Hi, I am Helal and work in the People Team. Outside of work I have four kids who have aged me considerably! I have a 10-year-old son and 3 daughters aged 7, 4 and 4 (yes - I have twins!).
Balancing work and childcare vs. the guilt
I think it's important to say that there are days where I manage the balance and days where, frankly, I am an absolute mess. But, I don’t feel guilty about this and on the rare occasion I do feel guilty I always ensure I shake it off before the end of the day. Shouldering that guilt on top of work pressures is not going to help me to be my best. I’ll always give my boss the heads up if it’s going to be a challenging day and do the same with my wife, especially if I have a packed diary and need some space. Communicating the right messages with the right people really helps me.
My tips on keeping the kids occupied
Not feeling guilty is my top tip! I am in a fortunate situation with my wife working term time, so she is around for the kids the vast majority of the summer. But if one of the kids wants to play video games or watch YouTube, there’s no point fighting it! We just ensure it doesn't develop into a habit by limiting time and having regular breaks away from screens.
Keeping a routine really helps us as well, we don't deviate from what we do during term times. We extend bedtimes for the older kids but the twins go down at the same time every night. That means I can get an evening with my wife or hang out with friends.
Final tip - invest in arts and crafts. Your house will constantly be a mess - but they spend hours drawing, colouring, cutting and glueing!
How Camelot make it work
My boss is incredibly supportive (she has 3 children) and is aware that some days my plate is full and ensures I have the right support in place to deal with this. I lean heavily on my team who are more than happy to help, especially if it’s a challenging day.
From a benefits perspective, I am a huge fan of our discount savings platform, Savealott. I’m always saving money on food and leisure activities which helps when you have a troop like mine!
We’ve done some awesome stuff during the pandemic from additional parental leave, running virtual classes for kids, to creating a community for Camelot parents to talk and connect. It's been really great to see ideas become reality.
The importance of my network
I have to say... Everyone, across all levels in the business, has been brilliant during this time. I often hear the phrase “I don’t know how you do it” - which now comforts me because I know I have my hands full but I think, as a parenting unit, my wife and I are doing the best job we can, keeping everyone and ourselves happy.
And finally, some advice for other working parents:
- Reiterating to your kids that you are at work is important to set boundaries. All my kids (even the twins) now ask if I am on a call before they ask me for something.
- Keeping others informed - especially of tricky diary dates for you (it's better to let them know ahead of time). We have a great network of friends who are happy to take the kids for playdates which is massively helpful.
- Plan and prioritise key meetings well in advance - ensure the kids are busy with games, toys or put a film on so you can concentrate and participate fully.
- Break the ice in meetings if you expect some disturbance. From my experience most people are bored by my face and want to see the little ones!
- Take a break - either during the day or use up annual leave where possible. It's important you also have “me time”.