Following on from a Dad's experience of lockdown, having given a basic overview, I'd like to talk briefly about some of the effects of lockdown, as I perceive them.
The effect on Milly
Lockdown was brilliant for Milly in some ways - she spent so much time with Grandma, who became her chief partner in crime in concocting various ways to annoy Daddy! Her development and speech came on in leaps and bounds from constant one-to-one attention.
But in other ways lockdown was less good: closing children’s playgrounds for 4 months was pointless and cruel; Milly noticed people crossing the street to stay a “safe distance” away and, because she’s always saying hello to strangers (especially if they’re walking a dog!), this puzzled her; and masks make her feel uneasy and distressed. She noticed that simple human contact - holding hands, a hug, a handshake, had become faux pas - it’s amazing what a perceptive 18 month year old will pick up. Only time will tell what the lasting effects are on the “lockdown children”, but Milly has now spent a quarter of her life in a society with heavily restricted liberties, which is an interesting proposition to consider.
Working from home
I’m someone who loves the social aspect of work - going to the office, discussing complex issues face-to-face with colleagues, socialising after work etc. However, since becoming a parent, I have also become more sensitive to the reasons that flexible working is so important; it’s perhaps difficult to fully understand the pressure if you’ve never had to run out of the door to do the nursery pick up etc.
I have loved the increased take-up of technology - something which I’ve been advocating in my team for years ahead of COVID. 6 months ago, try to tell one of the “old school” lawyers that they can just add a digital signature and “print” to PDF and they’d have looked at you like you were giving them a lesson on complex algorithm coding - now no one can remember the last time they printed, signed and scanned a letter. The courts have been grappling with video conference hearings and e-bundles for years; they pretty much came in overnight. In spite of the previous stigma, home-working has been a massive efficiency driver. These changes will make my profession and lawyers in general more efficient, more relevant and more able to understand and address businesses’ needs and challenges in the future.
Has home working during the lockdown given birth to a new dawn of flexible working which enables women to catch up on the gender equality front?
Firstly, I think it's fair to say that COVID 19 has driven a bulldozer through any final protestations that home working is akin to slacking. However, whether this will have an effect on key gender equality indicators, such as the gender pay gap and/or women in senior positions, remains to be seen as - in my view - the barrier to gender equality is plainly still the fact that women take on a greater proportion of childcare responsibilities.
However, in this regard, I do have an interesting and positive anecdote:
When lockdown began I arranged our team’s first “Zoom drinks” to replace our monthly drinks trolley. The men with babies and toddlers (myself most definitely included!) were practically dragging their babies/toddlers in front of the webcam to show off not only their children’s adorable faces but also their own “modern dad” credentials. Hopefully, as everyone spends more time working from home - and sharing the joys of childcare as a result - there will be less of a divide between men and womens’ perspectives on issues like childcare and flexible working and, in my view, this can only lead to more empathetic, happier and productive workplaces.
Joe Young is a lawyer in London. He enjoyed shared parental leave to care for his daughter Milly. You can read his experiences on his blog www.dadonspl.co.uk
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