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Daddilife founder Han-Son Lee writes about how this year’s unique Back to School experience offers challenges and opportunities for working dads
Cast your mind back to Back To School this time last year. Social media in melt down with the pure emotion of parents who couldn’t bear to face that all important milestone of seeing their bundles of joys enter the school gates. Many tears were shed. There was cries of “I’ll miss them too much!” And then they went about their working days, before being reunited again at that three o’clock bell with thoughts of “Do I really have to send them back in again tomorrow…”
Oh how times have changed…
After months of homeschooling, the frustrations and feelings of guilt running high across our work and parental lives, this year’s back to school has been much more a case of “thank goodness they’re back at school!” A case could be made for a new TV show set in a jungle somewhere – “I’m a working parent, get me out of here!”
These last six months have been tough for many. Tough for working parents who have tried in vain to find a semblance of work/life balance that has felt more unbalanced than ever. Tough for schools and institutions to plan against a whole new series of policies that have an inevitability about their chances of 100% success. And tough for the children – their physical and mental state being an area that’s only recently come to the surface a little more.
As the first few days of back to school have been and gone for me, another thought is now coming front and centre of my mind – Are we ready for the new balance now that we’re back to school?
To understand that, we need to unpick what’s likely to be ahead of us this year still.
The schools have made a tremendous, and I mean really tremendous effort in getting as ready as possible for children’s return to school; stringent washing policies, social distancing, some teachers needing to wear extra protective gear and much more. But with that great safety, we know that we’re dealing with a virus that isn’t slowing down nearly quickly enough. There have unfortunately already been outbreaks in some Scottish schools and reports of the same thing happening across England and Wales.
With new school policies determining that children affected (which can mean more than their immediate friends and across whole bubbles in some cases) need to self isolate, it will mean a level of flexibility between work and school never experienced before.
There will be days and weeks ahead where working dads, having started to see the shoots of opportunity to do a full working day, are put back into a sustained periods of needing to be ultra-flexible.
With the flexibility needs above, the new balance will mean working dads need to be very forward thinking when it comes to being able to be as flexible as possible. And this is where the situation gets difficult.
Employers have seen many great stories of innovation and determination over the last six months. But make no mistake, our economy is under pressure to now start to re-build, and with that comes extra pressure on working dads.
If we’re going to manage through this, dads will need to have those important conversations about flexibility sooner rather than later.
How do we keep those quality moments alive? For many dads, these last few months, and the last few weeks of summer especially, have been a chance to challenge ourselves on what’s important. I’ve witnessed with my own eyes the increase in dads taking on more opportunities to bond, whether that be more reading together, camping together, or even those everyday quality moments we’d perhaps taken for granted before like riding a bike with kids.
So, even in the disruptive times ahead, how are working dads going to carve out the time to ask themselves firstly what’s important, and then act on it.
The power, is in your hands dad.
Han-Son Lee is a founder of the DaddiLife website a parenting website covering a range of areas for modern day dads. From modern lifestyle and things to do, through to dads at work issues