James' blog: Less is more
I recently returned to work after a summer of bliss spent looking after my young daughter. The time that I took off work coincided with the end of my wife's maternity leave, and so this is the first time that my wife and I have both had to juggle work commitments with the demands of parenthood.
My first day back at work was horrific. Knowing that I will probably never again have the chance to spend such a long period of time with my daughter was (and still is) heart-breaking, and that feeling was exacerbated by the sense of betrayal I felt at having to leave her in tears at nursery. And then there was the shock of the work itself. To say that I was a little rusty after a few months off would be an understatement: some three months on, I'm still not convinced that my brain has woken up! A few days earlier I had felt as relaxed as I can ever remember feeling. That first day back I ended up staying in the office all night and until 10pm the following evening working on an 'urgent' document which even now, three months later, has not been signed.
My wife works part time in the City and I also managed to persuade my employer to allow me to work part-time, dropping down to four days a week to allow me to look after my daughter one day each week. What this seems to mean, however, is that while I previously used to work seven days a week and get paid for five, I now work seven days a week and only get paid for four. I'm writing this at 11:30pm on a Sunday evening having only just finished work for the week. Although I haven't yet had to go into the office on my day off, this is only because I work until the early hours of the morning on the day that I'm supposed to be off, and then work during that day as well whenever my daughter is asleep.
We work in an industry which is demanding and highly competitive. Our employers always want more from us, and the expectation is that we ourselves will happily accept, or even demand more: more work, more responsibility, more recognition. During my twenties, that was something I was prepared to embrace. As I progress through my thirties, however, and particularly since I started a family, I long for the work pressures to subside. Dare I say it, I would actually just like to stagnate in my role for a while; long enough to catch my breath, get to grips with the changes in my life over the past two years, and take stock of the direction in which I'm heading. The conclusion I'm reaching is that flexible working, of itself, is not enough. What I think most of us parents probably need for a period, as un-ambitious as it might sound, is simply less work!
James is in his early 30s and father to a beautiful one year old girl. He works in the legal profession and took a sabbatical in 2014 when his wife returned to work from maternity leave, to provide childcare and spend the summer with his daughter, before returning to the office at the end of the year.
Category: A Cityfather's Diary