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All Work Makes for a Dull Family : Industry would profit if it paid closer attention to the needs of parents

August 19, 1990

Working parents hardly need an opinion poll to tell them how far the American family has declined since "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." Almost everyone remembers the good old days when Dad brought home the bacon and Mom served it--from a sparkling kitchen--to the couple's 2.5 children.

The good old days are no more.

A recent survey of parents in Los Angeles and Orange counties reveals that a startling number are no longer sure that they are acting in their families' best interests when, day after day, they juggle quality time with their kids against the obligations of full-time work, long commutes and housework.

Two incomes are often necessary for basic family financial security: With luck, dual paychecks provide good schools, music lessons and bicycles. But today's workers are just notsure that those things compensate for the time not spent with the kids, according to a survey of 1,000 individuals commissioned by The Times. More than half of those polled said that they often feel guilty for spending too little time with their off-spring.

These stressed-out parents worry that the amount of time they spend away from home will lead to the problems they fear most-- drugs and alcohol, crime and problems in school. Three-fourths of women worry that by trying to do it all, they are neglecting their children. And don't forget the growing number of workers who are now stretching to care for aging parents.

The effect on U.S. business of career versus home-life tension will doubtless mushroom. Today only 10% of American families have just one breadwinner; by 1995, it is predicted that 80% of all women ages 25-44 will work outside the home.

Industry will find it advantageous to pay closer attention to the needs of working parents. As baby boomers age and the labor pool dries up, savvy personnel managers will doubtless put more company time and energy into such benefits as day care, flexible scheduling and parental leave. That would be the smart thing to do.


Percent of 1,000 parents surveyed in L.A. and Orange counties. Both Employed: 65% Husband Only: 32% Wife Only: 1% Neither Employed: 2% Source: Baldassare & Associates

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