Working fathers are frequently reducing their hours or taking on a less stressful role in order to balance their work and family lives, a new study has found.
According to the charity Working Families, a third of fathers they surveyed said they would take a pay cut in order to be more involved in their children’s lives and as many again said they felt burnt out trying to juggle work and parental responsibilities.
BBC audiences have been sharing their experiences about how they cope.
Gavin D’Souza, Mumbai, India
“I worked as a sound engineer for six or seven days-a-week for ten years, with no specific work times, no overtime and no extra pay. That’s just how the industry works.
“On top of that I had to get home early so my wife Kim could go to work in the evenings, she had to work so we could pay the rent on the house.
“A couple of months ago I had to quit my job because I was asked to to work evenings too, and evenings are the only time I get with my family.
“I quickly got another job but things are even worse. This new job has no holidays and no regular working hours at all.
“I have had numerous opportunities to work abroad but I declined them so I could be a part of my daughter’s life as she grows up.
“I’ve decided to quit my new job, and today after just two months I’m leaving.
“Now I’m looking to start a business where I can spend more time with my family.”
Jessica and Dan Shuttleworth, Coventry, UK
Jessica: “My husband and I made the decision when our son was born that I should work full time and he would work part time and be the stay-at-home parent. This is because, as a woman, I get far more rights as a working mother than he would as a working father.
“I am entitled to flexible working and have more legal rights. I work 36 hours a week and he works between 16 and 18, split over a Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon which means we are at home together on a Saturday and our son only has to go to a nursery for one afternoon a week.
“It’s been eight months and it’s working so far. Dan is happy because he is at home with our son and also has a job so he feels like he is contributing to our income and Louis (our son) is happy because he has a parent at home during the week.
“We earn enough to get by and get no help from the state with our son other than child benefit.”
Tamas, Szekesfehervar, Hungary
“In my role, it’s really hard to find a healthy work-life-balance. In a lot of companies you will get benefits, such as salary increase based on the effort you invest into your job. If you are not focused on your career, then you will get no increase or not the amount that would be needed.
“If you are focused just on your career you will miss beautiful moments with your child.
“If you would like to spend more time taking care of your child, you have to work hard. Then it becomes a circle, like an infinite loop, that you cannot close.
“Some people advise to either not work that hard or to move to another company, but this is nonsense. Why? Because your family needs money. More money comes from higher appreciation at work. This comes from more hard work. However, it will also reduce the time you have for your family.
“In addition, the parental leave we have here in Hungary is near to nothing. We get two days of parental leave per year per child, which is not enough. Salary increases are also not a trend here, at least not in my case.”
Sean Fleming, Reading, UK
“I jumped off the career ladder about five or six years ago – a decision taken with my wife to effectively swap roles; she’d worked part-time since the first of our two sons was born.
“She wanted to get back to her career, and I was painfully aware of missing out on being around my boys. We had enough cash to fall back on that my not working for a while wouldn’t cause problems and then I started working part-time from home as a writer.
“There are a lot of unexpected barriers and challenges when you’re a stay-at-home dad – they almost all boil down to other people’s attitudes.
“When the time came that I wanted to get back to work I met some almost hostile responses. Many people struggled to accept that a man would want to spend more time at home with his kids for a while.
“I asked a few of them ‘would you be so negative in the face of a woman returning to work after a prolonged child-related career break?’ The answer was always ‘no’ and was often followed by an uncomfortable acceptance that they were regarding me differently solely because of my gender.
“It’s a real eye-opener into tacit acceptance of gender-defined roles in society. That’s something facing both men and women and it needs to change.
“These days I work as a copywriter for a marketing agency. I spend three days in the office and two days at home. It feels like a good balance. But it’s important to accept that balance comes at a cost.
“I earn about a third less than I did about six years ago and half what I might be earning had I stayed on the career ladder. But it’s definitely been worth it.”
Julian Wallond, Surrey, UK
“Nearly three years ago I changed jobs. I took a pay cut purely for the reason of getting a better work-life balance and importantly to spend more time with my two kids. It is a move that I have not regretted.
“Previously the stress levels I was working under were making me ill. The previous job also was further away from home, so I was spending between three-and-a-half to four hours travelling every day.
“My wife and I both still work full time – we could not afford the mortgage otherwise. Life is still a struggle, but we get by.
“The family have breakfast together every morning now. I can now see that my kids leave home to get on the bus to school before I travel to work. I work one day a week from home and that also is invaluable.
“It means I can help with things like getting the kids to and from after-school activities – both my children are members of the local swimming club and train for around 10 hours a week.
“Family is so much more important than a career. My new employer, Virgin Media, has been good to me.”
Casey Kelso, Berlin, Germany
“I have struggled with this for many years, choosing to be paid at 80% while working 100%. I forego a larger salary for the right to look my colleagues in the eye when I’m leaving early two afternoons a week to meet the school bus.
“Yet as a manager, my commitment and my ability to manage has been called into question a few times. ‘Why don’t you get an au pair?’ I’ve been asked. Or ‘why don’t you ask your wife to work less?’
“As a man, I know the expectations on men can be tough when we want to step out of a stereotype.”
Graham Bevan, Dursley, UK, formerly of Halifax, Canada
“I think this is a very important area for the UK to improve. My daughter was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Canadian law is much more even-handed.
“At the time my wife was self-employed and so I was able to take our entire allocation of parental leave. This allowed me to be there full time for my daughter for the first eight months of her life.
“I also had the great fortune to be working for a very enlightened employer whose policy topped up my state allowance to 95% of my salary.
“To say this was the most important and precious time of my life is an understatement. It allowed my wife and I to fully share the role of parenting and I feel we are much stronger as a family as a result.
“As a middle manager I was the first man to take advantage of this at my job and contrary to complaining and worrying about how they would cope, my bosses were more concerned with baby showers. I felt totally supported.
“What did the employer get out of this? A whole lot of loyalty and an employee that worked hard happily, who dealt with personnel issues with compassion and empathy and a very low staff turnover rate. All intangible I know, but as an employer, if you go to bat for your employees, they will do the same for you.”
Anonymous, Middle East
“Living and working in the Middle East has posed even larger issues with work-life balance.
“With the constant drive to meet deadlines, as well as meeting client expectations, work-life balance is generally not taken into account by bosses.
“Due to ensuring that the clients are kept happy and that revenue is maximised, it is rare that I and a lot of others in this part of the world are allowed to take more than two weeks leave at a time, even though by law we are entitled to four weeks a year paid vacation.
“Due to the excessive client expectations, six-day working weeks are the norm so getting time to spend with your family is far and few between, to the extent that I will pull a sickie if I know my kid, wife or both have an impromptu day off (my wife is a teacher and my kid is in nursery).
“I’m constantly looking for work outside the Middle East that offers a better working schedule so I can spend time with my family.”
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