Melvyn and Aidan (quadrant B)
Aidan was the eldest of five and was born in the 1960s to migrant Irish parents. His father, Melvyn, the son of a farmer came from a very large family and aged 11 he went into a seminary. After he left the seminary aged 20, he found work in Ireland in the public service where he took some examinations. However, frustrated by the lack of promotion prospects 'just waiting for someone to die off', he left Ireland at the age of 30. After a few very short-term jobs in Britain - 'I had three jobs inside two weeks - which was a miracle to me (laughs). It just shows you the difference of the times,' he found a permanent job as an electrician/ engineer. After one change of employer, he stayed in the same job for 27 years until retirement. As a father of five children and the sole breadwinner, the family was not well off as his son noted: they were eligible for free school meals which Aidan found embarrassing, and relied on ‘hand me down' clothes from families at their church. As the field notes record, ‘The house is a modest Edwardian semi up a long hilly road a small old ford fiesta parked in the front garden. House seemed very small for five children.'
Melvyn was highly committed to his job, 'I'd work for family but I wouldn't work for money'. At first he worked a standard working day but the hours increased, 'But then as the years went by they were longer hours you know, I was often there maybe working till 9 o'clock at night. Which I blame the boys for doing now - but I did it myself when I think back.' His son, Aidan, said that he was away from home much more than his own father was, but that his father was very involved in the local community. Interestingly however, he also noted that his father at one time had a second job and worked overtime on Saturdays, something Melvyn did not mention.
Aidan had a strict Catholic upbringing with his parents heavily involved in the local church. He recalled his parents' traditional roles in his childhood - his mother looked after the home, did not drive, while his dad was the breadwinner and did all the DIY jobs in the home. Aidan passed the 11-plus exam and went to a boys' Catholic grammar school. His parents regarded education as the way to get on and encouraged their children to work hard at school.
Aidan was the first in his family to go to university and in his late twenties he married and started a family together with a mortgage. These changes motivated him, he said, and he changed from being carefree and non-materialistic to accepting responsibilities. He credited his wife with encouraging him to make changes in his career. Early in their marriage, Aidan said he and his wife agreed he would 'do getting the money', and she would 'do the kids' and this is the pattern they created, just like his own parents. However, at interview, his wife had a full-time job which Aidan tolerated, regarding it as 'her choice' and 'her money'.
For a while, the family went abroad to live because of Aidan's job. But because Aidan was being more and more sucked into working long hours, the family returned to London at his wife's behest. Aidan got a new job in management in a global financial services company, requiring him to travel to many different countries. Aidan saw this lifestyle as inevitable in the modern world, but also as his choice; he liked getting away. When Aidan had a spell of unemployment he was able to spend more time with the family. His new job which was also in a global company and involved overseas travel appeared to enable him to be around more at weekends. However, Aidan did not want to be 'wrapped up' in his kids in the way he saw some parents to be. Because of a slow career start, he was working hard to catch up. In terms of being a father, he strictly limited his involvement to running the children to activities, supporting one son's music and the other's sport. He also 'set the boundaries', which he said that boys 'need' - 'I'm their father, not their best friend' and set the tone for the way they acted at home.
The life course of this father and son demonstrates upward intergenerational mobility. Aidan went to university and became a manager in a large global company while his father stayed in a skilled manual job for the whole of his working life, with consequent implications for living conditions and values. Nonetheless, there are continuities between father and son in terms of their long work hours and strong work ethic that set strong limits on their involvement with their children.