Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Finding the balance


The other day I dropped Ava at the school gates at 8.55am. While the other mothers robotically kissed, routinely hurried and casually cajoled their offspring through the school gates in a manner they had obviously become accustomed to, Ava and I were sort of having a moment. In the 6 months since she'd started primary this was the first time I 'd been able to drop her straight into school. I was pretty emotional over something so many other parents take for granted. And Ava seemed delighted at this new change in events. Smiling from ear to ear, making me walk all the way round the school to the back entrance and then proudly insisting I hang about till the bell. This week I will be able to do the same & not only that, but I will be able to pick her up from the school gates when school gets out. 

Why? 

Flexi-time. It was a friend of mine who originally brought Mother Pukka to my attention. The inspiring blogger who is trying to end the draconian and impractical assumption that 9-5pm working hours are the only option to the single parent and is heroically doing so through a combination of hashtags, organised London flash dances and a massive amount of online support. At the time her plight really caught my attention. Mainly because Ava was about to start school. And while I loved the fact I had finally made the longed for transition from shift work to a 9-5, I was worried about how it was going to fit in with Ava's new school hours.

In the end I settled for a combination of breakfast clubs and after school clubs. These are fantastic and inexpensive facilities but they just didn't work for us. Ava hated breakfast club with a passion because none of the other children in her class attended and although I tried not to think about it, I secretly knew she was left to sit in a corner on her own, nibbling her toast in solitude. While she didn't hate her after school club, she was passionately jealous of the other kids who got to run straight into their waiting parent's arms come quarter past 3. And I get it. Most days Ava was 'working' a longer day than me. By being dropped off at 8am and picked up around 6pm, she was averaging a 2 hour longer day than I was in the office.

I worked myself into a tizzy when I decided to ask for flexi-time. I spent hours scribbling out new hours, calculating the best way to cram the same amount of working time into the week. I read, re-read and re-worded the email to my bosses countless times. Desperate to get my point across clearly. That the happier I was as a person, the more they would get out of me work wise. I wanted to ensure they understood that I WANTED to be there 40 hours a week. But that as a single parent, I couldn't do the best possible job for them without a more positive work/home balance. It turned out I was worrying in vain. After proposing a meeting with my line manager and two directors, I was relieved to receive an email 20 minutes after sending my own telling me that would be fine and that it would be arranged in due course. Which it was.

I was lucky. I work for modern, forward thinking and progressive businessmen who despite having no children of their own, empathise and understand the difficulties that can so often arise with being a working parent. Bosses who understand that to extract the best productivity and quality of work from their employees, they need to have a level of duty, care and empathy towards them. The result is that while I still work the exact same amount of hours as I did before, I am able to see Ava into school and pick her up at the gates. I work longer hours on a Monday and Tuesday (when Ava is at her Dads) and go in a wee bit earlier on a Wednesday. And hey presto. I get to spend more quality time with Ava, she gets the parent time she was so obviously missing and we are both much happier individuals because of it.

The point of this post is to urge any parent out there currently juggling a 9-5pm along with extra childcare (and a shit load of guilt) to look into flexi-time. Since 2014 everyone has the right to request flexi-time from their employers so long as they state their case in a reasonable manner. And dependant on the nature of your job, your employer has to give you a bloody good reason to say no. So look into it. You may have options you never even knew you had.

2 comments:

Stephanie Smith said...

I really liked this I don't have kids but I really felt this came from the heart and could feel your struggle with work and home balance. Steph x

Dawn Young said...

Thanks for commenting. And for reading! :) xxx