Category Archives: Coronavirus

Fathers and Flexible Working

Flexible working is a key tool to help working dads achieve improved work / life balance and be the involved, active and present father that surveys tell us that they want to be.

Helping dads to communicate their needs and desires about work life balance is vital to move the conversation about flexible and part time working away from just being a female ‘issue’ to becoming a people issue.

When society and the workplace see flexible working and caring responsibilities as not just something that men want, but as something that men are supported to fulfil then this will drive benefits for everyone.

No longer will the only way to get ‘ahead’ be to be ‘all in’, fully committed to your job to the detriment of all else. When we take the time and effort to communicate with men, to give them a safe space to share what they really want we can to start to design work to fit modern society.

“Benefits” of Covid-19

Covid -19 and the associated lockdown measures have become, for many men, a massive experiment in remote and flexible working. One that has been embraced by many.

“I’ve loved being able to work from home full time…we have a six month old now so I get to see him during the day a bit, feed him lunch, always have bath time at 5.30pm… it’s been a positive in an otherwise pretty weird / horrid time.

As workplaces start to open up, parents everywhere are under pressure to juggle potentially competing demands of work and family but without the school and childcare facilities they depend upon opening at the same rate.

We are at an incredibly tense time for gender equality. Despite reports showing that men have doubled their involvement in childcare, the burden still falls unequally and we face a real danger that in many families, men will be back “at work” and women will be left juggling everything else.

What can business do?

Businesses can help by not just assuming that only women have caring responsibilities and by being aware that in spite of the benefits of lockdown working life, men may fear the career implications of pushing back and trying to maintain access to the significant benefits of flexible or remote working.

Encouraging men to return to the workplace while supporting women to work from home does nothing for equality and mental health and potentially drives a wedge between couples.

Research by Pregnant Then Screwed found that “75% of working mums have struggled to manage childcare and their paid work during the pandemic while 57% of believe it has damaged their career prospects.”

It’s incredibly important for working dads to continue to strive for the type of flexible working that has worked during lockdown and driven equality.

Here’s a helpful reminder of the type of benefits…

1. Spend More Time With Your Family.

Commuters are now facing an average 58-minute daily journey – the equivalent of 27 working days a year… Londoners take the longest to get to and from work: 1 hour and 21 minutes each day.

Source – TUC

Leaving home early and returning early evening means if you have young children it’s likely you’ll hardly see them during the week. A work / life balance fail…

Through flexible working you can use the time you normally waste travelling to the office and spend more with your family. Maybe you want to do some school pick ups and drop offs. Flexible working is the key to unlock that allowing you to be there for the times that matter. 

2. Less Stress

Crammed into trains (mask on), crawling through traffic, blood pressure rising, it’s no wonder commuting is one of the most stressful events in people’s lives.

Yes, some stress can be good for you, but nobody ever said that about the stress of commuting. Working from home can play a big part in reducing your overall stress levels simply by removing your daily commute.

‘Not only are long commutes bad for our health, but they can affect our ability to concentrate at work. That’s bad for productivity, resulting in a lose/lose situation for employers, employees and the whole economy.’

Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton

Source – TUC

3. Women Wouldn’t Have To Be Flexible To Return To Work

When men more widely seek out, embrace and promote flexible working then it will become the norm.

Women wouldn’t then have to settle for work that pays less than they deserve to achieve the flexibility they want, because their partners would be working flexibly already. 

Research we conducted in 2017 showed

  • Work / family balance was the #1 challenge facing working parents.
  • Women in particular also identified the ‘culture of inflexible work’.
  • Flexible working was seen by both men and women as the #1 solution to these challenges.

4. Supportive “Power Couple” Relationships

Real men not only want to spend more time with their families, they understand and help with the mental load.

It’s not just about your quality time with your children – life is a partnership and your presence has to be more than getting home on time and making great memories at the weekend. 

Your role doesn’t begin and end with money in the bank and feeling good about yourself because your kids love you and you get to work from home once a week. 

It has to be about taking on the “burden” of life.

It’s about pulling your weight, not waiting to be asked, about managing at home as well as at work.

Get that wrong and you’ll be staring down the barrel of divorce

“I think it’s time you had a chat about this situation. Ffs we do not live in the 18th century! Seriously if you have to go out to work, then the balance within the home needs to be altered too. Atm my oh is ironing whilst I am doing other jobs. If he did not help out with the kids/ housework etc I would just down tools.”

Read more here

5. Smarter Children

The benefits don’t begin and end with dad.

Child psychiatrist Dr Mike Shooter CBE is former director of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and author of Growing Pains: Making Sense Of Childhood 

He says children whose dads actively engage with them will be smarter and more balanced.

“First of all, a hands-on father bolsters [a child], it inoculates them against the many much less fortunate role models that there are in society, which influences their development in terms of how they view themselves, the relationships they will form with other people and as parents in their own right.”

Source – Shortlist

“Children were more likely to show behavioral problems if their fathers were overly involved psychologically in their careers… A father (who is) noticeably absent when he is on his digital device — was also linked with children having emotional and behavioral problems “

Source – Harvard Business Review

There you go, 5 great reasons why flexible working needs to stay. It’s up to everyone to create a new normal, but for men my message is simple –  guys you’ve seen the benefits, now it’s time to celebrate father’s day by holding on to your flex and continuing to demonstrate “how to be a great dad AND have a great career.”

By Ian Dinwiddy, founder of Inspiring Dads

Fatherhood & Lockdown: a Game of 2 Halves

A week before the UK went into lockdown, my family and I were already in self-isolation. Both the kids had a temperature, and I’d had strange fever-like symptoms. I’d been in London the week before delivering a talk on why dads matter in the workplace, and I remember Coronavirus being discussed more and more.

Then, lockdown happened. And to be honest, it felt like a bit of an adventure. The four of us against the world. Working from home for a couple of weeks (maybe a month, tops)… what’s not to like? I was a pro at working from home. Heck, I gave talks to companies about why flexible working was so important. 

But what at first seemed like an exciting adventure for a small period of time quickly turned into an unwavering nightmare that had – and has – no end date. I’ve gone through the whole range of emotions associated with grief (several times, in fact). I’ve read the advice for parents trying to work and home school. I’ve joined Zoom calls to catch up with friends. I’ve hosted LinkedIn Live virtual coffee chats. 

And – as I write this going into the middle of June – I’m conscious of two competing thoughts: Lockdown has been great in allowing me to spend more time with my family, particularly my 11 month old daughter. Lockdown has also been incredibly difficult for me to take ‘me time’.

Starting with the positive, I have had more time with my baby daughter than I ever thought possible without sacrificing my career. I’ve seen her first crawl, first clap, and first independent stand. She also accepts me more than my son ever did at that age, too. I can actually settle her to sleep (I don’t know how big an issue that is in your household, but in mine it’s huge). I’m incredibly grateful for that.

But I can’t overlook the negative. My wife is up throughout the night, so I take both kids at around 6.30am and try to let my wife sleep for as long as possible. In the week, that’s usually until just before 9. I then transform from ‘dad mode’ at 8:59 to ‘work mode’ at 9:00. Personally, I’m finding that incredibly difficult. People say to me, ‘Dan, you must love not having a commute anymore’. On the contrary: that was two hours of ‘me’ time. I crave it. I’m really missing it.

I’ve had some advice on how I can meditate before work, or go for a quick walk. Maybe I can. But there’s no way I’m going to put that onto my wife if it means she has to wake up earlier so I can have me time. So I’ll find another way.

The million dollar question is: I can’t have one without the other… so would I change anything? Would I be prepared to miss this quality time and these milestones if it meant I, and others, could have some sense of normality. If I’m honest with myself, I think I would. Does that make me a bad father? I don’t think so. I think it just means I’m honest about how difficult the situation is… and the grass is always greener.

However, we are where we are. It’s been incredibly tough. But at least I can always remember the time I did have with my family – particularly my daughter. It has definitely given me food for thought.

By Dan Reed

For further great articles by Dan and his podcast, see his website.

If you want some entertainment, his daily video diaries of life during lockdown with kids are a lot of fun.

Oh, and I’m a Dad

I’ve given presentations inspired by my book Dads Don’t Babysit at government departments, universities and City institutions. I always start by introducing myself as a journalist, author, editor, podcaster and then, inevitably, I add, “Oh, and I’m a dad.”

Why is my most important and fundamental role an afterthought? Partly because I take it for granted, partly because like so many parents it doesn’t seem natural to blend personal and professional life.

Lockdown’s changed all that for me and many other fathers.

Pre-lockdown, even as I spent my days editing workingdads.co.uk and writing about why men should get more involved in family life my offspring were out at school. Now we’re all sat around the kitchen table. Family life has moved off the page and unfolds in front of my face.

It’s not been that way for everyone. I’ve heard countless tales from mums of partners who spend the day holed up in a makeshift office while the woman juggles work, homeschool, squabbling siblings and the not inconsiderable new burden of feeding the whole family three times a day. I feel sorry for those women. I feel sorry for those men too.

They’ve missed out on a unique opportunity to sample a new way of living that rebalances that work-life equation.

Working from home is not for everyone. Engaged fatherhood does not bring benefits if it is enforced. Just ask the generations of women forced into the domestic sphere by social and economic pressures they could not challenge.

But at the heart of Dads Don’t Babysit is a quest for genuine choice.

Partly that means changing the law so men can have more paternity leave if they want it and have a proper shot at parenting. A fortnight with a newborn and a partner recovering from childbirth is not a good guide to the next 18 years of bringing up a child. And when it comes to engendering genuine choice extra paternity leave, whether it be standalone or as part of the Shared Parental Leave scheme, must be properly funded. Currently a man looking to take some leave later in his child’s first year will likely face a significant drop in income from his salary to the statutory parental pay rate of around £150 per week.

But making a genuine choice doesn’t just mean having the options laid out in front of you.

I could choose to spend 20p on a tomato or a lemon. If I don’t know the difference between them I could end up with a sharp surprise.

So it goes with fatherhood. Parents ought to be able to try before they buy. Currently mother is funnelled by society and economy into taking on more domestic work, and that can leave a bitter taste. While father is sent back to work after a couple of weeks and his experience of family life is limited to bedtime and weekends, not enough time to practise parenting and gain the necessary confidence. 

At this point in the blog writing process my son is marching round the garden loudly telling me about jellybeans that taste of dog food and ranking ice lollies by flavour. This is lockdown work and parenting. It’s frustrating. It’s not like normal working from home. But it’s a chance like many dads have never had to immerse themselves in family life. Children talk about jelly beans. They test your patience. But I’d far rather look up from my computer to see him swinging from a tree in the garden and eating an ice lolly than my usual view of next door’s cat strutting across the lawn.

And there’s encouraging signs that men are doing more around the house during lockdown, and enjoying it. You can take your pick of the statistics. They all show women still doing more than their fair share. But it is a positive that men are engaging. Boxfresh research for the daddilife website found respondents all reported more playtime, cooking and homeschooling. (The latter two are more important to achieving gender equality than the first.) But the crucial bit is that the men are keen to change. A third pledged to build more quality family time into their lives in future. Nearly half are seeking more flexible or remote working from their employers.

As lockdown eases more change is inevitable. But if the pandemic robbed us of agency, easing restrictions puts it back in our own hands.

If you want to carry on working from home, ask for it. Employers can no longer claim it can’t be done. Business as usual will be the path of least resistance for bosses but it won’t be the right route for many who want to rebalance work with life. We’ve let work into our homes this spring, employers must now allow us to shape work to fit our domestic responsibilities.

And if men take those steps everyone benefits. Fathers who are more engaged enjoy better mental health and longer life expectancy. Women are freed from the weight of the domestic load and have the opportunity to forge more fulfilling and/or lucrative careers. Kids with more engaged dads turn out smarter and happier. Society is richer, both in terms of GDP and diversity.

There’s been much talk of a new normal post Covid. A kinder community. We can achieve that if men take the opportunity to cement the changes in working practices and family life that have been forced upon us all this spring.

Enjoy a relaxing Father’s Day and make the most of it. Because to forge a better life for everyone after the pandemic we dads have work to do.

By James Millar

Author of Dad’s Don’t Babysit and editor of Working Dads

What to tell your children about going back to school

Read published article here

Some children may be anxious about the prospect of returning to school. Here’s how you can talk about it:

After a period of several weeks in lockdown where many families have been living, working and schooling together all under one roof with limited exposure to the outside world, it’s understandable that we might all now be feeling anxious at the prospect of transitioning back to the new “normal” when lockdown is eventually lifted.

Many children, including infants and toddlers, will be feeling a heightened sense of awareness, or even anxiety, at the prospect of being separated from their parents when nurseries and schools reopen.

Despite the global crisis and all the change it has brought to our daily lives, one thing has been constant for children throughout, and that’s the presence and support of their parents; their physical presence, rituals and routines, their nurture, love and comfort.

For this reason, it is natural for them to perhaps have become more clingy than normal, more reliant on your support and more used to your constant presence. The prospect of suddenly being taken out of this safe bubble at home can therefore be quite a shock for both children and parents.

For parents of toddlers going back to nursery, it is important to tell yourself that your child will be ok. When babies develop a sense of object permanence, they know that parents still exist when they are out of sight and this can cause separation anxiety. It is developmental, but it does not make it any easier for parents to say goodbye at the door.

Just as adults, children are innately social beings. Remind yourself they will enjoy the interaction of other children and engaging creatively with staff at nursery. Recognise that your worry will naturally be increased due to lockdown and acknowledge that your sense of worry will often be mirrored by your child’s behaviour and responses.

For children who are old enough to understand, talk about the changes that are going to happen through storytelling. Discuss with your children how they might feel going back to school or nursery.

Try to name their feelings so you can validate their thoughts and emotions, recognise they will move and change. Acknowledge that they may feel worried about saying goodbye at the nursery door. Talk about what you do when you feel worried as this too is a supportive strategy. Notice how challenging and courageous they are being.

Always be consistent in your promises about returning, even if it means agreeing to bring the exact snack that was requested when you pick them up later. It helps with emotional containment and a sense they feel listened to.

Most importantly, notice your responses to their anxiety and what it awakens in you. Children are incredibly intuitive and, if you can, model supportive strategies so they will know it is ok to say “see you later”.

Finally, for children and adolescents, the sense of being parted from their friends, which makes up such an important part of their lives, is tremendously challenging. While they may feel angst about returning to school, they will also be grappling with the sense of urgency to be among their friends and peers.

The united individual experiences of lockdown and loss will have impacted hugely on adolescents and, therefore, their need to tell their story will be so important. Parents can rest assured that schools will be aware of the very great emotional needs of their pupils and will no doubt be offering additional support at this time.

Hannah Abrahams is an educational and child psychologist and a valuable member of the Educating Matters speaking team

How to use your emotional toolbox to support your mental health needs

We are living in one of the most unprecedented times in living history and it is important to recognise how exceptionally resilient we have been during the last 8 weeks in lockdown.  Take a moment to reflect upon that statement. Yes as humans we are naturally creative and incredibly adaptable beings. 

Without a doubt, there will have been times of fear, of anxiety and of hopelessness and despair, but amongst the tidal waves of raw and very big emotions, there will also have been moments of success, of hope, of love and laughter and togetherness.  

You will already have been using tools from within your emotional toolbox in order to navigate these uncertain days, but I hope that I will be able to awaken your sense of skill, as well as suggest some new and creative ideas to support you and your families

What happens to our bodies when we’re stressed?

In times of crisis, uncertainty and stress, our brains and bodies become dysregulated leading us to be in a fight or flight mode.  We are waiting for the “bear,” and these days illness, to come around the corner and our concentration and ability to focus, as well as our productive and creative brain, will be significantly impeded. 

Previous traumas, losses or anxieties may be reawakened in us and our behaviours and responses to our children and our own needs change or old unwanted behaviours become ever-present. If this happens, allow yourself the time to notice, to stop, to listen to yourself and your responses and reflect upon how best to help yourself and your children.

Remember that emotional responses will feel even bigger right now. That’s ok and to be expected but it is so important to remember that this too shall pass. I often like to think about how emotions change for adults and children alike during the course of a day just as the waves change as they reach the shore. 

We are under incredible strain as parents and employees trying to navigate working from home in a crisis while “home-schooling,” we need to dig deep.  Learning to manage these uncomfortable emotions is a lifetime’s work but being conscious of them will help you to feel less overwhelmed and stressed. 

In times such as these, we need to be mindful of our mental health needs in order to meet the needs of our children. It’s a case of putting our own ‘oxygen mask’ on first. Unless we do this, we’re going to feel very dysregulated much of the time. You need to nourish your own basic needs (such as food, water and sleep) where you can get it, in order to successfully meet, contain and validate the needs of your children. 

Check-in on yourself

Notice how your body is feeling. If you can, do a body scan. 

  • Are you feeling really tense? Where does the tension sit? In your hands? In your heart? In your toes?
  • For children a body scan can be completed in a very visual way – draw around their bodies either in chalk or pen and get them to label different parts of their body that feel feelings- for example does their heart feel love? Where do they feel anger? Hurt? Excitement or worry? Activities such as these open up opportunities for discussion and growing emotional awareness.

Place your hand where you’re feeling most angst and try and ground yourself in the moment. By this, I mean STOP, DROP AND BREATHE

  • STOP in the moment
  • DROP everything you’re doing
  • And take 3 deep BREATHS

This activity can also be used for children and helps to regulate yourself and them, before reaching volcanic explosions and responses

Grounding

Choose one thing to do every morning that will help you to feel grounded or have a giggle – such as doing a dance like no one is watching or stretching, going for a walk and standing and listening to the nature around you 


Notice and validate big emotions

This applies to our emotions and the emotions felt by your children. During these times, it’s to be expected that sometimes your emotions will overwhelm you and that of your child. 

Remind yourself it’s Ok to feel these big emotions and this too shall pass. Be compassionate with yourself and your children. 

Resist the urge to run away from the emotion, just BREATHE. Expect the emotions that you’re feeling, notice how they move and change. By doing this, you will be helping to regulate your brain activity and reduce the flood of cortisol. 

Every time you work through these big emotions, you are emptying your emotional rucksack. By developing your resilience, your children will mirror you and therefore you are doing an amazing job in developing their emotional regulatory behaviours too. Things won’t always go right, its ok and being reflective with yourself and your child about the less successful emotional moments is important too. 

Find activities you enjoy

To be expected to learn a new language or expected to clean and tidy our homes in Marie Kondo style is not necessary right now, but it is important to give yourself permission to do something that you love for a few moments each day. 

Encourage your children to think about creative ways to nurture their interests too. For example:

  • Plant sunflower seeds and water them daily, watching them grow
  • Create an obstacle course on the street using chalk on the pavement
  • Grab a paintbrush and some paint and just let the strokes of your brush flow.  It’s amazing what your unconscious can tell you through this activity. See where your painting flow takes you. 

Don’t think too far ahead

Our brains like to live in the moment. As soon as we start thinking about what ifs and what next, the little almond sized part of our brain known as the ‘amygdala’ starts flapping away. It controls the emotional response panel in our brains, and it doesn’t know how to navigate the future. 

It’s very much about trying to bring ourselves back to the present moment, which can be so difficult during such uncertain times. But psychologically, we know that our amazing, creative, productive and resilient brains work best when we are in the moment. 

For so much of this time, we have been navigating the sense of stress and worry that lockdown has brought to us as a nation. That said, we are incredibly adaptive beings and you will notice that over the course of the weeks your sense of heightened worry may have diminished slightly with time. Recognise your and your child’s amazing adaptability and whilst we continue to experience waves of emotion, congratulate yourself that you have come this far. Remember what you’re doing is good enough and hold on to that in the toughest of times.

If you would like a webinar to support the Mental Health of employees during this period of Covid-19, please be in touch for some ideas.

Can you look back on this as a scared time to treasure rather than just survive?

I feel overwhelmed by the amount of articles and suggested resources coming through my inbox and across various social media platforms, on every possible topic related to getting through this Covid-19 crisis.

There is one great post that I didn’t write and the author is ‘unknown’ but of all the things I have received, it really spoke to me as a parent, so I wanted to share it with you.

Child – “How old are you, Grandpa?”

Grandpa – “I’m 81, dear.”

Child – “So does that mean you were alive during the Coronavirus?”

Grandpa – “Yes, I was.”

Child – “Wow. That must have been horrible, Grandpa. We were learning about that at school this week.

They told us about how all the schools had closed. And moms and dads couldn’t go to work so didn’t have as much money to do nice things.

They said that you weren’t allowed to go and visit your friends and family and couldn’t go out anywhere.

They told us that the shops and stores ran out of lots of things so you didn’t have much bread, and flour, and toilet rolls.

They said that summer holidays were cancelled. And they told us about all those thousands of people that got very sick and who died.

They explained how hard all the doctors and nurses and all essential workers worked, and that lots of them died, too.

That must have been so horrible, grandpa!”

Grandpa – “Well, that is all correct.

And I know that because I read about it when I was older.

But to tell you the truth I remember it differently…

I remember playing in the garden for hours with mom and dad and having picnics outside and lots of bbqs.

I remember making things and fishing with my Dad and baking with my Mom.

I remember making forts and learning how to do hand stands and back flips. I remember having quality time with my family.

I remember Mom’s favorite words becoming ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea…’

Rather than ‘Maybe later or tomorrow I’m a bit busy’.

I remember making our own bread and pastry. I remember having movie night three or four times a week instead of just one.

It was a horrible time for lots of people you are right.

But I remember it differently.”

Remember how our children will remember these times.

Be in control of the memories they are creating right now, so that through all the awful headlines and emotional stories for so many that they will come to read in future years, they can remember the happy times.

Author unknown 💕