the pressure to be a similarly perfect parent.

Strong impact on family finances and support for working life, mainly the struggle to secure adequate, affordable childcare, have been identified as other pain points affecting parents. Despite feeling that they have good financial resilience, 82 percent of parents in the UK admitted that raising a child has a strong impact on family finances. A two-child family in England spends an average of 40% of its disposable income on childcare. So even though UK mums benefit from one of the longest maternity leaves in the Parenting Index, they may be driven back to work earlier or work longer hours than they would wish due to this financial burden.

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, UK mums have had to take on significantly more childcare alongside their work duties following the closure of schools and also nurseries earlier this year making this pain point even more of an issue.

Vicky Woods, Managing Director of Nestlé Nutrition UK and Ireland, said: "Parenting is one of the greatest joys in life, but this Index clearly shows how it also is full of challenges. Those feelings of isolation reported by UK mums are likely to have become more severe due to the pandemic, while balancing work and parenting is even more complex.

"During these lockdown times, we can all help parents overcome these challenges, through kindness, understanding and supporting parents’ choices they make for themselves and their babies. This Index gives parents a voice to express the pressures they feel. We should all listen."

As part of Nestlé’s efforts to help parents provide children with the best start in life, the company recently implemented a more inclusive and gender-neutral parental support policy, including an additional four-week fully paid parental leave for second caregiver, to allow parents to spend more time with their new child.

Addressing the findings of the Parenting Index, the company introduced a "Parent Pals" peer-to-peer mentoring network across all of its office sites in the UK and Ireland and became a trusted partner of “My Family Care”. This offers additional parental support to new parents as well as further guidance for their line managers.

Nestlé’s SMA Nutrition business has already started to make changes to the way it communicates with consumers based on the results of the NPI. The Smart Parenting section of their website supports parents with the latest expert advice and fresh insights into the changing world of parenting.

Notes to editors:

*First 1,000 days of life, from conception to pregnancy and up to a child’s second birthday, offer a unique window of opportunity to shape a healthier and more prosperous future for our children.

Support services for families

Family Action

Provides services for families experiencing poverty or social isolation, including mental health support. Its National Parent Support Service helps those struggling with the challenges of parenthood and can help you find out about the services available: call 0808 802 6666, Mon-Fri 9m-10pm, text: 07537 404 282, or email : [email protected] or see family-action.org.uk.

Family Lives

Offers information and support in all aspects of family life. Call 0808 800 2222 9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm Sat-Sun or email [email protected]. See familylives.org.uk – the website has advice on baby sleeping, eating and health.

Home-Start

A family support charity that helps families with young children deal with the challenges they face, such as money issues, mental health, isolation and illness. Runs a local support network – find yours at home-start.org.uk.

About The Parenting Index

To download a copy of the report visit: www.theparentingindex.com

  • The Parenting Index was commissioned by Nestlé with a methodology developed and executed by Kantar.
  • The Parenting Index provides a new framework for understanding the experience of parenting today by comparing how a diverse range of parents across 16 countries worldwide perceive the “ease of parenting”, and acts as a benchmark to track how this changes over time.
  • The first edition of the Index was based on data from a survey conducted by Kantar in January and February 2020. A nationally representative sample of mothers and fathers of babies 0-12 months were surveyed in 16 countries. Wave 1 involved 8,045 interviews, including 500 interviews in the UK. Wave 2 included 900 interviews (300 in China, Spain and the US) to gauge early indications of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Index and was carried out in July 2020.
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The 11 factors which make up The Parenting Index are:

  1. Absence of pressure (contributes 22.6% to the Index ranking): the internal and external pressures parents face when raising their children. Lower pressure makes parenting easier
  2. Financial resilience (16.7%): the level of stability on family finances. Higher resilience means less impact
  3. Supports for working life (15.6%): Policy and local employment protections plus access to childcare which impacts parents’ ability to stay home or go to work as they wish
  4. Easy baby (10.1%): As old as parenting itself: the perception that an easy baby makes parenting easier
  5. Health and wellbeing resources (9.0%): access to adequate healthcare and trusted parenting information
  6. Supportive environment (8.0%): an environment that allows parents to do things they want without barriers. Parent positive and baby friendly
  7. Shared parenting (5.8%): Involvement from partners and shared responsibilities
  8. Parenting confidence (2.7%): how parents feel about themselves; their sense of confidence, satisfaction and resilience
  9. Paid Maternity Leave (3.5%): employment-protected leave of absence for employed women directly around the time of childbirth
  10. GDP PPP per capita (3.1%): a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the purchasing power of the countries’ currency
  11. Reverse Gini (2.8%): a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution of a nation’s residents