Welcome to our series of ‘Real Stories’ where we’re fortunate to have a snapshot into the personal lives of working parents in the hope that their experiences can help others who are interested in taking a similar path. In this particular story we sit down with Neil from a global Investment Bank to discuss his journey of flexible working.
ECC: How has becoming a dad changed you?
Neil: It has changed me far more than I thought it would. The emotional side and bonding with my son has been an incredible journey. Having someone completely dependent on you and who you just want to do everything for gives a feeling that is difficult to describe.
On a stress side – I have stopped getting worried / annoyed by the smaller stuff – I realise it is not worth fretting about. The concerns are more on work and how will I support my son – but then you realise to prioritise, focus on what matters and can be influenced, things that are outside my control is let go of.
I now appreciate the smaller things and time with my family is more important than many things I used to enjoy.
ECC: There’s a lot of focus on help for working mothers, what would be good to see in support of working fathers?
Neil: Often the sessions I have been on for returning parents have been very focused on Mothers returning and highlighting what is available for them and issues they might encounter, even the items applying to both mothers and fathers does seems aimed more at mothers. These were useful as it helped me understand the problems and worries new mothers have, which helped me understand what my wife might be experiencing but doesn’t always make it easy for me to raise issues or understand problems fathers are having in those sessions.
Perhaps having more father focused sessions or sessions led by fathers may make them more appropriate and open for sharing of concerns and information. Fathers can be seen as less important than mothers but having a space where people can discuss their issues would be beneficial – additionally some new mothers might benefit from understanding the worries that new fathers have.
I am unsure if there are support networks for working fathers in my organisation – but it would be good to have them as it can be a difficult time and coaching / mentoring with this focus might be useful.
ECC: How have you adjusted your working patterns since starting your family?
Neil: Within my organisation there is a lot of support for parents to work more flexibly and my manager has been incredibly supportive. On certain days I need to collect my child at a set time – I am allowed to WFH on these days and not have meetings after a certain time. As I am in an output based role – I can manage my work effectively around my these commitments – though it might be in the evening after the child’s bedtime.
How this carries on once Covid eases up office work is yet to be seen – but I am confident I’ll be able to have a similar arrangement for the foreseeable future. There will be times I must be in the office for key meetings but with enough warning I will be able to provide cover for the collection of my child.
ECC: How much have attitudes changed to encourage parents of all genders to work more flexibly? What could be done to support more flexible working?
Neil: I think unfortunately this depends on the role and organisation you work in – I think attitudes are changing and flexible working is becoming more acceptable. That being said – I think the COVID lockdown has probably helped push this understanding along far more than it would otherwise have been. In my organisation contractually there is a core number of hours to work within a window of time during the day – that allows for flexible start and finishing time – but being assessed on output rather than time present – I can be flexible if needed as my manager and I have trust and a strong working relationship – as he knows I will deliver. Anything to assist in speeding up that trust process will help support more flexible working.
ECC: Working and having a family makes for a busy life, how do you support your own health and resilience?
Neil: To manage my own health and resilience my wife and I have worked hard on our communication on concerns so we are both aware when each other are having problems so we can step in when necessary and provide extra support. We both know we need personal time and opportunities for exercise and fresh air so make sure we give each other the time for these.
We both make sure we exercise and get out the house most days either alone or on a walk with our child – this means we both get a release from being cooped up inside the house all day. It helps me sleep better and I feel better that I am doing something for my health.
On personal time – we make sure each other gets some time just to switch off – this could be for an afternoon or evening or just half an hour. Often after I finish work, I’ll take over looking after my son to give my wife a break from looking after him, this helps me relax after work (as playing with my son helps unwind and not worry about things) and gives her a chance to not be on child duty.
ECC: Have you any advice for other working fathers?
Neil: Balancing home and work life is challenging but make sure it is a balance – in 20 years’ time you are unlikely to remember the big things in your current job but you will miss key points in your child’s life.
Keep an eye out for the rest of the ‘Real Stories’ series across the other stages of the parental transition!