Archive for December, 2010

The 4 Day Week Dad

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Last year at around this time, as my wife ended her maternity leave and went back to work, I made a fairly big decision. I decided to reduce my working week to four days.

I made the decision for a variety of reasons. The first was an entirely selfish one. I didn’t want to be the dad who missed his daughter’s formative years due to work. I was strongly of the opinion that I didn’t want to get to old age and regret not spending more time with my children as they grew up.

The second reason was to avoid that horrible cliche of the woman going back to work part time and man being the “breadwinner”. Yuck! We wanted to share the childcare as equally as possible. So we decided to both go part time and see how it went.

I was fortunate in that my employers were very flexible. I was actually moving jobs at the time, and both old and new employer were very understanding of my wishes. So, I think my main message to other dads here is that employers are more amenable than you expect. To be in the position of being able to ask a potential new employer to work part time, when the job was not advertised as such and get the result you want is a great feeling. We’re maybe slightly worse off financially that we might have been, but it’s not impinging hugely as we still have two salaries.

It has certainly been an adjustment. The first few months took a fair bit of getting used to. My daughter was about 9 months old then, and I tended to stay at home and just enjoy spending time with her. It took a while to get into the habit of going out and about, and being more proactive doing things. But over time I’ve developed a repertoire of fun places to visit and activities to keep my daughter amused, from sock puppets to a trip to the local farm shop and restaurant.

Balancing work is a certain art. It’s very tempting to let it spill over into the 5th day or the odd bit of evening. So one of the skills to develop is an iron will to avoid opening work email, tricky when you’re somebody who takes their job seriously. Made harder for me as I chose Tuesday as my day with my daughter and so there’s a stop-start to the week that requires me to structure certain bits of work dependent on others more carefully.

Overall the experience of being a dad with some more time to spend with my daughter has been excellent and I don’t regret a moment of it!

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