We recently completed a survey with Bubble parents to find out how they were feeling about important issues including childcare, work and relationships.

It’s no secret that the past couple of years have been incredibly challenging and we were interested to find out how the parental mindset had shifted, and the beliefs and values that might continue after life gets back to normal again.

The mental health of parents and children has taken a nose dive

Perhaps unsurprisingly ⅔ of parents said they were more anxious because of the pandemic.

If we think of the backdrop of ever-shifting Covid restrictions, home schooling, juggling different childcare needs, and managing children’s mental health then, this makes sense. Worryingly however, many parents have also noticed their children are more anxious too, with ⅓ saying their kids are more anxious than they were pre-pandemic. 

40% agree that the pandemic has made them less adventurous too.

Parents are therefore less likely to try new things or go to new places because they’ve become used to more a rigid, insular routine. What this number doesn’t reflect however is the huge amount of re-evaluation that is going on with many parents. Parents are now assessing what they want from life. So whereas before they might have thought having expensive holidays was important, now they may realise that simpler pleasures are more achievable and ultimately result in greater happiness.

This scaling back of expectations might translate in more parents spending time and energy on pursuits closer to home. It’s also true to say that over time some of their sense of adventure may return again. 

Are there any other silver linings?

Interestingly many parents have spent more time with their kids than they did before with ¾ saying the pandemic has enabled them to do this.

Whilst this time might not have always been ‘quality time’, it has meant that parents are recalibrating their priorities and thinking about how they want their life to look in the future in terms of time spent at work versus time with children.

So many are considering leaving their jobs, re-training or looking to move out of urban centres because they want re-dress the balance of time at work versus time with children. 

What about parents and the world of work?

Work has perhaps always been a challenge to juggle as a parent but the pandemic raised that juggle to epic proportions with parents working from home whilst trying to home school and manage domestic admin.

Interestingly many parents in our survey don’t relish returning to the office with only 20% claiming to be excited about the return.

Why is this? Well for many parents WFH has been a struggle because the boundaries between work and home dissolved and they were trapped in a cycle of domestic admin and work. However WFH allowed them to do the school run, pick children up from activities, and fit their work around their parenting life. It’s worth remembering that many companies are introducing hybrid working with a combination of WFH and going into the office and hopefully longer term, parents will see the benefit of having both work contexts. 

From our survey it appears that many parents are worried that the return to the office will see them lose the extra time they’ve spent with their kids. So again the survey reflects the desire for things to shift post-pandemic with employers offering parents flexible working so they can spend some time in the office and some time at home.

This is in fact one of the positive shifts – a greater understanding of the importance of flexibility when it comes to where we work and the realisation that employees can work productively in different environments. 

Childcare and parents feelings post pandemic

40% of parents say they are worried about post-pandemic childcare. Childcare has always been a top of mind concern but with more parents now returning to the office, this concern has become more top of mind. Parents are having to reassess their childcare needs, and also get their children used to childcare again.

Young children may have not attended baby groups or nurseries during the pandemic so this means they haven’t necessarily become socialised with other children. This amplifies the stress of childcare – parents want to feel reassured that the childcare is right for their child and that they’ll be happy when they’re there. 

What about relationships and how these have changed? Is there more bad news?

Interestingly there is a mix of good and bad here. On the positive side 40% of parents say that the pandemic has made their relationship stronger. It’s no secret that when we go through challenging times this can make us value the people we love more. However there is also a strong sense coming through that parents have spent too much time with their other halves, and now restrictions are easing there’s a need for some headspace and time spent away from one another.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that romance is dead! But it does come back to that core theme- the time spent together needs to be more considered and planned and ‘better quality’. So just like we’ve seen with parent/child relationships there’s a real need for parents to move away from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’ and put things in place that feel fun as a couple versus drowning in domestic drudge! 

Over a ¼ of parents haven’t been out alone with partner in over 6 months which again reflects the fact that the time spent together hasn’t necessarily felt like ‘quality time’ and has perhaps moved more into a team-relationship.

Having said that many parents now feel that their social life has changed forever which again comes back to the theme of them feeling less adventurous. Over ½  half of all parents say their social life is now gone for good. What this means in reality is that their social life will look different.

Perhaps this will mean going out less but really pushing the envelope when they do go out. Or it will mean being more critical about friendships and interrogating whether they represent a good use of time.

Overall it suggests that many parents will be ‘pruning’ their social lives so they function better and create better experiences overall.

If we look at the survey we see some core themes emerging

Parents are re-evaluating what they want from life. They are anxious yes but also interrogating what they want and bringing this critical thinking to bear on their decision making.

They want quality time and they are less willing to compromise.

There are also big opportunities for cultural shifts around gender with more men spending time at home and finally seeing the domestic load and the toll it takes on many mothers (so hopefully there will be shifts here too).

Post Covid and parenting looks entirely different but not all the changes are necessarily bad. Parents are ready to embrace the next phase with a clearer vision of what they do and don’t want in their lives moving forward.