Dads homeschool

Around the world during this COVID crisis, it seems that mothers are taking on more of the home-schooling burden than fathers. I heard the other day that dads typically get 3 hours of uninterrupted time for everyone hour that a mum gets, partly due to the “Muummm!” factor, where children call for their mother’s attention more than their father’s (e.g. in a dual-parent heterosexual partnership), and I imagine that teachers often contact mum before trying dad.

While these average patterns are probably true, I can only speak to my own experience as a dad at home during COVID, working “full time” (realistically about 40%), with my wife also working full time, and with two children aged 13 and 11 doing full-time remote schooling. I was the parent contacted when our 11 year old was on the brink of resitting the year (missed tests and homework), although both my wife and I were contacted when our 13 year old was threatened with failing the year (missed attendances and assignments, plus low grades).

Thankfully we managed to get both children back on track, with a combination of extra effort from the children on their work, and our investment in communication with the teachers (who also seemed to be struggling to manage the new way of engaging children and setting work). I found it very difficult to maintain our children’s online school attendance, when frankly I was struggling to be present online for all of my work meetings and video calls. It has been such a tough time psychologically, in terms of fear, grief, anxiety and uncertainty. It’s hard to motivate the children to keep their attention and attendance, when you can’t do it yourself.

It feels to me like a complete reset on Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.

At the start of 2020 we were going along thinking about our careers and self-esteem needs, when all of sudden we crashed to the bottom of the pyramid. Is our family safe? Do we have enough to eat? (I think we are all starting to run out of ideas for preparing 3 meals a day). Can we maintain a sense of belonging with our wider families and friends, and with our colleagues at work? Are we able to sustain that connection once the initial novelty of Zoom calls has started to wear off? At the same time, many of us have time freed up to think about self-actualisation, finding meaning in our work, and rethinking how we want to work, and who we want to work with.

For some dads, who might have already been working from home occasionally, lockdown might have been a progression of that approach, although intensified by having the family at home. However, I imagine that for a lot of dads, this could have been the first time that they worked from home, and must have found it unsettling not to be present in the workplace, not having that division between home and work that comes from suiting-up and commuting-in. For many dads this may have been a total nightmare, and they can’t wait to get back to work. I believe that for lots of dads this had been an instructive experience that opened their eyes.

Not just the kids homeschooled

For some dads, who might have already been working from home occasionally, lockdown might have been a progression of that approach, although intensified by having the family at home. However, I imagine that for a lot of dads, this could have been the first time that they worked from home, and must have found it unsettling not to be present in the workplace, not having that division between home and work that comes from suiting-up and commuting-in. For many dads this may have been a total nightmare, and they can’t wait to get back to work. I believe that for lots of dads this had been an instructive experience that opened their eyes.


Thank you to Brian Ballantyne for this article.

Brian is a husband to Kate, and father to Gabriel (12) and Daniel (10). As a long-time advocate for women’s rights, he felt it was high time “working fathers” had space to talk about their experiences; which led him to start blogging #confessionsofaworkingfather on his LinkedIn Profile, which is now available as a book on Amazon (all proceeds are donated to Winston’s Wish, a UK charity for bereaved children).

 


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