#dadsflextoo - An interview with Andy Philip

Andy Philip.jpg
It’s hugely important; we made the decision that I would take a short sabbatical from work when the twins were born so that we could do the first six weeks together and I’ve never regretted it. It’s an old cliche but you realise how many things you miss when you’re not there.

Firstly, tell us a little about you..

Hi, I’m Andy Philip; self-employed freelance musician; Dad to six year old twins.

My work involves live performance, recording sessions, arranging, composing and some teaching. Performance-work always tends to be in the evening which means leaving home around the kids’ dinner time to make the commute into the West End (I’m the contracted guitarist on the musical Wicked). The composition and arrangement work I do is normally to a deadline and is done during the day from my home studio (a 4ft x 6ft garden shed which I’ve sound-proofed and hooked up with electricity!). More and more now, artists are sending through their material for me to record at home; all this means that I can shift work around a little to suit our family needs, allowing me to do both school runs, except on matinee days or occasions when I’m performing further afield.

Why did you choose your line of work?

I’ve never wanted to be anything other than a musician, and I’ve always composed as well as played. After studying music to post-graduate, I began my career as a freelancer which was mainly touring-based: lots of travelling abroad whilst employed on contracts lasting anything between three months to a year. Since being married and starting a family, I made a conscious decision not to accept another world tour as I wanted to have more of a home life. This meant shifting my focus more onto writing and other activities which can be done during the day from home. It was also part of the impetus for my wife and I to set up our company jazz- A-nory, which focusses on creating and performing pieces for children. Building our own company has been an important step towards moulding a work pattern which suits our family life and school hours; it’s been great to involve our kids in our work and the process of music-making. It’s also given other musicians with young families the opportunity to perform with us during the day instead of the evening.

What does work/life balance mean to you?

It’s hugely important; we made the decision that I would take a short sabbatical from work when the twins were born so that we could do the first six weeks together and I’ve never regretted it. It’s an old cliche but you realise how many things you miss when you’re not there. It’s simple things, like family meal times, which are most important to me: little things come up naturally in conversations with the kids when you’re around and relaxed which may not come up otherwise. It’s really nice (for them and me) to feel familiar with their school-life (their teachers, the layout, their friends) rather than hearing things second-hand at the end of a long-day when they can’t really be bothered!

How did you find returning to work after paternity leave?

It felt like a wrench; but I can’t deny it was a relief to get some downtime on the train commuting into London. At the same time, the difficulty is feeling a sense of powerlessness when problems arise at home and you can only help through texts or phone calls.

Should there be more male role models in the workplace who promote shared parental leave & flexible working?

Without a doubt; I strongly believe that parenting is a 50/50 (or perhaps 100/100) job. In our industry it’s a bit more normal for my male colleagues to be doing the school-run because of evening performances but that does mean, generally, missing out on bedtimes.

Why is it important for you to be able to work flexible hours?

The point of being flexible in work is that it allows flexibility when other things arise: whether that be volunteering at the school, looking after the kids when they’re ill, sharing other family responsibilities such as elderly relatives or other last-minute, unexpected situations. It also actually allows me to say yes when social things come up, giving me the chance to have my own interests and some sort of social- life.

What would be your advice to other dads who would like to work more flexibly?

It’s a bit trite but I can’t imagine anyone on their death-bed saying “I wish I’d spent more time at work and less time with my family.” It’s worth making a few compromises financially and materially; I think, culturally, we should be aiming towards appreciating the value of time just as much as we appreciate the value of monetary currency.

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?

I’ve never experienced it because our industry hours are a little more unusual; but I think, nowadays, any idea of stigma is replaced more by curiosity: “how can that be done” rather than “why?”

Public spaces and facilities have traditionally been set up to support new mums and not new dads, do you have any experience of this?

At more old-fashioned pubs and restaurants, the change table would be set-up in the ladies and I often had to ask staff to move a surface into the gents; people were very accommodating but sometimes looked at me bizarrely. It was important that I had somewhere for me to do the nappy changes as my wife and I had a deal: as she was feeding she would be responsible for what went in and I would be in charge of what came out! The conveyor-belt system worked well for us especially when out and about as it was too awkward to breastfeed both babies at the same time in public. The most striking observation I think I would make is in regards to the attitude of medical / healthcare professionals towards new Dads, particularly in the early stages up to the age of about three. I gained a much greater empathy for how women might feel in other areas of life when they ask a question and the answer is given to the husband or male colleague instead (in the boardroom, at the bank, at the estate agent’s etc.). Any direct question I made to the medical professional was always addressed back to my wife; there was little equality or inclusion as the other parent. I think having this imbalance inevitably seeps into our social attitudes later on in life.

Pick three words that describe the juggle between work and family life.

Well worth it.

jazz-A-nory will be performing live at the Lyric Hammersmith, London on Saturday 28th September and also at King’s Place, London on Saturday 16th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.