Andrew Pearson is a widower with two teenage children, some dogs and a job. We asked him to tell us what it’s like.
It’s Monday, 6am, and the alarm wakes me. The start of another week and hopefully one that’s less challenging than the last two. I start to contemplate my first work priorities – timesheets and emails. I’m lucky to not work Fridays so I need to catch up on emails before the day starts. I’m a few days behind on timesheets too, so these need sorting; I’m the boss, I really need to set a good example.
Arriving downstairs, I’m greeted by my two ten-year-old cockapoos; barking, jumping, and circling around me as if I’ve just returned from six-months abroad. I know that I need to feed them straight away and then I have a few minutes before they need a walk if I’m to avoid the incessant barking. That’s just enough time to start emptying the dishwasher and drink as much coffee as is physically possible before a walk is non-negotiable.
After a walk and quick shower, it’s 7am; time to wake my two teenagers. Not so they can get out of bed – that would be far too easy – this is to give them time to ‘come round’ before I visit again in half an hour.
My daughter asks me to call her form teacher to tell her that she will not read out her English homework to the class; she has many social anxieties, this being one of them. An all too familiar fear passes through me.
It was late 2019 when my daughter started refusing to attend certain lessons at school and by January 2020 she was a school refuser. To this day I remember standing on the platform at Finsbury Park station, in tears, pulling at my hair as I tried in vain to commute to work leaving my daughter home alone again. I was failing her as a parent and had no idea what to do or where to turn for help! Then the pandemic hit, a lucky break that enabled me to reflect and use the time to move her to a new school.
Despite her new school easing her in gently some teachers are less than nurturing, so I told myself I needed to nip this in the bud before the past repeated itself. Anyway, here I am 7:10am, searching for the English teacher’s email address on the school website before carefully crafting an email.
7:20am: The courier calls to say he’s a couple of hours early so can I bring the ‘parcel’ (a laptop) outside for him to collect. Result! I need to get this laptop delivered to my colleague as soon as possible; she can’t start work without it. I go upstairs to the office and start packing up the laptop when my daughter comes to ask me “what’s school said?” Shit! I put the parcel down and go to finalise and send my email. I pass this news on to my daughter, convince her everything will be okay, and she starts getting ready for school. Phew, disaster averted!
My son shouts downstairs, “I’ve run out of cash” – a request I can’t ignore; he needs it for lunch and his journey to college. I dash to the cashpoint, ignoring the relentless barking of the dogs who think they’re off for a second walk, and return 10 minutes later with some cash.
7:40am: Time for the morning check-in; masks, water bottles, keys, books, homework – all sorted. On to breakfast. It’s usually a “no thanks”, so this morning I’m thrown as two requests come in – “a bacon sandwich” and “beans on toast” please. It takes time, and the kitchen now looks like a bombsite, but the result is a first: we all eat together. I log the memory and feel a small amount of pride as I think how far the three of us have come in the last seven years.
The courier calls again. I quickly secure the package, hand it to him, and send him on his way. Another job done!
With great relief I then say bye to my daughter as she heads out for school.
Time to finish emptying the dishwasher and have another coffee.
My daughter calls – what now I think? Her friend isn’t going to school, can I take her instead? Argh! Given her past and the precarious nature of school I relent, dashing out past the barking dogs again to pick her up and chauffer her the short journey to school. Enroute we pass a local DPD delivery driver which reminds me that I I forgot to ask the courier for his ID. Shit! Fingers crossed the parcel arrives with my colleague.
I’m back home by 8:30am, my son has just left and it’s time to start work. The timesheets and emails are still to be started, half of the kitchen bombsite is still to be cleaned, and I still need to plan tonight’s dinner. My brain is a fog.
Rather unusually for me, I decide to try something different and ‘reward myself’ for successfully getting my children to school by visiting the gym for an hour. My brain starts to calm down. And I reflect on how different this morning was compared to how it used to be.
Ten years ago, my wife, the mother to my two teenagers, was still alive. She was a wonderfully devoted full-time mum and wife, which meant my Monday challenges consisted of little more than shaking off my Monday blues and getting to the office by 8:30am – with hindsight a luxury that I took for granted. Little did I know that our lives would be soon be turned upside down and I was to face the toughest challenge of my life by far – being a full-time dad to my children and helping them through the death of their devoted mum, while holding down a job and dealing with my own grief after losing my partner of 30 years.
Heading back home I also reflect on how lucky I am to now work part-time for an employer that ‘gets me’ and affords me the flexibility to work around me and the many challenges that being a full-time parent brings.
10:00am – I open the laptop…