New survey highlights the importance of flexible working for mothers

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, a recent survey commissioned by Next has sought to find out exactly what we owe our mums for and just how much time and energy they dedicate to their children – whether that involves ferrying them to and from extracurricular activities or taking time off work to care for them when they’re sick.

Across hours of time, numerous gifts, invaluable advice and countless items borrowed, mums support their children in a thousand different ways (even after those “children” leave home) – and a lot of this is often on top of a part-time job or full-time career.

Nevertheless, the 9-to-5 routine is becoming increasingly a thing of the past, with many employees and parents choosing to shun traditional working hours in favour of more flexibility. This approach can certainly lighten the load for mothers who are juggling a career and family life.

The survey from Next revealed some interesting statistics about the amount of time mothers spend on themselves and looking after their children.

Key findings included:

  • 78% of mums get less than an hour to themselves each day
  • Mums spend 112 days watching their child at sports and activities over the course of a childhood (from ages 4-16)
  • Mums will spend an average of 12 days a year in total missing work to look after a child who is ill or hurt

So how exactly can working mums benefit from more flexibility?

Flexible working can help mums spend more time with their families

According to the survey, more than 80% of mums will take time each year to go to school assemblies and plays. They will also spend 112 days watching their child take part in sports and activities over the course of his/her childhood (from ages 4-16) and 2.5 hours a year at parents’ evenings.

These figures beg the question: if more mums had the option to work more flexibly, would these numbers see an increase? Perhaps the 20% of mums who don’t go to school assemblies/plays wish they could, but simply don’t have the time. And 112 days spent watching their children play sports doesn’t seem overly excessive, especially considering it’s just under 4 months over a period of 13 years.

Starting work a little earlier in order to finish a little earlier to make it to a football match or parents’ evening are perfect examples of how flexible working can benefit parents.

By being granted more flexibility with their working hours, they are less likely to miss out on important milestones of their child’s life – whether that ‘milestone’ involves hearing a teacher sing their praises at parents’ evening or watching them score the winning goal during a penalty shootout.

Being able to attend more of these events means that mums can build on relationships with their children and feel a sense of pride (65% of mums share a proud moment of their kids on social media every month). Plus, the children benefit too, by having their parents stand on the side-lines cheering them on and showing support.

“Flexible working is important for me. Some days I will need to attend a school play, or visit a school, or simply go for a run to clear my mind rather than being at my desk at 9.30…So yes, it’s essential for me to be able to juggle everything”. (Nat Cummins, CEO Zenith UK)

Flexible working can help mums get more “me time”

Achieving a work-life balance when you’re a parent can be difficult, but failure to take some time out for yourself each day can have a negative impact on mental health.

Of the 2,000 mums surveyed by Next, 8 in 10 get less than an hour to themselves each day – on average, just 43 minutes.

Taking time out to relax and unwind is crucial for a parent’s mental health and mothers are much more likely to excel at work when they are well-rested too, meaning such an approach can increase business productivity.

Generally speaking, a flexible working model can help ease the combined stress of having a career and raising a child, allowing mums to get some much-needed “me time” by having more control over the hours they work.

Plus, if working from home, commute time is non-existent (apart from, of course, the time it takes to trudge bleary-eyed from your bed to your desk) – this frees up an hour or two (or more) which can then be spent relaxing, making breakfast, meditating or practising yoga to prepare yourself mentally for the day ahead.

Sue Frogley, CEO of Publicis Media UK, comments on the importance of “me time”: “When you see the figures like the above, it is striking how little time we allow for ourselves. ‘Me time’ is so important, and we should not feel guilty about it; we need to carve out that time like we would with any other commitment.”

Flexible working helps mums be there for their children when they need it

The average mum will miss three days of work due to her child’s illness and 12 days a year in total looking after her children (whether that’s due to illness or injury). On top of this, mums will also be woken up in the night 16 times a year when their child struggles to sleep – something which will often have a negative impact on how they feel the day after.

A flexible working model can therefore be invaluable to a woman who needs to adapt her working hours around her child’s needs, whether that’s working from home on a particular day or doing half a day’s work at the office and the other half at home.

In addition, the ability to lie-in and say you’ll be coming in a couple of hours late on a particular day when you haven’t slept too well is an added bonus.


Flexible working is being implemented into more and more workplaces every year. If you’re a mother working full-time with limited flexibility and feel you need more “me time” or more time to spend with your family, it is definitely an approach worth considering.




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