Since becoming a Dad in 2020, it’s been a rollercoaster ride trying to find that elusive balance between parenting and work. I find myself in a small, but hopefully growing, group of part-time working dads with, at minimum, an equal share of responsibilities in parenting and home life. I hope to inspire other fathers to challenge historical norms and to engage in their children’s lives more actively. To do so, I wanted to share my personal experiences, the reasons why I champion part-time working for men and women, and the key challenges I’ve faced along the way.
The days are largely gone where fathers are seen as providers and mothers as primary caregivers. My partner and I always intended to have equal responsibilities as parents, but it’s a stereotype we have to continuously challenge day to day so we don’t default back to the roles society once designed for us. With a lot of focus and a part-time work pattern, I’ve come to understand the significance of being actively involved in my child’s life. Luckily, I work in the HR Search sector, where people’s understanding of flexibility has certainly helped. I’m one of the fortunate ones who at least have a chance of balancing career aspirations with creating lasting memories and playing an equal part in my child’s upbringing. In other sectors and role types, the opportunity to even try and create what I have is more of an uphill struggle.
One of the greatest rewards of being a part-time dad is the ability to achieve fulfilment at both work and at home. Through carefully crafted schedules and a lot of juggling, I am able to dedicate more quality time to my son so I can be present for important milestones, I can get to his important events, and actively engage in everyday routines. Whilst I don’t jump for joy in having to take him to parties, Rugby Tots and nursery open evenings, the sense of fulfilment I experience from watching him in action and building a strong bond is something I’ll always be grateful for.
We had our son right in the middle of the first lockdown and prior to that, my partner and I were both living in Brighton and working in London 4-5 days per week. Covid was absolutely terrible in so many ways, but I have to say, it fundamentally changed the way things would have worked for us as parents. The fact that all organisations had to leverage technology and embrace remote work options has been instrumental in me achieving any form of balance of professional responsibilities and dad duties. We’re all reading the news about how some organisations are calling people back to the office. I wonder how parents will adjust to that, given the autonomy they had in creating their own schedule to maximise their productivity and time with families.
Setting an Example
This is an important one for me. As I said, I want to inspire and challenge people to understand the positive impact of what I’ve chosen to do; I didn’t want to be too absent as a dad just because of the career that I love. I’ve seen the quizzical looks on some people’s faces when I’ve explained what I do, particularly those who can’t separate masculinity from the need to work 24/7. It takes energy to challenge those looks and assumptions, and I’m hoping over time it won’t be so necessary. As I advocate for work-life integration, I contribute to a cultural shift that supports both men and women in their pursuit of fulfilling personal and professional lives. Together, we foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment that recognises and values the importance of active parenthood and in particular in my case, fatherhood. It shouldn’t be the case anymore that it’s all or nothing when it comes to men and their work.
Challenges Faced by Part-Time Dads:
As I’ve discussed above and despite the progress we’ve made, part-time working can still be met with scepticism in some professional settings, particularly for men. I’ve encountered biases and assumptions that question my commitment to work, even in organisations that preach about their inclusivity and support. Overcoming this stigma requires constant open dialogue, educating others about the benefits of diverse working arrangements, and showcasing the value that part-time dads can bring to the table.
Support and understanding are critical to making things work. In my role, time pressures can be difficult to manage and I’ll often find things need to be done whilst I’m supposed to be on ‘daddy daycare’ duty. I’ve found an employer in Healy Hunt that has been truly supportive of my own mission and for that I’m truly grateful. Our HR Practice has considerable expertise and my clients can be confident that they will receive attentive, informed service at all times. Executive Search processes are normally led by an individual though, so managing responsibilities as a part-timer requires a lot of extra effort to keep things running smoothly. Setting clear boundaries, fostering effective communication, and collaborating with colleagues to provide seamless support have been instrumental.
A concern I’ve faced as a part-time dad in the Search sector is the potential limitation on career progression. To address this, I’ve realised the importance of proactively communicating my career aspirations and seeking opportunities to contribute meaningfully within my working arrangement. Staying updated with industry trends, pursuing professional development, and showcasing competence have been essential in paving the way for career advancement.
Not Just Men
I can’t talk about balancing workloads, juggling tasks and maintaining career progression without reflecting more on the challenges that career-minded mums face. The motivation for me becoming a part-time dad was not only to be a fully engaged parent but also to give my partner the space to pursue her own career. I have faced negative bias from some people for my choices, but I realise that women face these obstacles all the time when they choose to combine careers with raising families. Even in my unusual circumstances, some of society’s unconscious bias stays tipped in my favour. Hopefully, my male experience of this work-life balancing act gives me better insight. I want to champion, not only the men who have chosen to go part time, but the thousands of mothers seeking the satisfaction of fulfilling careers. As part of my own development, I look forward to collaborating more closely with Healy Hunt’s diversity partners at Women in Banking and Finance.
Being a part-time dad has been an incredible journey for me. Having embraced part-time working, I’ve found the balance I longed for, achieved a deeper connection with my boy, and along the way I’ve challenged the traditional notions of fatherhood. While there are always challenges, such as the ongoing stigma and the juggling act with my workload, I remain committed to advocating for diverse working arrangements. By doing so, I’m hoping that the small and exclusive club of part-time dads becomes something much bigger and that organisations learn how to truly manage inclusivity for part-time parents as a whole.T