Borys and Janek (quadrant A)
Janek, the elder of two children, was born in a small Polish town in 1970. His father, Borys, was a driving instructor. Janek recalled how his father was 'always working' when he was a child and how tired his father was after work. Borys originally drove buses for a state transport company. However, under communism, Borys was given the opportunity to return to studying but did not complete his degree. Instead, Borys became a driving instructor. In the 1980s, he became heavily involved in the Solidarity Movement. In addition to his trade union activities and his paid work, Borys was also involved in building a house for his family. Therefore, Borys had little time to spend with his children although, as Janek got older, he involved him in the house building project. Nonetheless, this did not stop Borys from complaining that his son worked too long hours in England.
After university (Borys insisted Janek attended), Janek married at the age of 21 and he and his father began to build a house for Janek and his family. As the field note indicates, the family's housing situation was impressive reflecting his father's hard work and high salary and pension (by Polish standards),
[Borys' house] is a big three story house, very spacious. A typical Polish interior I'd say - wooden floors in rooms, tiles in the front room, runners. Walls in the front room and staircase covered with wood. We sat in the dining room with a large dining table, sofa, TV, keyboards, a large painting representing Jesus and 'fitted suite' (that is bookshelves plus wardrobe) [Borys] was very proud of the
house____next door was his son's house which Borys said he had built
for him. It's equally big but looks newer and better kept.
Through his father, Janek found a similar job to his father's as a driving instructor in a state company. With the birth of his three children and changes taking place in the Polish economy leading to rising mortgage interest rates and privatisation, Janek had to take on a second job to make ends meet. He came to the UK in 2004 alone having secured a job as a long distance driver through connections in Poland.
A year later he was joined by his wife and children aged 12 and under at interview. They lived in a rented three-bedroom house. Janek's English was poor and because of long working hours he had no time to go on a language course. Even so, Janek tried to make time for his children at his wife's behest, 'I did everything to be at home, to make up to my children for the time when I was away.'
Janek changed jobs several times but the new company would only pay for extra hours if he spent the whole night away from home,
I was 20-30 km from home but I would sleep there to earn some money... So when I slept here I would come home. But well, night was nine hours, by the time I came home and had a shower, had a chat with everyone, go to bed, had to get up early, so it was only 4-5 hours left for sleep. And so I had an accident.
His current company changed to an hourly payment system which meant Janek spent more time on the road. His employer complained his journeys were taking longer than before. Janek reflected,
I know that I steal from my own family, my own home. When they changed the way they pay me, I already lost five hours a week. I said:
'listen, it's five hours you took from my family.' Because I have nothing to save on. I cannot save on not going to a pub or other parties. But it's my time with my family.
When his wife found a job, Janek proposed to work less. He said that for now he could not make any demands of his employer because he lacked an employment contract. He also admitted that he did not know his rights as a worker. Janek therefore saw himself as a ‘weekend daddy', 'I come back in the evening, we have dinner, have a chat, play together a bit, check their homework. But the worst thing is that I can't promise [children] that "tomorrow we'll go to the swimming pool or to the gym".' On the other hand, Janek was very interested in supporting his sons' education. However, although he was up to date with their achievements, he was concerned that his poor English skills disempowered him to be of any real help.
In this father-son chain there are continuities in their strong employment commitment. However, Janek's labour market situation in Britain was markedly worse than his father's had been in Communist Poland at a similar life course phase. They also differed in their orientations to fatherhood reflecting the contemporary emphasis upon involved fathering as expressed in Janek's regret about not being able to spend more time with his children.