Accidentally Patronised: How it’s possible to share parenting and run a business while being forced to listen to Taylor Swift
I feel the need to be be sat in a circle of people, stand up and say: “I am a Dad and I am capable of looking after both my daughters at the same time without all hell breaking loose.”
Since my eldest daughter, Olivia, was three months old, I have been doing one day a week parenting, or Daddy Day Care as it is known in our house.
Generally, Friday is my day (Mrs P does Thursdays) and has been for five years (give or take a couple of months when Rachel was on maternity leave with our youngest, Bryher).
On the other days we run our business, MPAD.
Daddy Day Care is great and I loved the time with Olivia on her own, both girls and now Bryher on her own while Olivia is at school.
We’ve done a lot of cool stuff: Monkey Music, Sing and Sign (learning Makaton sign language to help communication), baby gym, toddler gym, swimming, going to the beach, trying to find the best babycino in Cornwall, and seeing family and friends.
The CD selection in our car during that time has gone from Early Learning and nursery rhymes, to Disney and the Frozen soundtrack, to Taylor Swift.
Of course it’s knackering and at times I’ve willed Rachel to come home early from work, rather than go to MPAD’s Friday afternoon beer club, so I can escape the madness and get out for a run.
But I cope. In fact, I’m going to say that I think I do a pretty good job, and most importantly, I enjoy it.
Doing one day a week parenting was a bit of an adjustment to begin with, especially with running our own business.
The need to keep a three month old baby happy, as well as a client, was hard to balance in the beginning.
Initially, I put my out-of-office message on, but this seemed to cause a mild panic amongst some of my clients, so after a few weeks that was switched off.
If I had a chance to check emails or make some calls while Olivia had a nap, then I would, otherwise I’d deal whatever it was whenever I could.
Clients got used to this arrangement, and it became easier from a work perspective as we grew the team from four to 10. It meant that client work could be done by one of our excellent team members, and without me being in the office.
I still get the occasional ‘skiving again’ or ‘taking the day off’ comments, mainly from some older, male contacts. But generally everyone is used to, and happy with, the arrangement.
These comments can be annoying, but I tend to take them with a pinch of salt, as the people who make them probably didn’t have the same opportunities to do what I have done.
I also think flexibility around parenting has become part of the ethos of the company and why people like to work with us, as well as for us.
And besides, they’ve had five years to get used to it….
What has really started to grate with me is when I feel like I have been Accidentally Patronised.
I’m going to put my tin hat on here, but my experience to date is that the accidentally patronising comments come from mums. Mainly mums who do the majority of the childcare, the ones where the husband is perhaps a little less hands on.
I don’t think they mean to sound patronising about the fact that I am able to parent my two daughters together on my own. But, it just seems to come across that way.
I’m lucky enough to know a lot of other dads who are incredibly hands on and take on a large chunk of the parenting. I know dads who have started businesses, both in Cornwall and abroad, and still managed to be fully involved with their kids.
I’m not sure if it’s a Cornwall-thing, but I do think the amount of SMEs here does have an impact in that it gives people the flexibility to choose childcare arrangements that may not be the norm elsewhere in the country, or at least as they were 20 years ago.
Some of the regular comments I receive include:
“I don’t know how you do it.”
Me: “What’s that?”“Look after both your daughters at the same time.”
Me (in my head: “Well, it is tough, being able to keep them both fed and watered. If they are both alive by 5pm then I know I’ve done a good job.”
“You’re brave bringing both of them to the park on your own.”
Me (in my head): “FFS!”
I love going to the park and enjoy playing on the equipment as much as the girls.I even received a look of wonderment once after I said I’d driven from Bristol to Truro with both the girls and no other adult in the car.
How the hell did I survive that one?!
Well, maybe that’s not the best example as it took five hours to get from Bristol to Truro due to the motorway being at a standstill at Exeter, the detour through Exeter taking more than an hour, the girls needing the toilet and a rare stop at a Beefeater, so the girls could use the loo and we could have something to eat.
Anyway, as Rachel wrote in a recent blog for the West Briton, she was making a concerted effort to stop saying “I don’t know how you do it” to other mums, be they employed, running a business or being a full-time mummy.
I think this should go for dads too.
As well as giving us a great balance at home in terms of spending time with the girls, we think it has also benefited the business.
It has been tough juggling, for both Rachel and myself, but over the last three years we have recorded growth at MPAD of 10.4%, 26% and 45%; the team has gone from five to 10; and we’ve won awards for our work.
This has been done by focusing on key markets – charity and sustainability. It means that we know who we want to work with, as well as enjoying what we do.
This makes things a lot easier when you’ve been woken up at 6am, rushed around to get the girls out of the house for 7.45am while they keep going back into the lounge to try and locate a hidden toy, done the nursery drop off and school run, and sat at your desk by 9.15am.
We’ve also found time to make waves with the top of BT and wind them up with an infographic highlighting the company’s failure to connect our fibre broadband line.
The message is that it can be done and enjoyed.