We Can Work it Out

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In which our reluctant hero attempts to shake up governmental policy and employment law to get dads a better deal. Or something.

21st Century Britain has seen many changes. If we’re honest, most of them since 2010 have been pretty bad. And the less said about 2016, the better.

One of the more pleasing changes, as reported in the papers this week, is the increasing involvement of dads in child rearing, if rearing is the right word. (I’ve an image of sheep stuck in my head now, but it’ll have to do.)

Anyway, a survey by “The Modern Families Index” (no, me neither) has revealed that 47% of dads would be happy to take a less demanding job and a pay cut to spend more time with their families. “Happy” is such subjective word, don’t you find?

Not answering the key question of “who the bobbins did they survey?” aside, the Guardian article that I read raised an interesting issue. Women have struggled to find suitable, flexible work for years, but, apparently, men are now more likely to face discrimination when asking for flexible or part-time work. Blimey. On a positive note, men suffering too may mean that something actually gets done about it. Go sisters! I mean brothers…

The option of home working or working flexibly is sadly not available to all. With technology potentially making this easier, employers could, and probably should, do more to be not just family friendly, but people friendly. It would be a good start to addressing some of the problems and an easy win.

But there’s also times in life when all of us need a bit more than a couple of hours or days off, be it flexible, unpaid or extended leave, especially when children appear.

The government’s flagship policy of shared parental leave has been somewhat of a disaster, possibly as it requires mums to jump out of their hospital beds and back on the work merry-go-round at the first opportunity. Some may want to do this of course, but clearly not many.

So how do you fix the problem of employers and politicians not understanding what families need? Get a dad to write it all down, obviously.

Here goes…

0-3 Months (first child)
Every new parent has “L” plates on for the first three months. Two weeks paternity leave? That’s not enough time to get your head around the upheaval, let alone deal with any of it. Once the fortnight is up, you need to establish another new routine to replace the one that you’ve just nailed. Double trouble.

Paternity leave of up to four weeks for those who want it, preferably paid, may be a good start.

3-6 Months (first child)
The “L” plates are in the bin, replaced by “P” plates. You’ve passed the first test, but it’s still better to warn other folk that you may be prone to the odd erratic manoeuvre and occasional prang. My blurry memory recalls this period being relatively calm asides from the continued night-time wake ups for mum.

By this point, mum is pretty much in control of everything else and not shy about telling dad this.

Dad duties mostly involve giving mum a break and finally seeing their child do something other than cry and poo. This is a refreshing change from quarter one, trust me, and chances are that you’re not missing out on much due to work.

6-12 Months (first child)
The second half of year one presents a new and exciting challenge in the form of movement. Why Mother Nature hasn’t risk assessed and let human evolution work on adding an extra pair of eyes in the back of the head is beyond me.

The calm was indeed before the storm. You suddenly realise that your house isn’t anywhere near as childproof as you had thought. Top tip: Buy shares in UHU. Dad will be needed to remove things that aren’t yet broken, and to fix the rest. You’ll probably find him hiding in the shed quite a lot. Mums should avoid mentioning taking any time off even though they’re in need of a rest.

12-18 Months (first child)
It’s a doddle this parenting lark, isn’t it? Stuff is still occasionally smashed into a million pieces and you will have invested in a Mr Bump bruise soother by now. Parents and child are starting to communicate and be mutually understood, which is nice. Mum and Dad are still tired and grunting at each other, but you can’t have everything.

You finally feel like you’re getting somewhere. You notice rapid developmental changes and playing is so much more fun than it was. Sleep is fixed, dinner occasionally stays on the plate rather than on the floor in-between mouthfuls, and your little person is genuinely happy to see you when you walk through the door after a hard day’s yacker.

If I had my pick, this is when I would take off, particularly if it’s summer. The hard work of year one has been done. It’s time for a cuppa and to enjoy things.

18-24 Months (first child, latter stages of pregnancy) and 0-6 Months (second child)
Top tip. Leave a bigger age gap. A much bigger age gap. About fourteen years should be plenty, with the added bonus of a free babysitter in a couple of years.

Ok, dads. You had forgotten all about the “uffing” hadn’t you?

So the situation now is that you have a toddler zooming round like the Duracell Bunny with a faulty off switch, and a better half that needs winching off the sofa every two minutes to go to the loo. It’s just like last time, but with no downtime whatsoever for mum or dad for periods of up to fourteen hours.

Mum will probably want dad to take some extra time off as she approaches full term. Dad will be adamant that it’s better to save his leave for later.

Post new arrival, this period pretty much mirrors the first six months as before. Only with a toddler permanently pulling at your legs and stamping their feet any time that you even so much glance at the uninvited guest that is clinging like a limpet to mum. Oh, and with no prospect of a lie in. Or a sit down. Or a cuppa or food anything warmer than tepid. Ever. Again.

Up to nursery or school age (first and second children)
Repeat until nursery or school kicks in. This is your life now. Get used to it.

Nursery or school age (first and second children)
The dreaded “school run” begins. Too many things to do in too little time while negotiating leaving the house. Plus there’s nativities, assemblies, bonnet making, parents evenings, teacher training days, sickness, mums going off to the spa, and a million other things to coordinate.

If flexible working wasn’t needed before, it is now.

So there you go. A solution of sorts. Probably. Why not print a couple of copies off, pop one in the post addressed to your local MP, and bang the other on your boss’ desk on Monday morning. What could possibly go wrong?

Fin.

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