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Listen here to a truly inspiring conversational I was lucky to have with Tim Soper who is the chair of Dads@Aon and co-chair of The Insurance Families Network

Tim’s definition of ‘Modern Fatherhood’

Mindset – Dads can live full and whole lives by allowing themselves to balance work and family life.

Diversity – There are many ways to become a dad, through adoption, surrogacy, same sex relationships etc

Connections – Make proper connections with male friends

Expectations – It should be a default position  in the workplace that all parents and carers need support, not just mums


Some of the challenges raised by the audience

As the main breadwinner with a self-employed wife, I struggle with the expectation that when one of my children is unwell, she will have to move around her work plans as I cannot take care days off.

A few years back, I had to take a couple of days off/WFH at short notice as my daughter was sick and couldn’t go to school, and my wife was busy with important meetings that she couldn’t shift. My boss (at a previous employer) made the comment “can’t your wife look after your daughter – you might as well go part-time at this rate” – which even at the time left me speechless! Even more so as he was a father-of-three…

 I’ve noticed a huge amount of children’s books are geared towards a connection with Mummy and not much feared towards connections with Daddy

Being pulled in multiple directions at once and trying to make sense of it

Nursery calls my wife first, even though I’ve told the repeatedly I can react and get there quicker.

As part of a same-sex couple, a nursery asked us “which of you will be the Mum” – meaning who will be the person doing most collections / drop offs etc

Parental leave was very hard. 2 weeks isn’t enough.

Parenting Out loud  – wish I’d had that tougher mindset towards work life 16 years ago, but am definitely there now w/hybrid working

I’ve just started a new demanding job but my wife is angry at me for going to the office

Flexible working is a huge marketing tool for a lot of the big companies, but I’m not sure they all actually back this up

I’ve been criticised for putting family first ahead of work because I’m so open about my responsibilities as a dad and blocking out time for childcare. The practicality of parenting out loud is far from simple.

I also think it’s important that your colleagues who aren’t carers don’t feel like they are picking up for you. It’s a balance for everyone, balancing everyone’s needs. I am conscious as a dad that all my team’s needs are met

Such a shame that only senior members of staff get ‘time off for free’ due to their seniority.

Unfortunately manager industries are still stuck in dark ages or papering over the subjects until voices get louder.  This has happened in many diversity topics. 

The pandemic has helped with support.  Where I work it has become more ‘normal’ for men to take a more active role (with time away to do the school run, attend appointments etc).  But there is still an expectation that the mother should shoulder more of these responsibilities than the father. Then within the relationship it can turn into a “competition” as to whose job is perceived as the most important – because “I can’t miss this meeting, so you’ll have to miss yours”.

Unfortunately in real terms, I have an example of a weekly team meeting set for 8:45am, in which a team manager mandated their team attend an office. Perhaps no surprise the manager has no children.

There’s also an interesting dynamic with grandparents – I see a lot of working parents relying on their own parents to assist so they can focus on their careers. In the most extreme of circumstances, I’ve seen children disconnecting from their mother/father as a result.

I’ve been given consistent messages from my manager that my wife should take the load for childcare when the kids are sick. 

I’m not feeling confident about dealing with this as the issue has been flagged as part of my performance review stating that I’m not available for my team and I’m demonstrating poor judgement by taking the time off.

Tim’s tips for supporting dads in the workplace

  • Set up an internal family network at work
  • Host remote coffee mornings / catch ups with colleagues who are dads – these can have themes or be general
  • Host internal and external speaker events
  • Write articles / newsletters internally
  • Be vocal online and share best practice