Tom, tell us a little about you….
My name's Tom and I'm a dad of three. I've been a full-time blogger for the last three and a half years. This makes me more of a work-at-home dad than a stay-at-home one in the truest sense, but I've enjoyed the best of both worlds as a result.
Why did you choose your line of work?
I decided to become my own boss when my youngest child was on the way. I was approaching the end of a 12-month contract and my employer wanted me to sign for another year, but I really didn't want to stay on. The role was stressful and I was in danger of getting ill so I'd have been no good to anyone if I carried on working there. I was already making a little money out of blogging, so decided to run down my contract then make a go of blogging full-time so that work could be on my terms and give me more time with my young family.
What does work/life balance mean to you?
I've always worked to live rather than the other way round so, for me, work/life balance is an existence in keeping with that philosophy. I've had jobs that have taken too much time away from me - both in terms of extra time spent in the office and the stress that I've brought home with me - and the balance was tipped heavily towards work, which just isn't right. True work/life balance is where you feel that you're doing a good job but where it doesn't interfere with life.
How did you find returning to work after paternity leave?
With my older two children, I hated going back as it didn't seem right that I had so little time with them. Two weeks is nowhere near enough. I was self-employed and working from home by the time my youngest arrived and have been ever since, so the relationship between work and life has been much more harmonious.
Should there be more male role models in the workplace who promote shared parental leave & flexible working?
Yes, absolutely. However, I have a bit of a problem with shared parental leave in its current form as it's only available for a relative few. Had I stayed in my old job, for example, I wouldn't have qualified for it. I think it's great for those that it's an option for and, of course, it would be good to see more dads spending time with their children during the early months. But the rest of us are still limited to the statutory two weeks' paternity leave and that really needs to change.
Why is it important for you to be able to work flexible hours?
Life is short, we spend most of it working and children grow up so quickly so it was a no-brainer for me to enjoy as much time as possible with my family while the kids were still young. Being able to dictate my own hours has been integral to that.
What would be your advice to other dads who would like to work more flexibly?
I would advise dads to speak to their employers to ask whether flexible working is an option and discuss how it could work. I would also implore employers to think about the mutual benefits of encouraging remote working. Technology has made this much more achievable and people just don't need to be in the same physical location all the time anymore. Plus a happier workforce is generally a more loyal and productive one.
Do you feel that there is a negative stigma attached to dads who stay at home or leave work early to do the school run etc?
Yes, I think that dads are still seen as second-class parents in a number of environments and the workplace is very much one of them. A key reason for this is the fact that legislation hasn't changed enough so there's nothing to stop employers from preventing a lot of dads from having a better work/life balance. For the most part, I've been pretty lucky with employers' attitudes towards the needs of parents but know I'd have struggled had I stayed in my last role. It was a very corporate, results-driven environment, so I can't imagine they'd have been too patient with me during the sleep-deprived early days once my youngest was born.
Public spaces and facilities have traditionally been set up to support new Mums and not new dads, do you have any experience of this?
Sadly, yes. I've had to change nappies on the floors of public toilets more than once as the only dedicated facilities were in the ladies' loos. Things have improved a lot on this front since I first became a dad in 2010 but there's still a long way to go.
Pick three words that describe the juggle between work and family life.
Chaotic, unpredictable and rewarding.