Many working dads were more involved in family life than ever before in 2020. Amy Downes sets out seven lessons all working parents have learned
It’s been quite the year. Here’s seven lessons working parents have learned in 2020.
As much as we love the little darlings, few of us were designed to be at home with our kids all the time. Playing crafts, fetching snacks and that constant noise that seems to radiate from children under 10, all added up to one rather large headache.
There was no escape: no pub to nip off to, no mates to run away with, no football to allow us to disappear off for the day… It was constant parenting and that isn’t easy for anyone!
You know that annoying colleague who always comes and taps you on the shoulder when you’ve got your head down concentrating at your desk? Having a toddler at home is exactly the same; there is no way to get rid of them and they completely ruin your concentration!
As exhausting as it was, though, there was a sense of revolution coming from all our struggles.
2020 was the year we were told we absolutely must work from home (… only if we could, though). While some of us have been doing that for a while, this has been an experiment in flexible working like we’ve never seen before.
Employers were, at last, forced to embrace remote working and to trust staff to be productive away from the office. Overwhelmingly, companies have reported that their fears of people slacking off were unfounded. Big brands like Google, Twitter, Microsoft and more have introduced new ways of working permanently.
When the world stopped, we were able to take our foot off the pedal for a bit. All those things that we had felt so under pressure to get perfect before, could take a step down our massive to-do list. The garden fence that needed fixing, the living room wall that needed painting, the car that needed cleaning. Suddenly we didn’t have to rush to get them finished, because we had all the time in the world.
We learned the most important thing, the thing that had to happen now, was spending time with our family and focusing on the people we love. For the first time, we were able to put ourselves and our families first.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Sadly, our society doesn’t always seem to realise it. But perhaps this will be the year that starts to change.
Surveys have shown that dads are spending more time with their kids and taking on more of the childcare responsibilities. Some have been forced to do so after being furloughed, while others have had more time to devote to their families thanks to no commute and more flexible working hours.
One survey earlier this year showed 20% of dads had to ‘pull a sickie’, because they’d rather lie than admit they want to prioritise their sons or daughters. But surely, after the year we’ve had, this will now change and they will get more support from their employers?
As working parents, we need to put our foot down and say, ‘We demand more flexible working. We’ve proven to you that we can work productively from home, even with the kids being there.’
There are no more excuses.
If I’m being honest, I enjoy a large glass of Pinot at the local pub more than your average 36-year-old lass. So my lack of social life for the last 9 months has been hard going – especially given we went into lockdown on the week of my birthday!
Being able to go to the pub provides a chance to be something other than a parent; to relax and switch off from the daily grind of a routine. A place to escape being ‘mum’ for a few short hours. The chance to speak to another human being, another adult human being.
I shall never again take my nearest beer garden for granted.
The day the government announced we would be allowed to use informal childcare (i.e. send the kids to the grandparents), I may have shed a tear of relief. As my other half drove the kids away from me for the first time in months, I did a dance right there on the doorstep.
Having grandparents, friends, family and neighbours is what gets us through this parenting stuff without going completely insane. So when that was taken away from us earlier this year it was always going to be a challenge. It takes a village to raise a child, so they say, so we must never again feel like we have to battle through it alone.
As parents, things don’t always go to plan. So, we must be ready to change our schedule and come up with different ideas. All of that has prepared us well for 2020: the year that has been full of cancellations and postponements.
This week, more than ever, our patience and emotions have been tested by a late change to the Covid restrictions that mean many of us can no longer see our families. But we’ve become rather skilled at adapting to new rules and making the most of a bad situation.
Whatever you are doing this week, kudos to you for getting through the last 12 months. We are the only generation of parents who have had to deal with something like this and we survived! Surely that’s going to make everything that comes from this point on easier, right?
You can read more of Amy’s thoughts on flexible working and parenthood on her blog www.mumfullofdreams.com