Hello fellow dads!
I’d like to start by saying this: You’re doing a stellar job!
So, I’m the fully comprehensive dad. The dad that works in Insurance! The kids and wife have no idea what I actually do, even though I explain it in on a daily basis!
Anyway, today I’d like to chat to you about this – yes you may be ‘the bread earner’ in the house, but that does not mean you’re required to be a doormat to business abuse from your employer. If like me you’ve had your life as a father disregarded by an employer at any one time, know that moving on is going to make you a happier man….therefore a happier dad.
Becoming a dad
I’ve got two girls. Maci and Niamh (think eve with an ‘n’ before it). Blame mum when it comes to the confusion of pronouncing the girls’ names. Maci is 7. Niamh is 3. Maci was a dream pregnancy. Just the usual 12 and 20-week scans. Plenty of kicking and bumping, especially when batman and friends came on the TV. She was pretty spot on with her arrival too, and was in the hospital for the standard routine amount of time, as she was mums firstborn.
Niamh was another story altogether though.
We’d had a few misses before having her, so lots and lots of scans through mums pregnancy this time. Not as bouncy as what Maci was in the womb, either.
Niamh arrived 11 weeks early, so very much a premmie! Naturally, the period of time which followed was testing for me and mum. Niamh spent the next 9 weeks in an incubator. Heart strong, but lungs needing assistance.
Now regarding my employer at the time, the CEO of the company himself personally got in touch with me and actually approved me having 4 weeks paternity, instead of the usual 2. Great support right?! That is until I start talking to my immediate management.
It’s important to mention at this point that the actual company I worked for was based in Somerset, including that very supportive CEO. However, I was based in another department for the company, which was located in Northampton – 190 miles away.
So day one back in the office. Niamh is still in an incubator. My management and colleagues are fully aware of this. We get to 5 pm. Half an hour until the finish. I’ve had updates from mum throughout the day. My phone has been on my desk and in clear visible sight, for obvious reasons. I’ve been getting my work done and also managed to be social with everyone. It’s actually a welcome release from the stresses the hospital has unintentionally put upon me.
Then my immediate superior loudly says to me, and in full sight of the rest of the office, “Joe why do you have your phone out on your desk?”. In my immediately perplexed state, quick as a flash, I respond saying “you know why”. The response I get to that is “Do I?”.
At that point I simply turned around, looked back at my computer screen and started typing, thinking to myself ‘I just need to make it through the next 27 minutes and then I’m done for the day’. I was raging inside, but I made it successfully to 5:30 pm.
Trying to communicate
Later that night, and I’m back at the hospital. Niamh is asleep and mum has already taken Maci home to bed. I decide to text my boss. The sole intention of the text is to let them know that I didn’t appreciate the embarrassment they put upon me in office. I did exactly that, and then *bing* ‘you have one new message’. My boss responds simply by saying “we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
Now I thought that this would be a civil adult chat, but my gosh how wrong I was.
The next morning
9 am the following morning, the boss invites me upstairs into a separate room. To my utter disbelief, a note-taker is present. The note taker is none other than the head of legal for the company, who, fortunately (I guess for my management) was based in the same office as our department.
Before I go on, let me inform you of this – my boss and the note taker are both women, and mothers themselves! But not even a glimmer of empathy is anywhere to be felt.
So back to what is now an official company ‘meeting’. Well, the salient facts about this meeting are thus – points of views are very much so exchanged, notes are made (of course), my boss utters the words “you’re not the only parent in the office” and that my blood pressure has never been so high in my life. Oh, and it got heated.
You read correctly, by the way. My boss actually told me I’m not the only parent in the office. By the way, my response to that was:
“well I’m pretty sure I’m the only parent in the office. With a child in an incubator. Within the neonatal unit of a hospital.”
To this day, I still cannot believe I walked out of that room without ripping the door off its hinges. I’m also still amazed my professionalism stayed intact and I made it again to 5:30 pm.
Naturally, I submitted a complaint to HR about my manager’s conduct. HR asked me 3 separate times if I was sure I wanted to do this. My response each time included an emphatic yes. The standard investigation process followed, and the conclusion read as follows ” you should try to be adult about the matter and talk it through”.
Honestly, how could you think you were ever going to be able to ‘talk it through’ when you know that:-
A. Your boss already knew the gravity of your situation
B. Was a mother herself.
and C. Decided to still take the actions that she did.
Ironically, the verdict from HR was delivered by a pregnant member of staff, so I guess you could say that in the game of matters of the head vs matters of the heart, company protocols/procedures defeated human empathy and understanding.
2 weeks after the HR verdict was delivered, Niamh was discharged from hospital and she was home with mum, dad and big sister. A couple of months later I left the company. That whole unnecessary ordeal at work took whatever emotional endurance I had left at the time.
Moving on to a brighter future
I’ve always carried the belief that a happy daddy means a happy mummy, which means happier kids. I couldn’t ever be happy in that job again though, knowing how management’s actions went completely unpunished.
I loved the company, and the colleagues I worked with. It was ironic that I was also due to start a course with the company, which upon completion would have taken me into learning and development – an area of work I’ve wanted to work in for many years now.
My position have inevitably become untenable though, and I had to give it all up.
Since leaving that employer I’ve had terrific support regarding the kids, and family life in general, from a new employer.
Attitudes as a whole are changing in the workplace and for the better for us dads. When I look back and think about when that old boss of mine said I wasn’t the only parent in the office, I think she actually wanted to say that “you’re just the dad”. Modern-day leaders are encouraged to have human empathy and understanding though, not gender permitting empathy, so I take hope that her way of managing will be found out (if it hasn’t already) and finally be made extinct.
And yes, I’d have loved to have kept that job and went on that course to take me into that line of work I still aspire to be in but take a look at the picture in this post.
That’s me on Father’s Day last year. I’m wearing a t-shirt the girls brought me with Maci’s pocket money. Maci is posing and Niamh has invented a game called ‘let’s look at daddy’s tongue’. That’s what it’s about though. No career aspirations of mine beat my aspirations of being the best possible dad I can be.
Stay strong my fellow dads. 👍🏻