Planes, trains and swimming lessons

A blog from a few years ago, still relevant in today’s world.

I recently read a statistic that 42% of the UK’s working age carers are male but only 72% are in employment. It that good or bad? It feels bad and has certainly made me think about my own personal situation. 

I’m just a normal guy or at least I like to think of myself as one. Two point four children springs to mind. Married with two children and working full time at PwC. A wife who stepped back from her career to start a family while working part time in the public sector. That changed when our youngest entered school. It made sense, my wife is ambitious like myself and wanted to advance her career so following discussion she agreed to return to work full time over four days. Sounds simple right. 

We have always shared responsibility for childcare even since that joyous day in 2011. It has become more prevalent now they are grown up but from the arrival of Finley and the trauma we endured I always felt something was triggered inside me – spend time with him, enjoy quality time with him, watch him grow. Well then Euan arrived and as they say the rest is a blurry history. So that is just what I did, spend them with them. From the Monday afternoon swimming lessons to the school concerts and parades and even the occasional cheeky trip to the park after school – it all helped us to bond. 

Now to achieve this Sunday night has become a key night in our family – it’s a rehearsal for the week. For me it’s looking at client commitments, plans with friends and fitness training. For my wife pretty much the same, although relatively stable hours she works on a rotating rota – along with training and friends. Then you add in the busy social plans of our two children (puts ours to shame!) – multiple after school clubs, play dates and birthday parties. It’s all about fairness and organisation – I am fortunate to have a more fluid role than my wife and that flexibility allows for a 3pm pick up followed by picking up the files post boys bedtime. 

It wouldn’t be a blog without talking about technology – but it really helps (that and the diary management on a Sunday). The rise of technology has benefited us as a family certainly. It allows me to work remotely while still remaining in contact with my teams. From the ability to review and comment on documents via my laptop (got to love a laptop pen), the use of Google suite which facilitates collaboration and connections with my team through to the simple ability to voice dial in my car for joining conference calls on the go. It all helps and frankly without the flexibility in my role it wouldn’t work. 

Now although social attitudes are changing, unlike technology they are not changing quickly. The hard facts are that women provide more childcare both factually and stereotypically. Men are still seen as the “bread-winners”. But why, because that’s how it has always been….. I do believe there is a large group of “dads” who simply feel unable to get a better balance between work, home and family because of outdated stereotypes. Now the key is having individuals who are open and transparent about their home life and responsibilities. 

There needs to be a shift in people being more vocal about how they achieve a true home/work life balance and by that I don’t mean work less but simply being able to flex work around the role of parent, and especially dad. To me it’s about being vocal – my diary has equal prominence to “family” as it does “work”. One does not take more priority over the other. That however does not stop people trying and to me the worse part about it all is the “look” or simple word of “oh” when a call or meeting can’t be attended due to school pick up. Attitudes need evolving to reflect that the world we live in is no longer 9 to 5 and certainly has never been for me – why can’t a day be: 7 – 8, 10 – 3, 7 – 10 with mobile access in between to check on true emergencies. In my 13 years I’ve yet seen a crisis that was pivotal on 5pm! 

So to me it’s a simple. I’m not a super hero (though I occasionally dress as one) – I simply like to play planes with two children. I like to take them on trips on trains as they love it, even if we’re going nowhere special and I like to see them grow. I juggle my main responsibility of looking after my children with that of my employment. It’s not ground breaking, it’s not “modern” and it’s not creating a revolution. I’m a dad, simple as! 

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