When I was a teenager, I had various aspirations for my future career. International diplomat, author, academic and politician featured heavily in my daydreams. Being a father was not only a non-starter, but taking care of children or handling a baby was something that actively terrified me. It was unfathomable to my younger self that fatherhood is where I would find some of my greatest joys, hardships and passions in my working life.
This is the fifth Father’s Day I’m celebrating with my children and wife. In the big scheme of things, I’m still at the start of a long journey. But what I’ve found so far is that fatherhood reveals your character in a way few other life challenges can. It helps you determine what is truly, deeply important to you, and where your priorities in life lie. Fatherhood has enriched me as a person more than I ever imagined it could, and has made me think much harder about the type of man I want to be as my kids grow up.
For most of my career I was used to working full-time, and held several different, demanding jobs in the corporate, government and community sectors. However, as a dad I’ve been determined to create and maintain a balance, imperfect as it is, between work and family life. This started with taking paid parental leave to be the main carer for both my kids for a few months. I then decided to only work part-time – four days a week – to ensure I could continue to care for them during the week, not just weekends. It’s been hard and isolating at times being one of the only fathers working part-time in order to do the juggle, and regularly combatting society’s expectation that I be the breadwinner spending most of this time at the office or on the laptop. Even though it’s been challenging, I don’t regret my decisions for a moment. Having young kids may feel like forever, but in reality it is special and fleeting moments that vanish all too quickly. I’m so happy that when I look at family photos and videos, I know that I was there, engaged and involved, shaping memories that my children, wife and I all share.
I love being a carer of children. I love creating a happy, comfortable, relaxing, safe and fun environment for my children. I love helping make a home that allows them to explore their own personalities, passions and idiosyncrasies in an encouraging and supportive way. Even with all the craziness of covid-19, and the disruption to the regular work routine, I’ve adored hearing my children laugh and play all over the house, even when they burst in to interrupt work like they’re Bonnie and Clyde about to rob a bank. I love seeing their pride and excitement when they rush over to show me a new drawing they’ve done, or a new tower they’ve built. I love seeing their eyes light up when I smuggle them a sneaky treat in the afternoon. And my heart melts when they come in to see me when I’m working, to say nothing more than “Hi daddy!” or “I love you so much Daddy”.
This Father’s Day I’ll be grateful for many things: the privilege to be able to work from home flexibly, the opportunity to work part-time when my kids need me the most, the chance to share the caring equally with my wife, the fact my kids are mostly healthy, happy and sleeping through the night. My aspiration for 2021 is that for all the millions of other working fathers out there, that they get the chance to make special memories of their own as amazing carers of their children, before they grow up and fly the coop. It’ll happen in the blink of an eye.
By Rob Sturrock
Rob is a fatherhood and gender equality advocate, and author or Man Raises Boy: A revolutionary approach for fathers who want to raise kind, confident and happy sons, available online and in bookstores everywhere.
Parents At Work have recently launched an online webinar series for dads who are members of Parents At Work. For more information or to find out if your organisation offers this please visit Dads At Work.