A couple of little incidents got our editor thinking about how little steps can effect big change
We’re big on role modelling at workingdads.co.uk. Mainly because it’s been shown to have a big impact on behaviour. Every dad we’ve spoken to who took Shared Parental Leave was inspired to do so by the example of someone else – a friend, relative or colleague. And you only have to look at how Aviva have rolled out extended paternity leave to see that the game changer was not introducing the policy but normalising it and sharing case studies of dads that used it.
But you don’t have to model a big change to have an impact.
I’ve been thinking about this courtesy of Tori Amos and Easter eggs. Let me explain.
First of all, we have an odd way of opening Easter eggs in our house. We smash them off our foreheads.
A young relative of mine introduced my children to this novel, and actually fairly smart, way of breaking the chocolate. Soon everyone in our house was doing it. And via videos on social media of the ritual every year we’ve spread it to other families. My Facebook feed was full of them at the weekend.
I’m not saying it’s the sort of behaviour I’m most proud of role modelling. But it shows how one person can get many more to do things differently.
And the other inspiration was Tori Amos. I’ve recommended before that dads ought to take some time for themselves by putting together playlists. It’s a good way of wallowing in your favourite music and carving out time for your own self care. Recently I was reminded of the music of Tori Amos. I’ve always had a soft spot for female singer songwriters from Janis Ian and Carly Simon through to Beth Orton and Taylor Swift. I pulled together a playlist of my favourite Tori Amos songs. (Generally the saddest ones like Winter and 1000 Oceans, I’ve no time for that dancey aberration Professional Widow).
The title I gave this playlist was not Tori Amos. I substituted a slightly ruder word for her surname. Not (just) because I’m puerile. But because that’s how I’ve referred to her ever since I sat next to Sally Wilson in fifth form English and that’s what Sally used to call her.
Nearly 30 years since I was in that English class I’m still calling Tori Amos by a different name because it’s silly and, yes, puerile and it reminds me of being young I guess.
But my point is that I haven’t seen Sally Wilson in over a quarter of a century. Sorry, Sally, but I don’t even give you much thought. Except for when Tori Amos comes on the radio. Or I decide to make a playlist of her songs. Something fleeting and unimportant has had a remarkable longevity.
And that’s why role modelling matters. If you, as a working dad, walk away from your workplace on time because you’ve got to collect your child from nursery. Or if you curtail a Zoom meeting because it’s time to get the kids tea on, these things might seem unimportant. And yet they can, and most likely will, leave an impression with someone.
A little step can influence many people for a long time.
That’s how we make change. Everyone role modelling better ways of working and living. It doesn’t have to be a big statement. But we all impact others around us through our behaviour and the example we set. If we’re aware of that we can use it for good, one tiny change at a time.