I was interested to read this article about work-life balance recently. It argues that workplace culture needs to change to help men become better dads. Although the research and case studies are from Australia as opposed to the UK, there’s much that rings true for me.
Over here, shared parental leave is dependent on individual circumstances and not available to everyone. Similarly, some new dads don’t take paternity leave as they simply can’t afford the drop in income. I know of a fair few, for example, who have used annual leave instead.
In short, legislation and workplaces don’t do enough to treat dads as equal parents. Flexible working arrangements have to be the way forward. I believe that my experience – though slightly different from the norm – proves the benefits of a different approach.
I definitely feel that I’ve been a better dad since changing direction a couple of years ago. Things would have been very different if I hadn’t. Amelie was on her way and I was nearing the end of a 12-month contract with another one on the table.
The environment wasn’t particularly understanding of those with families. I often had to work late with no overtime pay or time in lieu. As a result, I rarely saw my family during daylight hours. I didn’t feel like a proper dad at all.
This made me miserable so I took matters into my own hands. I declined the contract renewal and left to become my own boss. This all took place before Amelie was born, so paternity leave wasn’t an issue, but I know the reaction I would have received had I stayed.
I would have been made to feel guilty for taking two consecutive weeks of paternity leave. I would also have received a less-than-sympathetic response to tiredness from lack of sleep. In the workplace culture I was in, keeping the client happy was all that mattered. People didn’t.
In a strange and twisted way, I’m lucky that I was treated as badly as I was. Even though it was a gamble to leave a guaranteed annual income for the uncertainty of freelance, it made my decision easy.
Fortunately, things have worked out. I’m still able to provide for my family and spend much more time with them too. I appreciate that my change of career has highlighted a problem rather than solved it for the masses but this raises an important point.
If I’m able to achieve a better work-life balance as a one-man band on a below-average income and with a family of five, employers should surely have the resources to enable dads to spend more time with their children.
The fact that most people work to live rather than the other round needs to be reflected across the board. At the moment, it isn’t.
A change in approach can only be mutually beneficial as it would encourage employee loyalty and a happier, more productive workforce. Simply put, this aspect of workplace culture has to change in order to remain sustainable.
What are your opinions and experiences regarding workplaces’ attitudes towards dads?