We are not alone. An increasing number of fathers, according to a recent report by the Fatherhood Institute in association with the Nuffield Foundation, are trying to combine work with their caring responsibilities. This means that thankfully, we are leaving behind the old stereotypes of fathers being the ‘earning’ parent and mothers being the ‘caring’ parent.
In fact I recently read somewhere that a sole breadwinner family increases the risk of separation and divorce by over 50%. So dual income families, those that share the caring and earning responsibilities, are the way forward.
And that’s the way it should be. Up until very recently there was a cultural 'atmosphere' when it came to stay at home dads. The groups, which exist to help with all kinds of development of our babies are referred to as ‘mother and baby groups’. The school drop off and picks ups consisted of a sea of mothers who’ve put their own careers on hold to raise the children. As we make a change in our household, I'm left asking - where are all the men? Why does it have to be this way? It isn't in Sweden, or Iceland where progressive parenting policies make groups of 'latte pappas' with pushchairs a common sight in coffee shops.
Well the truth is that it doesn’t have to be this way. And according to the stats the tide is turning. Fathers’ involvement in child care increased from less than 15 minutes a day in the mid-1970s, to three hours a day during the week by the late 1990s, with more at the weekend. We are stepping up. I see my wife’s career is just as important as my own. I am a parent that doesn’t have to choose which I’d prefer to do more, be a parent, or enjoy a successful career. I can have both. And so can Sarah.
Of course, this is not just about the desire to share our responsibilities. Employers are a significant part of the story - and might I add – the enablers. I am fortunate enough to have worked under a boss who models gender equality. A loud signal to all of us that my firm absolutely accepts that dads are welcome to negotiate their working patterns and parental leave rights.
I accept that it hasn’t and won’t be easy. But I’m committed to making it work.
If you're wanting to make some changes in your family, here’s some top tips* on how to negotiate flexible working. I can assure you the change is most definitely worth it.
- Aim high and be prepared to settle for less.
- Make sure you know what you are asking for and make sure you ask for it.
- Don’t expect to get everything that you ask for.
- Make compromises where possible to allow the negotiations to move forward.
- When in a negotiation, don’t be tempted to fill silence if your manager is thinking or taking time to respond.
- Don’t wait for the last minute before you make your request, allow plenty of time.
- Suggest a trial period, so that you can see if it works out.
- Put yourself in your manager’s shoes, what is reasonable?
- Offer as much flexibility as you can on your side of the proposal, so that your manager knows that you are willing to be flexible too.
*tips provided by Working Families