When’s the Best Time to Start a Family? New Study Says: Ask the Boss!

WATERTOWN, Mass., October 17, 2016 — A new study released today shows that nearly 70 percent of expectant women and new parents say their employer tops the list of considerations when deciding to start a family.  According to the study, today’s generation of parents are determined to build families without postponing or abandoning career ambitions, but find themselves faced with an unfriendly and unsupportive environment at work.

The third annual report in the Modern Family Index (MFI) series, commissioned by Bright Horizons Family Solutions (NYSE:BFAM), further examines the crossroads new moms and dads continue to face as they take on the dual role of new parent and committed employee.

Key findings in this new survey of expectant women and first-time mothers and fathers show:

  • Virtually all women surveyed are excited to return to work after a maternity leave
  • More than one in three new parents report feeling that their boss presumes they are now less committed to work and would prefer if they left
  • Women aren’t the only ones facing workplace bias; new fathers reported being judged negatively by their peers and bosses and say that becoming a parent will cause them to look for a new workplace
Workplace bias has had such a major impact on new parents that nearly half have sacrificed salary for a family-friendly workplace and more than half are likely to switch jobs

New Moms Excited to Return to Work

Contrary to the popular notion that women would rather stay at home, the study’s results show that women genuinely and enthusiastically want to come back to work following having their first child, with more than half saying that it is because they are personally fulfilled by their job.  In addition:

  • 96 percent of expectant mothers are eager to return to work after their maternity leave
  • 92 percent plan to be as committed post-baby as they were before
  • 77 percent are excited to provide for their family
  • 66 percent are excited about being a role model for their child
  • 53 percent look forward to developing their career

However, there is a gulf between the commitment, passion, and devotion working moms and dads have to their jobs and the perception their bosses and co-workers have about their ambition. Despite high expectations, many expectant parents have seen their colleagues passed over for promotions when they have children; others have seen careers stall. And new parents have found themselves facing workplace bias like they never imagined.

  • 43 percent of new parents believe their employer sees them as less committed and 39 percent feel their employer would prefer they found another job
  • More than one in three working parents believe they’re treated worse than other employees
  • More than a third feel actively discriminated against
  • Nearly a quarter of new parents reported difficulty developing their careers
  • One in five say they have been passed over for opportunities
Women and men are waiting longer to have children, with data showing that births are down among women in their twenties, and up for women over age 35. With new parents in essential mid-career roles by the time they go out on parental leave, it is critical that employers support these valuable employees if they want them to return.

Dads Experiencing Hostile Work Environments, Too 

Dads today are prioritizing family equally with careers and seeing increased conflict between the two. Two-thirds of working dads consider their job in the family-planning equation, and they report real workplace bias, often in even higher numbers than moms.

The study shows that while dads are excited to grow their families and serve as an equal partner in parenting, they are often surprised to encounter a workplace that has not progressed to meet the new generation’s work/life expectations. A third of new dads felt becoming a father limited their opportunities for advancement, and one in four believe that even the announcement of fatherhood caused employers to think less of them.

New dads also report that a family-friendly environment is as important to them as it is to new moms.

  • Nearly 70 percent of new dads say that fatherhood will likely prompt a job change for them
  • More than one in three first-time fathers felt negatively judged by coworkers and supervisors after becoming a parent
  • Nearly one in three would quit because they fear being undervalued
  • Nearly one in three would quit because of judgment from colleagues
More than 25 percent felt at risk of being fired once they told their employer they were going to be a parent

A Trend of Working Parent Bias

Each of the three reports in the Modern Family Index series has demonstrated examples of workplace bias. The first report revealed that working moms and dads feel they can't be honest with their supervisors about family responsibilities, and worry that family responsibilities could even get them fired. The second survey showed that working parents are experiencing burnout due to the stress of managing their work and family responsibilities, and feel their employers do not care about them.

However, the fact that nearly two in five (38 percent) first-time parents felt they needed a family-friendly job before having their first child, according to this year’s MFI, shows that working moms and dads are willing to stay in the workforce with the right combination of job, pay, and work/family life balance.

  • Almost half (49 percent) of new parents surveyed have taken a job for less money at a family-friendly employer
  • More than half (59 percent) are likely to switch jobs now that they’ve had their first child

“We work with hundreds of employers who are tuned into the challenges faced by new moms and dads as they return to work from parental leave. These organizations not only recognize that these employees are among their most valuable, but also understand that every individual’s situation is unique and provide the appropriate support to enable these employees to return with the same drive and commitment they embodied before children,” said Bright Horizons CEO David Lissy. “The MFI data show that new and expectant parents want to work for a family-friendly company that will allow them to excel as both professionals and parents. Employers that are already committed to supporting their employees as whole people will come out on top.”

To download the full 2016 Bright Horizons Modern Family Index report, click here


About the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index

The Modern Family Index is an Internet-based survey conducted by Kelton Global from August 24 to September 2, 2016. The first sample included 530 employed women ages 18 and over who are currently pregnant with their first child or planning to have their first child in the next two years, with a margin of error of +/- 4.3%.

The second sample included 515 women ages 18 and over who have had their first child in the past two years and returned to work and 150 employed men ages 18 and over who have  had their first child in the past two years, with a margin of error of +/- 4.3% for new mothers and 8.0% for new fathers.

 *Note: Please refer to the survey as the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index.