Despite proclamations that the family is in terminal decline, the aspiration to be a ‘good family’ is stronger than ever. Yet there is a real need to recognise that the work families do in raising children does not simply benefit those individuals; there is a public value to parenting that has so far gone unnoticed.
This report examines the everyday lives of the ‘hard-working families’who have recently become so popular in political discourse. The report explores the ways in which parents combine a whole range of activities – including paid employment and unpaid care work – in order to maximise the life chances of their children.
Drawing on original ethnographic research and specially commissioned polling data, it outlines a new agenda for debate about family life and argues that it is in the public interest to strengthen the relationships between families, state and civil society. It also includes an illustrative typology which describes the different ways that modern families juggle the demands of employment and family life.
While families themselves are best placed to judge how to bring up their children, the report argues that external factors often constrain the choices parents are able to make about how to combine paid and unpaid work.
A progressive politics for families needs to uncover the hidden value of the unpaid care that goes into raising future generations. It must also acknowledge that women continue to take greater responsibility than men for family and home life.
The report’s authors conclude by suggesting a range of measures which could help families to help themselves: from the introduction of ‘family life’ vouchers to measures to foster peer support networks and encourage employers to play a more supportive role in family life.