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Coach and podcaster Ayesha Murray explains how working dads telling stories about their lives can drive change for everyone
Ayesha Murray runs her own coaching business aimed at helping working parents. She recently started a podcast for parents to share their experiences. When she found a slew of working dads coming forward to talk it started her thinking about the way men telling their stories can normalise difference and drive change
In my role as a coach and as host of The Parent Equation podcast, I’ve had the privilege to have conversations with working parents from all walks of life, across various industries, all with differing working patterns and family set ups. Each person has had a unique story to tell and every story is inspiring, insightful and will certainly touch someone in some way.
When I first reached out to the working parent community to find guests for the launch of the podcast last year, I found the majority of interest came from working mums, keen to share their stories of bringing up a family while trying to keep their careers on track. I’ve always found that women are more comfortable sharing their experiences, which is why the majority of my coaching clients are women. So this didn’t come as a surprise to me and I didn’t really question why more working dads weren’t coming forward.
Then, through the power of LinkedIn, and the impact of lockdown, I started connecting with more and more working dads, most of whom were more than happy to share their stories and the inner workings of their family set up (one of them being the editor of this very website, James Millar). So I found myself in the fortunate position of having a fully booked schedule, and a plethora of inspirational, insightful conversations to look forward to. A schedule which was now very much skewed towards working dads.
And then it struck me. The dads now coming forward all had a very specific mission in common and that was campaigning for gender equality, standing up for the rights of fathers and urging employers to step up and support parents in the workplace. What’s more, they had all either made a financial and practical decision to be the primary carers for their children, or were solo dads.
These conversations were incredibly eye-opening for me. I realised that their campaign to make life better for working dads went hand in hand with making life better for working mums and families overall. After all, if dads are afforded more flexibility (not just lip service) and are able to choose a different path without fear of judgement or reprisal, then surely the family dynamic as a whole can only benefit?
But these fathers are still in the minority, as far as my experience goes. Why are men still afraid of speaking up? Is there still an inherent fear of appearing vulnerable or weak, of feeling like they can’t be the bedrock of the family if they choose a different path?
How can we encourage men, and women, to champion our parental rights by coming forward and sharing our stories?
As parents, we are well versed in the art of storytelling. Not just those written by others, but also in the world we create for our children. Stories connect us to others, by exposing our authentic selves. And when we tell our story, it can be surprisingly cathartic. As our story unfolds, whether written down or spoken, we inevitably have moments of clarity about ourselves and our situation that perhaps would have been buried otherwise. We realise that we’re in the same boat as many others and so feel less isolated and less afraid to ask for help. You’ll always find that people are glad you shared, are genuinely interested in what you have to say and want to support you or offer advice.
And when that story brings us together with others who share the same goals, the same passions, the same causes, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when the power of many voices can really make a difference. That’s when the changes that we all want to see start to gain momentum – true flexible working, equality at home and in the workplace and respect for the choices that we make as working parents.
So I’ll end with a rallying call to all working parents; don’t accept the status quo if you believe your life would be better if things were different. Because things can be different if we all have the courage to speak up.