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Why work might actually be good for you and your chronically ill child, and why you might want to cut yourself some slack

Parents juggling the guilt and pressure of work and family life might be pleased to know research shows keeping down a job is actually good for children.

Income from work can create better outcomes and well-being for children while other research suggests working parents are modelling a positive work ethic for their kids.

Unfortunately, such facts don’t appear to be helping the stress levels of most Australian parents.

In a recent Australian survey, nearly half (47%) of employed men with children under 15 said they felt as if they were always or often rushed or pressed for time. Unsurprisingly, more women (62%) felt the same way.

Despite the advantages that working parents provide for their children, balancing work, family and life in general clearly comes at a cost for parents.

Most of us know we should try to limit the overflow of home life into the workplace and vice-versa. But that’s a lot easier said than done.

Most of the time, parents are often just questioning themselves about whether they are doing the right thing at any given moment, such as missing a child’s doctor’s appointment, or answering that late-night work email.

We all try to make sacrifices and accommodations to keep both worlds afloat. Yet at some point, something on either side has to give, a spill-over called work-family conflict. And this conflict can do harm.

Undoing the gains

When we don’t manage work-family conflict, we risk undoing the gains we might have made by working in the first place by contributing to poorer health and wellbeing for ourselves and our children.

While most parents experience some level of work and family conflict, there are some families who experience much higher levels. Individuals who work longer hours and those who are carers often fall in this category.  What we don’t know is how do these experiences play out in parents who have even more demands and burdens placed upon them because their child is suffering from one or more of Australia’s common chronic illnesses.

The reality is that most chronic conditions require ongoing medical care and management.

And with extra expenses and costs, these parents – more than most – need to work to ensure the best possible outcomes for their children while juggling the needs of being a fulltime carer.

Research shows that chronically ill children whose parents work have statistically better outcomes because their parents can afford to get them to hospital for treatment, for example.

But what kinds of pressures does the work-family dynamic place on these families and do these additional pressures pose a health risk for these parents and their children?

Given the consequences family stress and conflict might be having on chronically ill children, along with the fact that childhood diagnoses of asthma, diabetes and eczema are on the rise, the need to understand parents’ experiences has become ever more pressing.

In order to understand the impact that work-family conflict might be having on families of chronically ill children, we are asking all parents of children aged between 5-12 years to complete a short questionnaire, regardless of whether they are caring for a chronically ill child or not.

We hope to determine whether parents of chronically ill children have higher levels of work and family conflict than parents of healthy children and to examine the impact of work and family conflict on the quality of life of both parents and children.  If you would like to contribute to this important research click here.