Working dads are particularly hit by ‘divorce grief’ in the event of a relationship...read more
Ethan initially turned to flexible working to smooth his gender transition but it proved valuable when he became a dad too
Ethan Salathiel admits that he initially took on more of the childcare for his daughter to help his wife be a model working mum. But in the process he became something of a role model working dad.
Wife Emily returned to work nine months after daughter Imogen was born, he explains. “She wanted to be a role model for other working mums, as a feminist I wanted to support that.”
Initially he took over the childcare solo for one day a week while Emily settled back into work. The couple were keen to model equal parenting the rest of the time. “After a few months I loved it so much that I carried on. I had Imogen on my own one day a week for about three years. Imogen and I had such quality time together.”
In fact Ethan’s story demonstrates a fascinating journey. For example he initially embraced flexible working to support his gender transition. Although the City bank he worked for had been supportive through the transition process he started his own business to get the flexible working he needed at the time. But that meant that when Imogen came along four years ago flexible working was already baked into his outlook.
And while clearly transitioning was a major life event Ethan also cites the time he took to be a dad as formative. “It was really the making of me as a person. I became more patient and understanding and, at the same time, I developed more respect for parents out there because it isn’t easy some days! I developed even more belief in the importance of equal parenting. My wife and I try to role-model anti-stereotypical behaviour to challenge the status-quo for our children.”
Many dads will recognise Ethan’s experience of drawing boundaries and adapting to being the primary caregiver. “Emily and I have different ways of doing things,” he smiles. “In the beginning Imogen missed her mummy. I would try to do too much, to be the superdad dashing from soft play to trampoline sessions on the one day I had her. But of course that would just result in Imogen having a meltdown. I certainly learnt to be a bit more relaxed, and that’s been helpful in lockdown with no option to go to soft play or trampolining!”
He still collects Imogen from nursery some days and he says he’s barely missed a single bathtime with her. He’s convinced the time they’ve spent together has given he and Imogen a closer relationship and contributed to her growing up confident and well-rounded.
Now he’s got to do it all again. Lockdown baby Zachary was born six months ago.
Ethan knew he wanted to be a dad shortly after marrying Emily when a family member described them as ‘two mums’ to their cat. “That triggered something,” he explained. “I knew I couldn’t be a mother. I wanted to be a parent but a father not a mother.” The couple were encouraged on a trip to the Alternative Parenting Show to pursue parenthood. And they have been through a number of rounds of IVF – an experience many parents will recognise as draining financially and emotionally. He’s keen children are aware of the many models of parenting and different family dynamics they’ll likely encounter.
Ethan now runs ‘workplace consultancy firm Bound Coaching & Behavioural Change, where he continues to value work life balance. He said, “Role modelling is so important. I challenge the people I work alongside not to work weekends. If I get an email that I see has been sent late in the evening I will ask the person if they had to send it then or if it could’ve waited until office hours.
“If you log on early, make sure you take that time off at the end of the day. You shouldn’t have to apologise for taking a good hour or hour and a half for lunch. It’s not good for your mental health to be always on.”
As a former City banker Ethan reckons that industry is more family friendly than it used to be. But it still has some way to go. He’s convinced his current set up is the way to go. He said, “Your relationships are better and you’re more productive when you’re a well-rounded family man.”