09 Mar 2015

A question about : Working with a young family

Hi,

Since having a child, I have found it more and more difficult to juggle the demands of having a family life and having a job. It seems to me that increasingly I have to choose between having a job or seeing my child.

As a baby, she goes to bed at 6:30, asleep by 7 and I would love to see her from 5pm every day so I have a good relationship with her and am not just a weekend dad. But increasingly, it seems I am being expected to work past 5pm and not get home until 6:30/7, which means I miss out on seeing my daughter.

I can see a lot of the policies are geared up to help working mums, but as a dad I find I am frowned upon or seen as weak if I request help for having time to spend with my family. In my profession (Accountancy) it is almost impossible to be able to leave at a time in order to see my family, and I get the impression that most employers of accountants would have the same view. My thoughts have always been that if someone wants me to choose between work & home, then my homelife will always win. Practically though I need a job to be able to pay bills, so this is easier said than done. This has got me thinking of maybe changing careers to a more family friendly one, but then I would have to take a big pay drop which is something we as a family can't afford. Plus I have no idea what career I can get into which is family friendly, let alone being able to get into it.

Does anyone have any wise words?
Has anyone else been in this situation and what did you do?
Any help / comments welcome!

Best answers:

  • I will be following this thread with interest, as I am pregnant and my husband might soon find himself in the same situation as you. He also thinks it would be frowned upon if he took additional paternity leave.
    Would your employer offer flexible hrs, i.e. If you started earlier some days and left earlier, and vice versa? So you could have either the morning or evening with your child?
  • Can you adjust your routine to put your little one to bed later? My hubby works similar hours and our baby goes to bed at 9ish to allow daddy to help with the bath etc
  • I have spoken to my employers about my hours and whilst they were willing to help where possible, the answer was that I was required to complete whatever hours needed to complete the job. So they could not guarantee what time I could be home by or even what time I was required to be there in the morning. From what I see, there is a long hours culture where if you leave before 6, you are seen to not have enough work. The ideal solution would be to find an employer who is more open to someone with a family, but every agency I speak to say that those jobs simply do not exist.
    With changing baby's routine I am not sure it is a good idea. All the advice I read about bringing up babies is that they should have a settled routine with set hours - I would hate to change the routine, have her going to bed later and then being grumpy all day long or not developing as she should. Plus when I do work later, I am too tired to give any proper attention to my daughter.
    The more a think about it, the more depressing it gets as I see women in general have a glass ceiling that employers assume they want kids and so are not promoted or given extra work, but on the flip side, employers (generally) assume that men want to have good careers and so make no provisions for people like me who generally could not give a stuff about a career and just want a job and enough time to spend with the family.
  • Baby going to bed at 6.30pm is very, very early. Most office hours finish at 5pm or 5.30pm, and then there is the commute home. I feel the sensible option is to adjust the bedtime routine.
    Also look at your workload objectively. Why are you constantly being asked to complete tasks by the end of the day at short notice?
    You are posting here at nearly 9am. Can you not start work earlier in the mornings?
  • I don't think 6 is early bedtime. That was my sons bedtime up to the age of five. He'd sleep twelve hours or more solidly so obviously needed it and seemed happier and healthier than friends kids the same age who were still going strong at 11pm lol. My husband often had to work late and just made up for it at weekends with lots of time with our son.
    If the OP works til 9 on a regular basis then rolling bedtime back by an hour isn't going to help anyway. The OP maybe needs to look at how he schedules his work and maybe start earlier so everything else is done so a late notice assignment isn't a total disaster and late nights at work decrease. May not be able to lose them completely but to a degree that's the price we all pay for a job that gives a good standard of living to our children.
    I don't think the issue is a gender one more the sort of company he's employed by. Some companies genuinely believe in a life work balance and offer more family friendly work practices like flexitime . Maybe finding a job with a company with a better attitude is the long term solution........ Or even self employment.
  • Employers like that do exist, have you looked at small private accountancy firms?
    One of my relatives is an accountant with his own small practice, 4-5 employees, he's a family man himself who likes to spend time with his children and doesn't work past 5pm unless absolutely necessary, and will stay himself rather than make one of his employees stay.
    It might mean a drop in wages if your getting a large corporate salary but with more time at home and less commuting it sounds just what you need.
  • What time does your baby wake? Would it be possible for you to get up earlier and spend time with her then?
    If you are getting home just before her bedtime, I don't think it would hurt her routine too much if she waited till you get home so you could bath her and put her to bed, story etc. Yes you would have to do this as soon as you walked in the door but it would mean you got some special time with her every evening and give your wife a little break if you took on this responsibility.
    Remember as well once she gets older she will be staying up later.
  • I'm a mechanic and so my hours tended be 8-6 and then the garage I worked for also offered calls out, as part of my role I worked with apprentices. At this time my youngest was five, I took a year off when he came to me (adopted), as he was at school this solved a lot of childcare issues financially, but generally in the week when he was awake I was at work.
    Things needed to change but I couldn't afford to work part time as I was a single parent, when my son had been in year 1 for about three weeks we had two more apprentices and so three days a week I was purely working with apprentices and teaching them various aspects of mechanics etc. It then became a bit mundane to be working on cars just to solve problems, so I started looking into whether or not it was possible to teach vehicle mechanics full time and it was.
    I had a good look around and did some research, I also approached the college who supplied our apprentices and spoke to them to see if they could aid me with the options available, then nothing happened for a few weeks. I then had a phone call from the college as they intended to run a vehicle mechanics course where students would attend college for 2.5 days and a garage for 2.5 days. Despite having no formal qualifications in education my experience in the subject and working with apprentices for the previous three years led to me eventually gaining employment with them and during my first year they funded my training so I am now also qualified to teach.
    While still fairly long hours this gave me the luxury of leaving college at 4pm to pick my son up from school, play with him, do homework, bath etc and then when he was in bed I could continue with my work. This is a role I am still in, however I now teach at a school with a sixth form, this is part time at the moment but I will be full time in September, so I still have the luxury of being able to do a lot of work in my own time when my daughter is in bed, our youngest is quite poorly and in hospital and as he is mainly sleeping sometimes I even do work while I'm with him.
  • Its a difficult one. Both my OH and I are accountants (working in industry rather than practice) and we both work full time (our DD is 3). The way its worked for us (so far) is I have ended up in a less demanding job than I was doing before we had our DD. This generally means my office time is spent doing a 9-5.15, whilst our daughter is in nursery. My OH's office hours can easily be until 6.30, but by that time he always tries to come home so we can have dinner/family time. Bedtime for our daughter has always been around 8.00 - 8.30. She gets up around 7.30...so gets 11 hours sleep a night which seems to be ok for her.
    Work-wise my OH generally then has to use his laptop to catch up on work after her bedtime (me less so, but option is there if I have work to do). Both our employers are happy with this, as we still get our work done. Its tiring, and you have to be organised but it generally works pretty well!
  • Been through this in the same profession.
    I used to work it on the basis that I'd be in for 9 and leave when I could get away which with short lunch breaks etc wasn't too bad and I could normally be home by just gone 6:30.
    Part of it is working the home routine to fit around what you need to do - kids are adaptable and even when they are little and need loads of sleep will work to some extent around a slightly later bedtime bearing in mind they will be up again for a feed etc.
    We had little choice anyway as my OH didn't have the energy levels due to health problems to do it all, so I used to get up and have time with the kids until I left for work, and then get home and do what was left of bedtime and stories before sorting our food out. On occasion that meant having a baby amusing themselves on the bathroom floor (having safety checked it!) whilst I had a quick shower, I gave them breakfast 99% of the time to the point that if it was mum they thought it was a novelty (and even now the eldest if he occasionally wants porridge insists I make it as "mum doesn't make it properly" - she does just differently to me!). We still have breakfast as a 3 whilst mum is getting her shower etc - which does lead to some interestingly random breakfast converstations now they are in school and learning various topics - we did rock formations a while back!.
    Also because my OH needed her sleep as much if not more than I did, it was often me that got up to them in the night - again even now they know that I am more likely to get up if they shout in the night.
    To be fair if you are working in practice rather than industry you will be under more pressure to get the chargeable hours on the clock if you want to progress etc, whereas I was more able to control how much I made of the job. However from my experience there is plenty you can make of the home time - kids will until they are 6ish be up and bouncing about far earlier than you'd naturally be so be up with them and make something of that time - which is also when they are fresh and awake and ready to learn rather than winding down at bed time.
  • Assuming you are in full time employment, if you have any, what are your contracted hours? Personally I've been in this situation before and just thought Sod Them, family comes first. They can't sack or discipline you for not working overtime or extra hours. If you have too much work to do in your contracted hours, that's a company staffing issue. OK an hour here or there fair enough, but it should not be the "Norm". Make them aware you have a young family and a this time you need to be there for them..
  • Can I just reassure all new mums and dads out there who are worried about the amount of time that they are able to spend with their little children.
    When we started our family in 1966, it was the norm for mothers to leave work when pregnant (11 weeks before, I seem to remember was when maternity benefit kicked in) and fathers were not particularly hands-on. My OH was commuting to work - would leave at 7.30, get home about 7.30, and I was the one who had most of the pleasure (and aggravation) of looking after the little ones. At first, babies were tucked up by 6.30 - but would have a late evening feed - which daddy would always give - and also the very early morning feed would be given with all three - then four, then five of us snuggled in bed together.
    As they grew up, bathtime was held up until Daddy was home - he would do baths whilst I cooked dinner, then we'd both do the bedtime story.
    Weekends he was very much hands-on - as were most of the other dads that we knew - families and friends.
    When I went back to work, I worked locally and so it was down to me to get them off to school - and when he changed jobs and started working locally it really did upset the equilibrium for the first few weeks!
    What I am rambling on about here is that now, my children have very fond memories of their dad making up games in the bath, his bedtime stories - which they are now recounting to their children - so please don't worry about the impact working all hours has on your children - its the quality of time that matters, not the quantity.
    Regards and respect to all parents of little ones who are struggling work/family life balance - its not easy.
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