We often meet a lot of brilliant dads making a huge difference in various scenarios of parenthood. But one area we always want to see more of is dads making a difference for other dads in the world of work. When we met Brian we were blown away by just how much, and for how long, he had driven real change.
|The fact he’s done it for one of the biggest tech companies in the world, while also managing to write a fantastic book, is simply incredible. When he outlined a typical work-week for him, the first thing we thought is that we had to share it! Below you’ll see the sort of work week we should be striving for in the modern day world, and also the changes still needed ahead. The rest of this article is in Brian’s own words. Thank you for being so open Brian.|
With the recent heatwave it’s been hard to get to sleep in the evenings (especially with the neighbour’s dogs outside barking), and then even harder to wake up in the mornings.
I don’t have to get up that early, 6.30am is enough to get everyone out of the house by 7.45am. My kids have always woken up naturally about 6am anyway, so I never have to wake anyone up, although our 12 year old does seem to lose track of time, or can even forget to go to school.
I rushed around this morning getting things organised, like making snacks for the kids’ lunch boxes, folding away the dry laundry to find their PE kits, unloading the dishwasher, making my wife a cup of tea in bed, sorting out the recycling, even finding time to have breakfast. In a perfect world, I would have done as much as I could the night before, to take pressure off the morning. I remind everyone “Is the house ready to be left?” when they leave lights on.
As Dads we do all of this work at home, and yet we aren’t encouraged to be thanked for it. “Oh, give that man a medal, he looked after his own child, he tidied up after himself.” We aren’t asking for recognition, so frankly the sarcasm isn’t necessary. What’s more, society suggests that by leaning in to our home and family responsibilities, it undermines the sense of our own masculinity. From my perspective, it takes a real man to be an engaged father.
My 12 year old has now broken up for a long summer vacation, so we have been thinking of activities to keep them occupied that don’t involve a screen or wifi. I asked optimistically if they could have a go at replacing the broken seat in the downstairs loo (to be clear, it wasn’t me who broke it, although much like with replacing loo rolls, people expect me to sort it). I was impressed to come home and find it fixed, although he complained it was a “smelly job.”
I am able to work from home on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Never have I asked my boss for permission, I just started doing it, and nobody ever complained. If people try to schedule meetings at those times, I either ask them to find another time, or just to add a conference bridge so that I can attend by video or phone. It’s good to be around to keep my 12 year old company, and to make it less stressful to collect my 10 year old from the after school club.
The reality is that although we work with people across multiple locations and time zones, we can often feel peer-pressure from the colleagues we share a workplace with, regarding what time we arrive at work, where we are during the day, and what time we leave. This happens especially in crap teams that don’t measure and communicate their outputs, so people feel a lack of psychological safety, and start comparing their desk-time with others.
I forgot that it was swimming today for my 10 year old, as it wasn’t written in their school book (which lists homework and things they need to bring to school), but thankfully they remembered it themselves, and rushed around the house grabbing their trunks, goggles and a towel, and putting it in their sports bag.
My 12 year old also amazed me by emptying the dishwasher without being asked, and not even using it as leverage to ask for anything. Wow.
I was in contact with a couple of Dads in our London office, to see if there was interest in getting a group together for a Lunch & Learn talk or workshop. While we do have a “working fathers” email chat group, across our international offices, we are still in the process of setting up local groups of Dads that meet up in person. So far we haven’t managed to get the same level of sponsorship and engagement that women’s and mothers’ groups achieve.
It feels that Dads, particularly those of us who are white and straight, are seen as having a lot of privilege in society, and it would be scoffed at if we asked for the company’s blessing and funding for a dedicated Employee Resource Group. However, the reality is that we are under increasing mental stress as working fathers, and even if that strain is often lower than working mothers experience, I feel it should be ok for men to ask for support and resources.
I chaired a panel for Pride involving gay dads and we discussed considerations for paternal leave, and cases where people change their name. In fact some of the best advice was not to hyphenate your surname, as this always gets messed up in airline reservation systems.
It is great that our kids seem to be growing up in an age where more variety of how people organise their lives is accepted and tolerated, and it’s about knowing people as individuals.
When I picked up my 10 year old from after school club, he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. They have a chart with all the different rooms and locations and they have to put a little photo of themselves in the right part of the chart, to show where they are. I traipsed over to the sports hall, which is where his photo said he should be, but it turned out that he was still in the homework room, yawning over his unfinished French homework. C’est la vie!
It’s stressful being responsible for picking up your kids after work, from childcare or school. You are often leaving work with lots of unfinished business on your mind, people trying to talk to you when they can see you are heading out. Often you are facing traffic delays at rush hour, and perhaps you need to collect some shopping on the way. Then when you get to the school, they might need to tell you about an incident. There is no time to unwind.
I found out from another parent at the bus stop that the school summer party is actually today and not next Friday as I had in mind, and that not all the teachers had sent out the invitations or requests for volunteers. On the bus with my wife, we rapidly rearranged our evening plans and Whatsapped with our kids. While I’ve been at work this morning my 12 year old has been Whatsapping me jokes, then telling me to get back work, the cheeky sod!
I had to go to our village townhall to get a permission letter for the Scouts camping trip, which apparently goes over the border from Luxembourg into Germany. They also wanted photocopies of their passport, vaccination card and social security card, I wonder if they are going to do any money-generating activities with the Scouts and have to declare the tax! So photocopying complete, Whatsapp put to one side, and I can get my brain into work mode.
My experience is that being a working parent makes you very productive and efficient. While I do have to spend a bit of time on family admin, I am rigorous about prioritizing and getting on with work tasks. I generally block out time in my Outlook calendar to work on my deliverables, and I constantly reviewing the amount of time I have left and what is next that I should be working on. If you want something done, ask a busy person, like a working dad.
Follow Brian on Linkedin.