Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is on Sunday and a time to celebrate the links between greater equality at home and at work.

Fathers Day

 

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. My partner doesn’t actually take any of these special days very seriously and sees them as more of an excuse for British people to indulge in their obsession with cards – something he finds fairly amusing, being Spanish [Catalan]. I never hear the end of it, for instance, if I send a thank-you card to someone I have already thanked in person.

Over the years he has got breakfast in bed and cards from the kids, but Father’s Day tends to peter out before 11am. The thing is that he doesn’t really need a rest because he has a siesta every day – even on work days. Before the pandemic he might take a five-minute siesta in a quiet spot at work. Nowadays, his office is mainly upstairs and he has the bed handily nearby during the lunch hour.

I am tempted to say that every day is Father’s Day in our house, but it would not be true. The fact that my partner is now mainly working from home has been a bonus. Whereas in the past he would do all the early morning school runs on his way to work [this was when we had three different schools to drop off at so he did the furthest away one], he is now around for sharing them all as well as dropping one daughter at work for 7am shifts and picking another up at 9pm. That also means the pick-ups from A Level mocks. Otherwise I would be spending around three hours a day going backwards and forwards between schools and jobs.

So driving people is now a more shared endeavour – as is cooking for the kids, although the girls prefer to cook for themselves, having learnt from their dad. Daughter three only occasionally asks him to cook for her when she is tired, but the notion of burnt baguettes is so seared in her memory that no matter how much I volunteer she doesn’t ask me – unlike daughter one who embraced the burnt baguette as a classic dish in her usual ironic but affectionate way. It has to be said, though, that my partner likes cooking. Cleaning the toilet or dealing with sickness maybe not so much…

My partner is also a bit of a ‘male ally’ – in part because he has no ambition whatsoever – except to retire early. He was brought up by three strong-minded women – two older sisters and his mum. He works in a female-dominated sector – social services – and he is surrounded by lots of females at home. I often find him watching a Netflix series with a feminist bent and I’m pretty sure he would stick up for women if they were being harassed or badly treated at work.

That is not to say that this is an equal parenting endeavour – he would definitely agree that I do more – but it is striving towards that goal however far off it may sometimes seem. He is there for the main stuff – he tried to work four days and had to compromise to finishing early on a Friday – so that he could pick up the kids, for instance. But he is not a fan of parents’ evening and he would find it hard to recall the names of the kids’ teachers, who are minor celebrities to me. He hardly knows anything about Harry Potter or Hannah Montana or the names and blood groups of everyone from One Direction to BTS. I am tested on my BTS knowledge regularly and know the back stories to all the Harry Potter characters. During Covid, I did all the homeschooling for only son and the motivational talks to the teens. He thinks that is because I am more academic, but I also did the PE lessons!

The thing is over the years patterns become entrenched, sometimes without you even realising it because you are too exhausted – it takes more energy to protest than to just do whatever it is yourself. You pick your battles, depending on your energy levels at the time, but sometimes because it’s about really fundamental stuff, like what being a parent means to you.

On the work front my partner and I also have very different approaches. His is a very Spanish [Catalan] approach. He does not, if he can help it, work before or past his contractual hours and he takes his lunch hour. The lunch hour is sacred, he tells me. I work all over the shop and have lunch after the school run while answering emails. He is definitely a better role model when it comes to work life balance. I write about it; he lives it.

Are these differences a male thing or an upbringing thing or maybe a bit of both? I don’t know. My partner attributes his laid-back parenting style in part to a reaction against an ultra-controlling dad. Meanwhile, my brother is very much like me – he is always sleep-deprived because his son has been up in the night. He reads all the authors his daughter loves so he can talk to her about them. He has film night with the kids with a tub of ice cream.

Spending time with your kids may seem hard work in the early days – even in the late days – but it is a huge privilege, both for the dad and the child and something you perhaps value more if you didn’t have it yourself. For my partner it is a difficult day because one of his children is no longer here and Father’s Day just reinforces that, but he remains a dad to all his children and that is worth celebrating.

Fortunately, more and more employers are realising that that privilege of spending time with your children is something dads are willing to move jobs for and hopefully, in the long term, that will lead to more equal workplaces. Happy Father’s Day!



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