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Saturday, 25 January 2014

The talking point this week is working mums, but what about the dads?

I posted earlier this week about a mum of a child with additional needs being interviewed on Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour'. Well, being a working mum, I missed it but looked on the BBC iPlayer and discovered that the programme actually featured a working mum on the Tuesday and Wednesday shows as well. So I listened to all three:

On Monday Hannah talked about her daughter Rosie who has autism and how she had to start her own business Rosie and Bo because she could not find an employer to accommodate the flexible working she needed. On Tuesday Gill explained how she set up the Pulp Friction Smoothie Bar with her daughter Jess, who has Downs Syndrome, to give her work experience. Finally, on Wednesday, Linda talked about her experiences, having a celebrated paralympic athlete for a son and her work at the Papworth Trust. In addition Chris who has cerebral palsy talked about being given the opportunity to go to college and become independent. I heartily recommend you listen for yourselves; it's not often we get to hear our experiences in the mainstream media. Two quotes stand out for me: that employment and disabled children are like oil and water. The other was a comment about how charities tend to promote images that engender sympathy in order to fundraise but that we don't want sympathy for our child or for ourselves.

If you go to the Woman's Hour website you can select the episodes in turn. I got confused by the description of the show because it doesn't mention anything about special needs but you just have to select 20th, 21st and 22nd then trust me the interviews are part of the show.

For myself, I work 26 hours a week. 3 days I'm in the office which is an hours drive from home. Then I work 2 mornings from home. I can do this because I have a job that I can do from home but more importantly because I have an employer that has tried to accommodate my needs every since I came back from maternity leave. They have been incredible and I know just how lucky I am. I can also do this because I have very supportive parents who look after Seth 3 days a week after school. The level of support I get is not the typical situation for any parent, let alone a parent of a child with additional needs.

The main difficulty is the distance from home. When Seth threw himself backwards at school, slamming his head and ending up in hospital I was over an hour away from him. Craig works just 15 minutes from home and school but finds it difficult getting the time off. Being closer it would make more sense for him to take more appointments, and be able to be more involved. However, his employer seems to have no understanding of the impact of having a child with additional needs has on him and whilst my job actually gives me some respite from being a carer Craig is now off with depression due to the stress of trying to juggle both roles. Is the only solution for one parent to give up work entirely and take the 'carer' role and the other to just bring in the money? A 'standard' modern family can expect to make a choice about this. But in our cases, unless you are very lucky, its pretty much enforced. Even with Seth being as healthy as he is the number of appointments we still attend is very awkward to juggle even with the understanding employer, and manager, that I've got.

Going back to Hannah from the interview on Monday, she also has a guest post on Special Needs Jungle in which she continues on the subject of working and how the tendency is for the mum to become the stay at home parent/carer and the dad has to work, often long hours. Whilst I applaud the subject of working mums, whose going to interview the dads?