Juggling childcare and changing shifts – my story as a working dad
Before my son was born, I worked part-time but did as much overtime as I could to top up my wages. But that’s not possible when you have a baby to look after.
My wife has a full-time contract and a slightly higher hourly rate than me, so it was a no-brainer for her to go back to work full-time after her maternity leave. We looked into both of us working full-time, but worked out that I’d have to work 50 hours a week just to cover the extra childcare costs.
Why put in all that extra time when I wouldn’t even make any money from it?
It would be a logistical nightmare as well. Retail has quite insecure hours and your shifts can change around a lot, but nurseries need to know in advance when your child will be there.
Even through I’m part-time, we need help from my wife’s dad and grandparents on Thursdays and Fridays. My wife works daytimes and I work evenings, so they take our son for a couple of hours before she gets home from work. We’d really struggle without that.
I don’t think my employer is very supportive of young parents. They don’t seem to appreciate the challenges we face.
I’m an Usdaw rep so I know my rights. And if our boy is sick, my wife gets paid emergency leave so she takes the time off.
But I’ve seen my colleagues really struggle to get time off to look after their kids. The bosses don’t tell staff what their rights are, or do anything to help them when they need time off. If the union wasn’t there telling people their rights, then most people wouldn’t have a clue.
There are ways to make all this easier.
It’s great that some parents are getting access to 30 hours free childcare a week. But why doesn’t it kick in until your child is three? That leaves a gap of two years or more between the end of maternity leave and the free hours kicking in. It would be much better to have it joined up so parents could go back to work.
I think that most of my colleagues understand how hard things can be for working mums and dads. But our employers need to do more.
Alex Bingham is a 31-year-old dad from Wales. He works in retail and has a 19-month-old son.
You can read the Better Jobs For Mums And Dads report here.