My personal story
R: Well, I am, I feel a bit unusual because, as I've said here, I work part time at the moment. I've been doing working part time, I guess, for about 18 months. My wife works full time; we came to that decision basically for child care. Our daughter had been in nursery, we were able to leave her, you know, sometimes at 8 o'clock and pick her up at 4 or 5 in the afternoon. But, of course, when she started school we didn't have that option anymore and we wanted one of us to be here rather than actually having a child-minder. I think that was...
I: What are the hours of school? When does that school start?
R: It's basically 9 until 3 or 3:20, so it doesn’t fit in well with working patterns and I think, you know, working parents have to decide either to have a child-minder or they have relatives in the area - which we don't. Both our parents live in different cities – or, you know, they have to make some arrangements in their work to deal with that and we just thought the easiest way... we wanted somebody to be there for our daughter to actually take her and pick her up most days and we just felt that would mean one of us being at home a lot of the time. And I got to the position where I worked full time but I was actually earning less than my wife who was working part time. Which I found a bit demoralizing, because my job - I am a teacher - so, because my job involves being quite a lot of stuff at home. And I say it was a bit demoralizing to feel that I was kind of, you know, working 5 days a week, coming home, doing work and still not actually getting paid as much as my wife was, who was working kind of three and a half days.
I: What kind of a job does your wife do?
R: She's a civil servant, which can mean many things in England, but she's actually quite a... she's not a senior civil servant but she is involved very much in kind of policy things. She spends a lot of time... like, for instance, she's in London today, she's got a day in London today. Certainly with the change of government she's found herself much more involved in the thick of things. I mean she has meetings at number 10 and, you know, with cabinet and things like - not with cabinet as such but, you know, with those kind of bodies - so she's a quite high level, she's got quite a stressful job. I don't know what she does most of the time but... It is probably fair to say that she is far more ambitious than I would ever be. The nature of my job is that there wasn't a lot of obvious career progression.
I: What level are you teaching? Primary school?
R: I'm a primary school teacher so I'm probably, particularly say, I'm an infant school teacher, because that's what I've always taught. So I've never taught children older than 7. I've always been... that's the age group I'm happy to teach and what I was taught, trained to actually teach.
I: Can you tell me a bit about the schooling system in England? So the infant school is from which age to which age? So, first, you've got nursery…
R: Well, yeah, there is nursery but nursery officially in England is very ad hoc really. It depends very much on where you live, there are some state nurseries but a lot of the time it's, you know, you pay for nursery. That is something that we were doing with our daughter because there aren't a lot of state nurseries around at all. Children start school the year that they are 5. So, for instance, my daughter is born in August, but she starts school the September before that.
I: And it is compulsory from the age of 5?
R: Yeah, basically yes, it is. So, she started, but she is only just 4, you see. So, this was another consideration for us because she was still quite a young child. And again, we wanted somebody to be there for her. So, they start the year that they are 5. It depends upon the kind of school they go to, sometimes they go to a school way through until they are 10 or 11. Sometimes at the school where I work it is until they are 6 or 7. And then they move on to a junior school.
I: So then you decided it would be better if you would be working part time and your wife would continue working full time?
R: Yes, we kind of came to that decision but it seemed unpaid for, is the most logical thing to do. And financially it seems to have worked out and, I must say, generally it's worked out. I mean obviously I think (laughs) with any couple there is always issues, you know, and I think we are getting to the stage where I certainly perhaps need to think about seeing if I can work another day or find some other kind of employment around the hours of - you know - taking our daughter to school and back.
I: So, now you are working part time, which would mean two and a half days a week?
R: Just two days a week, Thursday and Friday. So the rest of the week I basically take my daughter to school pick her up and then do the housework… hopefully (laughs).
I: Are you enjoying it?
R: Yeah, I am. I mean, I'm not one of those people who... I don't get bored very easily. In fact, probably more the other way really, my worry is sometimes I can find it quite easy to sit at home. So, yes, I do generally enjoy. I suppose I've been doing it for about 18 months now and I think there is part of me that perhaps feels that I need either to do some different work or some more work or to get involved into something, even if it is voluntary work a little bit more. But... yeah, I'm not one of those people who worries about not going to work all week. I'm quite happy actually (laughs).
I: Do you consider this - if you look at your circle of family and friends - is it very unusual to do this or has it become quite accepted?
R: Ehm... I think it is still unusual, I mean, about some people who are doing similar kinds of things but not, not close friends or family. Certainly now we have friends who, the man is working slightly different hours, so he is perhaps compressing his hours into 4 days and spending one day at home with children or he is working 4 days a week. A lot of other people's jobs they're office based, it is much easier to do that. I mean, obviously my job actually is quite strict in the hours I can work. You know, I have to be there at 9 and I have to be there until 3 and really I have to be there before and after that. I can't come in later one day. And I can't compress my hours into certain days. So in that sense it is a bit inflexible, but no, it is unusual. I don't know of any other family or friends. And I guess certainly with some aspects of family there is still, I still get that look sometimes about what: 'what are you doing really?' You know.
I: Just a questioning look or a negative look?
R: Perhaps both sometimes. I still, in the back of my mind, well not in the back of my mind, in the front of my mind, there is still that feeling that I ought to be actually providing for the family myself and I must admit that that is something - you know - I still feel a lot really. And certainly with older members of the family, say my mum or my wife's parents, I do wonder if they’ve that kind of thought in their heads sometimes.
I: And then, on the other hand, you are providing: you are providing a lot of care to the family.
R: Oh yes!
I: It is just that the financial provision is mainly with your wife.
R: Yes, absolutely, that is right. Yeah, I don't have any problem looking after children because this is what I do anyway, so, I'm - you know - I don't find it problematic looking after young children because this is what I do all the time. You know, my daughter is precisely in the age group that I teach, really, so that isn't an issue. Where I know other men who have the children for a day and they are a bit kind of at a loose end and they want to take them out and it is all a bit of a trial really, and they are glad when it is over. Obviously that doesn't really bother me.
I: How does your wife feel with the situation?
R: Ehm... I think, generally, - you know - quite happy, I mean, I think we feel we've made the right decision for our daughter. Financially I think we are glad we are doing this. Although we haven't got as much money as we used to, there is an element that we would be giving out money to child minders anyway, you see, so... We certainly think it is better for her. I mean, I think there are issues, in the sense of... I think she perhaps likes to work less hours sometimes. And, of course, there are always these issues between men and women about housework. Because I'm here all the time - you know - I suppose there are always questions about: ‘Why haven't you done this?’, and: ‘Why haven't you done that?’ I mean, generally, we are kind of happy with it but, well, perhaps we are moving on to another stage now. My wife is still busy. I don't think it is easier for her to work less hours anyway. The way the public sector is now, civil servants are like public enemy number one in this country at the moment now. You know, the source of all ills at the moment, so her job is always finding balance at the moment, as most people are. So it is not really a time to work less hours. In fact, after Easter, we are having a child minder just to pick her up one day a week. So, at the moment, my wife leaves work early on a Thursday, Friday, she, in fact, leaves work at half past 2 which you can get away with on a Friday but on a Thursday she's found that increasingly difficult to do. So, we are having a child minder just one day a week although that may expand a little after that, but I think we are happy with that because our daughter is that much older now. She's six in the summer.
I: OK, thank you very much.
Gender did matter