In the lead-up for Father’s Day, Richard Cahill talks about the stress of being the main carer during lockdown and his hopes that it changes the way we work and attitudes to working parents in the long term.
As a Generation X-er, I think I can say that as a generation we’ve had it comparatively easy. I certainly was not prepared to deal with a global pandemic. I watched with my family as the Prime Minister addressed the nation to lock down the country. My wife turned to our children (daughter 8, son 5) and as light heartedly as she could, said: “We are now living through history!”. Gulp. I looked around the room for the adult to get reassurance from and found, to my horror, that it was none other than me!
The main stresses of being a working parent in non-global pandemic times are the sheer logistics of it all. The school run, the playdates, the after-school clubs and the never-ending parties. All those stresses were swept to one side in one quick movement. What was to replace all this would make our old lives feel like a breeze.
I can only stress how unprepared I was to become a teacher. But here I was being thrust into the role of our children’s educator-in-chief – I was way out of my depth and everyone knew it! Trying to provide guidance on phonics to my five year old and fractions to my eight year old was no mean feat. Trying to do this whilst holding down my 27-hour week, part-time role as a civil servant was even trickier. Put on top of that all the organisation of a lockdown house in terms of cleaning, shopping and planning… well I was, and remain, completely exhausted by this whole experience!
I am very conscious that my wife and I are incredibly lucky. Both of us have remained employed throughout this period, on full salaries. Most of us have found out what the other half does all day at work. My wife does meetings… lots of meetings.
My colleagues have been accommodating. Honestly, they have been great and get the challenges. Some of them have their own families, others have gone out of their way to show their understanding.
I’ve read in some blogs that people think that this could be the big shock to the system that changes the way work is done, the seismic event that makes flexible working the default position of employment and enable us to achieve gender equality. That would be terrific. Is it realistic? I’m less convinced.
What do I hope comes out of this? An appreciation and understanding. Working parents get the acknowledgement that they are committed employees. When given the tools to allow them to be both parent and worker, they can be both. If you give a little as an employer, you will receive so much more back. Here’s hoping that once this is all over, we can take the opportunity of greater equality in the workplace and
run with it – for our generation and all those to follow.