To the Edinburgh Festival (hence radio silence on the blog front for the last few weeks),...read more
Editor James Millar writes about why workingdads.co.uk is for people like you and why he wants to hear your stories
Hello seems the best place to start.
I’m the new editor of workingdads.co.uk and I want to introduce myself so it seems sensible to take inspiration from Lionel Richie, or Adele, depends on your vintage.
But in mental health awareness week I want to stop and consider the word ‘hello’ a bit more. It can be a powerful tool in tackling mental health issues and it can be a difficult word for men in particular to say. We’re not trained to make contact like that.
But since I’ve said (written) it now let me explain who I am, what I want to do with workingdads.co.uk and what we can achieve together. And I’ll come back to mental health and where that might fit in a bit later.
Last year I wrote a book called Dads Don’t Babysit. (Given I literally wrote the book on the topic of working dads I knew when I applied that it would be super embarrassing if I didn’t get this gig.)
The book is all about why fathers should do more parenting – men live longer, women earn more, kids are smarter essentially – and the barriers we face to achieving the work-life balance we want. And the polling evidence shows that for more and more men the 9 to 5 isn’t working.
But there are still powerful cultural cues that say men should be the breadwinners, that parenting is best left to women either because they are biologically better at it or because it’s ‘women’s work’.
And there are clear barriers to men getting involved with their own families – paternity leave is woefully short, shared parental leave is pathetically underfunded and flexible working requests from men are more likely to be turned down than those submitted by women.
The last of those goes to the heart of the problem. That’s not evidence that women have it better than men – they are granted flexible working because they are expected to do the childcare and that expectation and its practical manifestations hold women’s careers back.
The flip side is that men don’t get to spend time with their kids and they come to resent their work and feel increasingly trapped and miserable. Everyone loses.
But workingdads.co.uk has started up because we are at a moment of change. And hopefully we can seize it and drive it on.
The site has loads of jobs that are part-time or flexible and offer some combination of satisfaction, intellectual stretch and professional fulfilment. Just not at the expense of that other job: dad.
In these turbulent times smart bosses know they need to tap in to that pool of talent that has much to give but for whom work and life are balanced not forced to fit round each other in some ugly and unsatisfying way.
We’ll help employers and employees navigate the changing landscape and maximise its opportunities.
We’ll put the spotlight on men who changed their working patterns and flourished personally and professionally. If that’s you, I’d love to hear from you.
We’ll feature blogs from a range of voices from comedians to tax lawyers who will be inspiring, informative and entertaining. (Though I can’t promise every blog will be all three of those things).
We’ll give straight facts about making a change whether that’s how to apply for flexible working or the honest truth about tax returns if you’re thinking of going freelance.
We’ll make the case for longer and better paid paternity leave and boosting shared parental leave and we’ll bring you all the news about those policies and the companies that are already beefing up their parental leave and pay offer.
They know that as we move into the 2020s the top talent is no longer just following the money, it’s asking how work will fit with life not the other way round.
And that’s where mental health awareness week comes in. Because men are aware of their mental health far more than they ever have been before.
And if we define ourselves by our work – it’s not just the Queen that starts conversations by asking ‘what do you do?’ – then our jobs, how we do them, and how they impact family life are an important factor in that.
The evidence shows that engaged fathers enjoy better mental health and better relationships – the two are inextricably linked – and their children are more balanced and happier.
The way to have more engaged fathers is for government and employers to take paternity leave and shared parental leave seriously and to rethink the world of work beyond set hours in a single location and embrace the alternatives technology now allows, essentially working anywhere any time. (Although that brings new challenges around knowing whether and when to switch off, we’ll consider that debate too).
And talking of technology I’m going to make myself available on Facebook to talk about big issues. (Join me for the first time from 7pm on May 20 to talk about mental health and work and fatherhood). And we want to be interactive.
If you think there’s an issue we should be covering then please get in touch. If you’ve information you can bring to a subject share it, if you’ve an opinion on a topic then pile in.
You can comment on any of our stories and I’ll read it, or email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most men work. Most men will be dads. There are loads of us out there and we have much to discuss. I look forward to working together.