Parents believe they are undervalued by society, regularly shunned by businesses and often receive unsympathetic treatment from employers.
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A Families Commission survey has revealed nearly two-thirds of parents surveyed believe society views their role as either not important or only "somewhat" important.
Less than a quarter of those surveyed felt their employers rated parenting as being either important or very important.
Parents complained about being made to feel unwelcome by cafes if they were with small children, and public transport operators failing to cater to their needs.
New mother Jacqui Whelan said pram access was generally poor at shops and on public transport.
"It depends where you are, but you're often left on your own."
Other mothers said it was hard to gauge whether cafes and restaurants allow them to breast-feed, and shopping trips could be hampered by a dearth of hygienic baby-changing facilities.
Chief family commissioner Rajen Prasad said those attitudes sent a subtle message to parents that their role was not valued.
Katrina Bootsma said it was often hard to judge how public breastfeeding of her daughter would be received. "It's still hard to catch the vibe of where you can breastfeed."
Kaye Patterson said she was often appalled by the quality of baby-changing areas.
"Porirua's [mall] was small and it stank."
Dr Prasad said raising children was the most important job many people would do, and it was essential for communities to be more supportive.
"Service industries can also do more to support parents - cafes that turn away mothers with babies, and bus drivers that take off while people are still struggling to seat young children are subtly showing they do not value parenting."
Employers' attitudes needed to change. "Flexible workplaces are key. Parents need work that suits their parenting needs as well."
Cafe manager Tony Castro, who has a one-year-old son, agreed many restaurants did not actively gear themselves toward children.
"It depends how you look at these things. We just get on with it ... We've taken Angus down to dinner at the Matterhorn."
Mr Castro, who manages Caffe L'Affare in College St, said cafes that discouraged families could begin losing out on business.
"We have people who come down and spend a couple of hundred bucks on lunch with their families."
The survey also showed many parents did not feel able to seek advice on raising their children out of fear of being judged as failures.
"Most parents do a good job raising their children, but there are times when they could do with some extra support.
"There is also still a perception that parenting should come naturally and that if we need support then it is a sign of failure."
Dr Prasad said the commission was launching a parenting advice website in response to the survey, which would offer child-rearing tips and direct parents toward support providers, such as Plunket and Barnardos.
"The more parents know about child development and appropriate methods of child-rearing through the different ages and stages of a child's life the stronger and more successful the family will be."
- The Dominion Post
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