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As lockdown starts to unwind our editor looks at the parallels between flexible working and a flexible spine!
Joe Wicks broke my butt. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before. I’ve been complaining about it just about everyone else for weeks now. A mis-timed burpee during one of The Body Coach’s home school PE workouts last month sent my back into spasm and pain shooting through my backside all the way to my toes.
A month on and it still aches, my foot remains numb and my GP is disinterested.
I mention it because it feels like there’s a parallel with lockdown. It’s ongoing, it’s boring, it will end eventually but the end isn’t coming soon enough.
On at least one count that ought to alter next week.
From Monday the ‘stay home’ order is lifted. Two families can meet up outdoors. Up to six people from any number of households can congregate outside. Parent groups of up to 15 can get together. Look forward to some hastily formed new parent and baby groups springing up from next week. And who can blame them? If it’s allowed then go for it.
We’ve all missed social contact so much. I’ve recently found myself making contact with people I haven’t spoken to in years to arrange walk-and-talk-and-coffee outings. (Although in my case it’s more of a limp-and-talk-and-coffee. Did I mention I’ve shot my back?) It’s one of the things I hope continues as lockdown eases. Of course there’s big ticket changes I want to see embedded around more flexible working and increased empathy at work for example. But I think there’s a lot to be said for the walk-and-talk-and-coffee. It’s better for your physical health than just sitting in a coffee shop. And that reaching out to people, driven by desperation for adult company, is good for your mental health.
Men in particular need to get better at reaching out. Dads must recognise and value time spent on themselves walking and talking with a friend. Carving out coffee time for you once or twice a week where possible will make you a happier man and a better dad and partner.
Of course all these things are connected – flexible working makes it easier to arrange your diary to accommodate activities that benefit your mental health. For example, because I work flexibly I was able to shift my work into the evening one day this week and go do some emergency childcare for my brother. Spending the morning chasing a toddler round the park might not have seemed sensible given the state of my spine (have I mentioned that I’ve shot my back?). But the mental health benefits of spending time with my nephew will have fed through to my physical health too. And I didn’t half batter into my work later in the day courtesy of the dose of joy delivered by being around my carefree nephew.
And as lockdown starts to ease it’s important that working dads do take time for themselves and time to reflect. This week saw the anniversary of the first lockdown kicking in. And what a year it’s been. Just getting here is an achievement whether you kept your job, lost your job, spent the time furloughed, became an ace home school teacher, lost your temper more than you’d like, split up with your partner or appreciate her more now you’ve spent a year seeing exactly how much she does around the house. Take a moment to appreciate that achievement.
The media may be obsessed with pubs and shops opening. What will really make a difference is the valve being released on the pressure cooker atmosphere we’ve all lived under for over a year. That’s what working dads and their families will welcome.
The coronavirus crisis still has some way to run. As does my back injury.
Even if the physio I’m booked in to see works wonders my back will always be susceptible to snapping again in future. I’ll be inching towards normality. And I’ll have to make long term changes to prevent future injury but it’ll be better for me in the long term and there will be many positives to take from that. Flexibility will be key. I don’t think I need to spell out the parallels.
Fundamentally, it’s going to get easier from here on in.
Well done working dads for getting this far.