Han-Son is the Founder of DaddiLife – the UK’s leading platform for millennial fathers with over 140,000 dads in the community. He is a campaigner for flexible work for dads, and is driving the change for new dads at work through the Dads at Work hub. We spoke to Han-Son about his experience of very first day of school with his son.

This week was the very first time my son has gone to Primary school, and while there’s much out there written about a mum’s journey of ups and downs on the big school day, I’m not sure there has been as much from a dad’s perspective – so here I go!

My son’s first day at Primary was actually this week, and it was a far more emotional affair than I had expected. The night before, getting his little uniform ready, reminded me about my own first day at Primary school (many more years ago than I’d care to admit!), and how that just didn’t seem that long ago.

On the morning itself, I got up that little bit earlier to make sure we had enough time to get a hearty breakfast in him, get him changed and then take approximately 500 photos of him in his school uniform in the space of 5 minutes. But seeing him in that full uniform for the first time did bring a little tear to the eye. I just couldn’t believe he was at this stage. It seemed literally 5 minutes ago that I was bringing him home from hospital, changing his nappies, doing counting with him, cooking for him, having our first bath times together, buying the first pajamas, falling asleep in my arms.

And now all of those moments just seemed to wrap themselves into a neat package of emotion – as neat as those first day school trousers. I’m not sure the second days will be as neat…

Making school work, with work

One of the great things about the day was also the understanding from work, and a full appreciation of the flexibility needed that day. For many modern day dads it’ll be a day that would have been planned with their respective work colleagues and managers for a little while.

But just how far does that flexibility go? One day? More? Or actually will back to school trigger something else in modern day dads – and be the tipping point for looking at an entirely different, more flexible working arrangement?

Involvement at school and beyond | The need to re-think flexibility at work

I am very much a co-parent. I do half of all the pick-ups, drop offs, and day to day parental tasks, and flexibility for me has been all about creating the right schedule around child-care and the day job. It’s a constant conversation and partnership with mum too. I’ve been able to make it work by keeping my workplace informed at all times, but I’m always conscious that this isn’t always possible elsewhere.

Recent research by DaddiLife, in association with Deloitte, showed the scale of the issue. In an extensive research programme with over 2,000 working millennial fathers, the research found that just over 1 in 2 dads believed they were treated “equally to mums” when it came to flexible working. I know a number of mums who would say their workplaces haven’t got it figured out for mums either, which just goes to highlight the issues even further.

The modern day reality is that dads are looking for more flexibility, so that they can get closer to real co-parenting, in fact:

  • 63% of new dads at work have requested a change in working pattern since becoming a father. 14% of millennial dads have requested to work from home between 1-2 days per week, but less than 1 in 5 of those dads (19%) are granted it.
  • Nearly 40% of dads have requested a change in working hours with 44% of them being unsuccessful.
  • Only 56% believed that fathers were treated equally to mothers in their workplaces.
  • 45% of working fathers regularly experienced tension from their employer when trying to balance work and family life demonstrating a growing disconnect between home and workplace. 39% regularly experience tension from colleagues.     

You can read the full research report ‘The Millennial Dad at Work’ here

The path ahead

Modern day fathers want an entirely different sort of work/life balance than what may have been thought of as the norm decades ago. They are more involved, more active as parents and are they want to be there for their children’s education as well as the best things to do.

Speaking from personal experience, I was very lucky that I had a boss, who when my son was going to Nursery for the first time, actually moved a new client pitch because of it. That for me was real leadership, and something I’ll never forget.

So if modern day dads are striving to be more present, how can we start to make sure that dads have the right flexibility at work, and one that ultimately leads to the level of modern day parenting they want?

Here are the three pieces of advice I would offer to parents looking for greater flexibility:

  1. Talk about it: More and more dads are requesting different forms of flexibility, but not all are talking about it regularly to their colleagues and managers. This needs to change.
  2. Productive: Show and prove why flexibility at work isn’t the cliched view of ‘doing less’, but is actually much, much more productive.
  3. Integrate the things you do with your little chunks of flexible work with personal development goals – ones that ultimately benefit the family and workplace!

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Posted by:Camilla Butler

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