My working week now starts on a Tuesday. So Monday this week was spent racing around a climbing frame and down slides with my daughter Cora. We don’t often get to spend time just the two of us. But when we do, she usually brings out the 5 year old in me. Last Monday, when school was still in session, I spent my Monday hiking in the Peak District before being there at the school gates bang on time to pick Cora up. We walked back from school in the sun, Cora hustling me for the various snacks she insists I collect her with.
After a brief initial dabble just after Cora was born, I reverted to type and went back to working full time 5 days a week. I had asked my previous employer if I could work 4 days, but it wasn’t really entertained and I didn’t feel like I could revisit it. So I let it slide, even though I’d had a glimpse of the benefits.
During the last few years of life, a lot has changed for everyone
In addition to the demands of parenting (incessant, demanding, ever changing…), we’ve experienced a house move and relocation, the loss of a parent and elderly relatives, and the weird isolation of the global pandemic.
Bereavement is probably the most intense of those things, a process that takes time and seems to shift in form and feeling as it evolves. Work was one of the few constants during this time and something I focused on to the detriment of other things. Particularly during my Dad’s all too brief illness and passing, work was a ‘welcome distraction’ that conveniently got in the way of me processing and making sense of what was going on. It became a slightly unhealthy relationship if truth be told.
Counselling helped me get a handle on many things, making more sense of some of the coping mechanisms that materialised during this time and helping me understand what I needed. I wasn’t always the best person to be around during this time (understatement of the decade) and I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a particularly great Dad. My priorities were so often out of whack, with the wrong things coming first and my anxieties and stress often spilling over. But counselling made it clear just how important it was to make time for me, taking time for the things that energise me and make me happy.
The problem as most working parents know is that there just isn’t the time…
When a new job opportunity reared its head, I asked the same question I’d asked to my last 2 employers – “are you open to me working a 4 day week” and was delighted when my now manager didn’t bat an eyelid and said how important flexible working is to the business. There were a few details to iron out, but it was never looked at as an inconvenience or oddity. They were nothing but accommodating and supportive. This was just a normal thing for a potential new starter to ask.
After the trials and tribulations of the last few years, this change in my working situation has been pretty revelatory. I feel re-energised and excited about work again. When Tuesday rolls around, I’m genuinely relishing the prospect of getting stuck in, regardless of what may come my way. I feel incredibly positive about the company I’ve joined, which has demonstrated to me from the outset how they support and care about their staff. And I have a 3 day weekend, every week… Result! That bonus day is time for me to recharge, do odd jobs, exercise, think and relax. It’s an absolute gift and one that I think everyone should consider. Some of my best thinking for work happens on my day of peace. The company wins too! Though admittedly not so much when that Monday is spent in a Stockport Soft Play.