How should the stay at home dad prepare for the world of work after years of looking after youngsters? Does he face different challenges that a mum might not?
In this guest post from Claire Lister, Managing Director of Pitman Training, tackles the issue of transitioning to work after being a stay at home dad.
The school holidays are drawing to a close and as parents up and down the country make the last ditch shopping trips for uniform and faff with sewing the little name tags inside, we all prepare for change.
Change from chaos to order. Change from freedom to functioning with structure. But for some change might mean a whole lot more than this if September is the first time your little one is heading to school or nursery.
Leaving us for the first time is a big deal. Leaving pre-school/nursery to embark on ‘big school’ is a big deal. Our little ones may need reassuring, and we spend our time making confident assertions that all will be fine and it will be great fun.
But what about you as a parent? What about the support for you? After all, this is the start of a new chapter for you too. Having taken time away from work to be with your family – now could be the time to return to employment, so how’s that going to map out?
There’s much advice out there around how mums feel returning to work, but we recognise that dads often get left behind as society still struggles to comprehend that some dads are indeed the main carer and put their careers on hold for their kids.
So here’s some advice just for you, to explore the best ways of making the transition between being a stay-at-home Dad to a working Dad, based on students Pitman has supported over the years.
Recognise you might feel strange. Whilst it’s widely documented of mothers crying at the school gates as their little ones head off to go solo, there’s often an assumption that dads are tough and it’s water off a duck’s back. However working with many dads returning to work after parental leave we know it’s not as black and white as that. The commitment you have made to your child’s every need is now no longer needed in the same way and that can hit you hard. The connection you have with your child is every much as real as for a mother so you’ll still feel like you’re sending them off for slaughter and will have an overwhelming desire to protect them. So tip 1 – be ready for the emotion and if you don’t want to weep at the school gates get out of there quick.
Use your network and re-connect: Tip 2 is around easing yourself back into your old world. We’ve found that dads on parental leave or who’ve become stay at home dads often adapt more easily into the role of just being surrounded by kids, than some women do, in fact many relish it. Many dads tell us they enjoy their kids company and don’t miss the corporate BS that they used to endure. Well, if you’re returning to work it could be a good idea to readjust slightly and get back into the company of colleagues to get set for the workplace mindset and readjust before day 1 of work but then it’s also going to be key ongoing to become a part of that world again. Use social media to get back into the fold, see if there are any events you can gatecrash and get a few allies in the bag. Work’s more fun when you have friends on side.
Scope your role before you sit at your desk. This applies whether you’re going back to an office or are going to be working for yourself, defining what you will be doing with your time is an important task. That way you can hit the ground running and really be at your best from the moment you return. Floundering around can cause confidence issues as well as productivity issues so start as you mean to go on.
Stand your ground If you’ve made an arrangement about flexible working, to enable a good balance between working and being with your family then stand your ground. You made that decision for a reason, but we know it’s hard when you’re back at the coal face – can you just stay late for this meeting, can you just finish this report, can you just….often dads returning to work are treated more like they’ve never been off than their female counterparts and colleagues assume because you’re back you have zero childcare responsibilities now, but don’t be pushed into making sacrifices you didn’t sign up for.
This is a handy guide to help you ‘know your rights’.
Don’t apologise for being off Often when back in the workplace you’ll start to feel guilty for having had time away, or “time off’ (!) as colleagues may refer to it. They may consider you some kind of ‘modern miracle man’ for ‘babysitting’ your kids and making such a ‘sacrifice’ to your career. Shake this off and try not to feel like you’re on the back foot. Remember you’re just as good at your job as you were before – if not better now. It’s easy to feel like you have been left behind but remember you can bring to the team a fresh set of eyes and some renewed energy, more ideas and a boost in morale… they need you!
Upskill. You’ve been away from work, some things may have changed, but the wonders of technology mean you can catch up quick – and why stop at catching up when you can continue developing your career and rise above colleagues – now that would be quite satisfying right? Wouldn’t it be nice if you returned feeling you could make an impact and your value could be recognised straight away. Distance learning flexible courses on things like social media in business, Microsoft Office, Business & Management mean you could be the dark horse who has new skills to offer the team that has actually been a bit static since you left, and has lost momentum. Through Pitman online courses you can dip in and out of training – do it in your lunch hour or sat on the sofa, the flexibility is there. Now you’re back, you might as well make it count!
Use some hacks! One sure fire way to impress is to make child’s play of tasks that take colleagues an age…did you know of these cheeky Microsoft hacks that could save you hours?
(i) In Microsoft Excel clicking the top left corner button is a quick way to select data in all cells
(ii) If you want to move one column of data in a spreadsheet, the fast way is to choose it and move the pointer to the border, after it turns to a crossed arrow icon, drag to move the column freely
(iii) You can print in reverse order to save the pain of collating reports that are printed backwards. Click the File tab, then choose Options. Select Advanced and then, under Print, check the box marked Print pages in reverse order
(iv) Word provides a full thesaurus, so if you’re stuck for a word just click into the word on screen and press Shift+F7
Be proud of yourself! Sad though it may be, having time off to look after your child is still seen as a rare thing for Dads to do. But you have shown that it can be done, you are leading the way for others to hopefully follow. Most importantly though, you have had some precious times with your child that you will cherish forever – now get used to enjoying that hot cup of coffee and a bit of peace and quiet as you take the next steps this September.
Disclosure: this commissioned post was produced exclusively for publication on Dadbloguk.com.