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Increasing numbers of dads want to take a more hands on role in parenting. That means they are more likely to need a bit of flexibility over their hours and support in negotiating that. Imran Iqbal talks about how an LSE seminar on becoming a dad has helped him.
LSE, which recently won the workingmums.co.uk Best for Dads Award, has set up a series of Balancing Work and Being Dad seminars to prepare new fathers for the changes they will face.
Imran Iqbal has not only benefited from the seminar, but is now about to start acting as a mentor for new dads.
Imran has two children aged 22 months and four months and works full time as Group Manager in the Department of Management.
Before he came to the LSE four years ago he worked in the private sector and had a very rigid working pattern and 15-hour days.
Now he can do the nursery run with his 22 month old and get into work a quarter to a half hour later than normal – he has just over a one-hour commute in – and make up the time in his lunch hour. He says that in any event he is judged on his output rather than the hours he does.
“Everyone trusts that I will do the work and I am judged on getting the work done rather than the hours I do,” he says. In fact, his work has been unaffected by the minor adjustment in start times.
He doesn’t stay later as he says he would not see his children for nearly 24 hours if he didn’t leave on time and he wants to be on hand to help out with bedtime.
“Knowing that I need to get the work done so I can leave on time, I am much more focused rather than pondering on things,” he says.
The benefits for the LSE of this flexible approach are that they have a happy, motivated employee who is not constantly stressed about missing his children and is less likely to leave the organisation. Plus, says Imran, going home to a ‘completely different world’, he says, puts work issues in perspective. “I can step back a little more and take a different perspective on the issues and not be totally consumed by the pressures of work or end up running on empty,” he says. He has also learnt to be more patient.
Imran took part in the LSE seminar just after his first child was born when he was also benefiting from a one-year staff development course in management. He found the seminar extremely helpful. “It was nice to be with people going through the same thing as me,” he says. One of the LSE’s pro-directors talked about his experiences as a dad at the seminar. “There were people from all levels within LSE and we were all going through the same emotions and physical exhaustion,” says Imran. “I had never had a guy’s point of view. It was really refreshing.”
One of the big issues for Imran was how to negotiate a bit of flexibility about his hours without looking like he was less committed or unreliable. Many others at the seminar were similarly worried about how to approach the issue. The seminar explained their rights as dads and made Imran feel more confident about talking to his manager.
Dads were anxious about the birth and also keen to compare hospital experiences. Imran has helped a couple of other dads at the LSE already. He will soon become an official mentor on the LSE’s new parents and parents to be network. He says it is good for the dads having mentors who are not in their own department and it also means he gets to know people across the organisation. “You further your relationships across the organisation and you get to understand the person too and the kind of issues they are facing,” he says.
He will mentor dads and dads to be over an 18-month period, covering the whole transition period from dads to be to working dads, including how to cope with sleepless nights.
Imran, whose wife is a solicitor, says he has it easy compared to his wife “She’s doing the work 24 hours a day and gets up the most in the night.” he says.