Words: James Byard
‘Cheerio’ said my client after our meeting. ‘Yes, good to see you’.
‘No, you have a Cheerio on your jeans’.
‘Oh, errr, lord’.
It’s quite difficult to avoid such incidents when your toddler would rather you wear their breakfast than eat it.
“That I can be a part of my daughter’s life every day is something I cherish and don’t take for granted”
I was told recently that after three nights with four hours of sleep, you wake up feeling like you’ve had half a bottle of wine. The brain cannot be engaged, concentration is non-existent, you ache, you forget to check if you have breakfast cereal on your trousers, and overall, you are grumpy.
As a Dad to a gorgeous two-month old girl and a beautiful but insane two and half year-old girl, I found this highly amusing. There are few things more gut wrenchingly devastating than the sound of ‘Daaaddddyyyyy’ ringing out at 3am. You lie there ignoring it for five minutes before the inevitable ‘are you going to get her or am I’ question is asked and then left to hover over the bed.
I am not going to drift into a sob story of how hard it is being a parent. It is hard at times, but the truth is it’s the most overwhelmingly amazing thing and I love it 90% (maybe 80%) of the time.
“after three nights with four hours of sleep, you wake up feeling like you’ve had half a bottle of wine”
The hardest thing is dealing with the guilt you often feel. After two years I’ve found just about the right work/family guilt balance. As a Dad, the guilt starts as soon as you return to work after the brief two-week paternity leave.
Guilt that my wife is at home wrestling kids while I’m leading my normal life dealing with adults.
Guilt at how annoyed I feel when the nursery calls to say she’s not well and needs picking up.
Guilt at rushing my daughter to nursery at 100mph so I can make the 08:12 at Ashtead.
Guilt that I’m letting the team down when I leave the office at 16:20 to pick her up.
Guilt when I get there and she’s one of the last to be picked up.
Guilt is inevitable, but you learn to be comfortable with it. My daughter loves nursery and benefits hugely from being there. Leaving work at 16:20 means I’m not working in the office. I’m working on the commute and taking calls and emails whenever possible. My wife will have bad days but it’s important to me to be back for bath and bed time. I always have a piece of the weekend that is my precious time and my wife can have space to do whatever she wants to do. Ensuring there’s wine in the fridge is important too.
Of course, there are times when things are tough, but we both understand each other’s expectations of each other, so we try hard to meet them.
Importantly, our industry is supporting parents in real ways.
That I can be a part of my daughter’s life every day is something I cherish and don’t take for granted. If my hours weren’t allowed to be flexible I couldn’t do it. The culture is changing and Dad’s must keep pushing for more support.
“We need improved paternity leave so that both parents can be with a new born for a meaningful amount of time”
No-one disputes that when people feel content in their home life they are more productive at work. The shared parental scheme is a great first step to facilitate time for young families to be together in those first few precious months. But only 2% of couples are using the scheme. It doesn’t work for families as generally one parent must come back to work. As my wife said to me, ‘if you think I’m going back to work after six months having spent nine months growing it and then giving birth to it…’. Well, I take her point.
We need improved paternity leave so that both parents can be with a new born for a meaningful amount of time. Take Sweden for example – they believe in the notion that investing in family wellbeing leads to a more successful economy. Parents can share a whopping 390 days leave at 80% salary. At least three months of that is allocated to each parent on a ‘use it or lost it’ basis. This is true gender equality and an amazing opportunity for families.
Here in the UK, it feels like we are a long way from achieving such parity, certainly from a government perspective. Business is now leading the way. Well-being is becoming a core part of the culture in our industry. Supporting new parents is a vital part of this and affording them time to start family life together will, overall, be better for business.
James Byard is Business Director at Kinetic