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Richard Cahill describes his struggle to find part-time work with prospects so he could be the main carer of his children.
I’m writing this at the end of a rather transformative period in my life. To quote FatBoySlim: “We’ve come a long, long way together, Through the hard times and the good…”
For those of you unfamiliar with my story, and me, it goes along the lines of this. I, a semi-successful tax accountant with about 12 years of experience, and my very much more successful wife, start a family in 2012. Not much changes in terms of work to accommodate the new child, but full-time nursery hours help. Then, in 2015, our second child comes along. The hard times were about to begin.
At a very early stage in my wife’s pregnancy, I suggested to my employer that I wished to take extended paternity leave (something I had been unaware of in pregnancy number one) and started planning to take about five months of leave after my wife returned to her work following her maternity leave.
During the time of trying to arrange this leave, my employer was not as enlightened as I would have liked them to be and made the whole process much more difficult and stressful than it needed to be. On my return from leave in Spring 2016, I was made to feel less than welcome.
With our eldest about to start school in the autumn of 2016, my wife and I agreed that we needed to start planning a change to our lives to ensure that one of us was around for the kids. Going through all the options, we decided that it was best for everyone if I took on the role of being there for the kids and thought that the transition would be easy.
I moved on from the employer who I was with and searched for part-time, flexible tax work to allow me to take on my role as main carer for the children. Through this process I started to get questions like “Why isn’t your wife picking up the kids from school?”
Employers did not take my request for part-time work seriously, making me feel belittled at interviews when the concept was raised. Part-time jobs that I applied for were offered to me, but on full-time hours. Others queried my desire for part-time work and suggested that, being a man, I would have too much ambition for the role on offer.
I know a good number of women who have left high-flying roles for much lesser ones, purely to ensure that they are there for their kids.
My female friends were delighted to hear that discrimination in this form was alive and well and that men were suffering the same issues that they had encountered for years.
These were tough times for my ever-supportive wife and me. I did, after about a year of searching, get a lucky break. In the summer of 2017 I started a role within the Civil Service. I had raised my need to work part time and flexibly early on with them and that was fine. The good times were about to come.
After an initial posting in the Home Office I was encouraged to apply for the Civil Service FastStream – the leadership programme – and after a long application process, I found out that I was successful. A whole new career was starting for me, beginning in Autumn 2018 – it had taken me over two years to transition completely from a role where I could see no future as a working dad to one where being an employee and being there for my kids were comfortably intertwined.
It’s important to me that women, after becoming mums, don’t feel that that is game over for their careers. We encourage women to educate themselves, push themselves in their careers, but there remains this residual element within society that feel that when kids come along, the role of the woman is still in the house and their careers should suffer. This serves no purpose.
We need to encourage everyone, irrespective of age, gender or any other defining feature, to work in a way that suits them. To get to a stage where gender equality isn’t just an aim, but where gender neutrality in the workplace is a practical realisation, we need men to step up and take on roles that allow the household to function. Workingdads.co.uk can be a part of that. So, to finish off where we started, when it comes to having kids: “I have to celebrate you baby, I have to praise you like I should.”