To mark Father’s Day (21 June), this is the second of two blogs giving an insight into the lives of civil servant fathers and their experiences of working at home while still being an active team member (or leader) and juggling the pressures of childcare during the coronavirus pandemic.
This has also given them the unexpected opportunity to empathise with women who have been experiencing these types of challenges and pressures for a long time.
Brian Stanislas, Co-Chair, Cross Government Flexible Working Network
Keith Breene, Trainee Lawyer, Government Legal Department
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and as the father of twins it’s certainly been my experience that the more help you can get the better. So lockdown was a profound change, as school, childcare and extended family all moved out of reach.
The prospect of spending all day, every day, at home with your kids, for an indefinite period of time is something many parents, myself included, regarded with much trepidation. And that’s even before homeschooling is factored in.
It has been challenging. With my husband working longer hours than usual, home schooling, such as it is, falls to me. That means finding a way to juggle drafting court submissions with teaching fractions and stone-age history while sitting at the kitchen table. My son says he prefers ‘fully trained’ teachers, and I can’t say I blame him.
We’ve made a family walk part of the day and discovered we have badgers, foxes and bats visiting our garden. Our cats, which have always given the kids a wide berth, have become drunk on the attention offered by us housebound humans. The two kids and two cats are now inseparable.
With so much uncertainty around a return to normal, we take one day at a time. With the usual school-runs, football training and other parental chores on hold, we have spent much more time just being together, rather than perpetually on our way to whatever’s next. And for that, I am hugely grateful.
Alex Cooke, Deputy Director, Department for International Trade
This Fathers’ Day, I am hoping I will not be brought breakfast in bed by my loving children. Breakfast in bed never happened before lockdown but – to our great surprise – it became a feature of the final week of spring term. Accompanied, of course, by coffee stains on the new carpets, broken glassware, the smell of burnt toast and crumbs in bed. Thankfully, there were no injuries. It was one of the early examples of how our children – Arthur, aged 10 and Maud, aged 9 – reacted to their parents starting the day more slowly.
I have always been a relatively hands-on father since the children were born. Nevertheless, lockdown has provided a great opportunity to get to know them better after a few years of full-time work. I don’t need to tell any parent how difficult juggling work and homeschooling has been. But it has also been an opportunity to form new habits. Saturday Movie Night has been brilliant fun (hot tip: School of Rock). Maud and I have done a lot of cooking together, and I have learnt all about her friends and what is important to her right now. And Arthur and I have done painting experiments together, and have new artwork on the walls.
It has also been a time to learn more about my own father and how he lives his life since I moved out 25 years ago. We have been doing the shopping for my shielding parents and have enjoyed the opportunity of delivering food to vulnerable people by seeing their faces and having a quick chat at a safe distance.
Richard Yallop, Policy Advisor, Home Office
Lockdown started half-way through four months Shared Parental Leave for my second child. I took shared parental leave with my first (who is now three), and have worked four days a week since then. I make the most of flexible working arrangements for two reasons. Firstly, I really enjoy the extra time with the kids and want to make the most of it before they get bored of spending time with their old man, and secondly to share with my wife the impact of childcare on our careers.
Since coming back to work in May, the challenges of balancing work and home life have been on the next level. I’ve found it harder than I thought I would to juggle the two (work and childcare, not the kids – come on, it’s a Father’s Day blog, I had to get in a dad joke). I currently do one full day a week, two half-days, and two lunch times while my one year old has a nap, although this changes every week.
While it’s hard switching between home and work so much, I’ve made the most of the days I’ve had off with both kids. I’m hoping they remember this as a time when they did lots of fun things with me and their mum, rather than when they didn’t do lots of other things.
I guess they will be the judge of that.
If you would like to hear more about what CGFWN does, or to get involved in network activities, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow CGFWN on Twitter at @CrossGovFlexWkNetwork.
You can find Flexible Working and Working From Home / Remote Working resources by visiting the Civil Service Job Share Finder Resource Library.
You can also learn more about what it’s like to work in the Civil Service by visiting the Civil Service Careers website.