With fathers’ and mothers’ roles blurring more and more, it can be hard for parents to find a balance of responsibilities that each feels comfortable with. As Rhianna’s mother, Tania, says at the start of the programme, children can drive a wedge into the parents’ relationship, as each parent has to find and adjust to roles that fit and work for the new family.
In some ways, this is especially hard for a father if the first child is a daughter as he can feel isolated and the ‘odd one out’. There is always a change in dynamic as a mother bonds to her new baby, and it’s easy for a father to feel left out.
The pressures of earning a living can add to problems, and for Andy and Tania money worries meant that for a while Tania took up part-time work and left Rhianna with a childminder. This is almost always a difficult decision; a mother can feel torn between the need to earn money and have a career, and wishing to care for her child.
It’s not easy to give a definite view on what research tells us about childcare for children under five, because there are so many factors involved, but there does seem to be a general agreement that good-quality care can be a positive thing for a child, as long as it isn’t all day, every day, which does seem to pose risks in some circumstances.
Furthermore, research suggests that mothers’ positive feelings about either working or caring are important for children’s wellbeing, so it is not so much what mothers do as how they feel about it.
Most families argue at times. What are the consequences of continuing family disagreements on children? Research is pretty clear on this issue; it’s hostile, open and unresolved conflict that really does cause problems for children. Seeing problems talked through and resolved can help children to see that this is a way of settling differences. Rhianna does seem to be easily upset, but it would be a mistake to assume that she is generally over-anxious. For one thing, she has just started school, and that is a very stressful event for almost all children, even though they may not show it openly.
You might like to look at our activity What do men and women do? and try it out with your children, to see what their ideas are about roles and gender.