Ian Dinwiddy, founder and director of Inspiring Dads, writes about being a leader even when you’re on holiday
Summer holidays – six weeks of freedom, no homework and unlimited fun. Woo hoo!!!
For the parents of primary school age children it can be a tricky and challenging time, juggling working lives and trying to be there to create and share great memories.
I remember the shock of realising that the all year round nursery provision that we’d got used to just didn’t happen anymore – two weeks off at Christmas, two more at Easter and six weeks in the summer (not forgetting half terms!) My kids are nine and six now and I’ve mostly worked it out.
A mix of holiday camp, sharing playdates, staying with grandparents and a proper family holiday. Plus that important memory making time – though not everyday because let’s be frank, it’s tiring and can be expensive…
In most households even if both parents work it’ll be the mum who works out the logistics and crucially the mum who seeks out flexible working for that summer period. And that can be a big problem for everyone. (It’s not always the mum of course, in our household, I work flexibly in my own business while my wife is full time – and then some – so I own the summer holiday spreadsheet. It’s a real thing).
Surveys find that men repeatedly say that they want to be engaged, active and hands on fathers, and why wouldn’t you? It’s great for your children, great for you and great for your partner.
I think we all aspire to lead at some level. As the summer holidays start, it’s the perfect time to step up your dad game and become a leader. To seek out the flexible working and the ‘flying solo’ holiday time that you’ll reap the benefits of for years to come.
Your partner needs you to make more effort, your kids want to spend time with you and since it’s the summer holidays loads of people will be away from work in any event. It’s an open goal.
Stuck at work when the sun is shining. No thanks.
‘Bill Gates is driving his child to school; you can, too’
Thinking about doing it on the sly? Don’t.
If you are any sort of role model you need to show other dads that it’s possible to be committed to work and committed to your family. They may not have the confidence or the opportunities that you have – you owe it to them to show the way.
Do what Bill Gates did. His wife Melinda explained, “When Jenn started kindergarten in the fall of 2001, we found a school that was ideal for her, but it was thirty or forty minutes away and across a bridge, and I knew I would be driving back and forth from home to school twice a day.
When I complained to Bill about all the time I would be spending in the car, he said, “I can do some of that.” And I said, “Seriously? You’ll do that?” “Sure,” he said. “It’ll give me time to talk with Jenn.
So Bill started driving. He’d leave our house, drop Jenn at school, turn around, drive back past our neighborhood and on to Microsoft. Twice a week he did that.
About three weeks in, on my days, I started noticing a lot of dads dropping kids off in the classroom. So I went up to one of the moms and said, “Hey, what’s up?
There are a lot of dads here.” She said, “When we saw Bill driving, we went home and said to our husbands, ‘Bill Gates is driving his child to school; you can, too’ “.
When you think of all the benefits of being there with your kids, being creative with your work schedule is only one small step for a man, but done right it could be a giant leap for ‘man’kind.
PS – Once you’ve got summer flexible working up and running you can have a think about how to use that time productively to equalise some of the household chores for your inspiration you can read something I wrote before about that here!
Ian Dinwiddy is Founder and Director of Inspiring Dads – a coaching business specialising in supporting men with their work life balance.