Barry and Paul (quadrant C)
Paul, the youngest of four children, was born in 1980 in the Midlands to white British parents. His father, Barry, left school at 15 and had no difficulty finding an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic in 1960 in a local company. Thirteen years later, with four young children and a non-employed wife to support, he left the company and found a job in a larger company with better pay, eventually being promoted to 'staff' in his fifties. When his children were growing up Barry said he needed to work as many hours as he could, sometimes up to 80 hours a week, seven days a week. Barry recalled not seeing the family for days, leaving for work before they were up in the morning and arriving home late at night, 'At that time with overtime always available, I was a mechanic... the job was orientated around overtime as well. They had always more work than you could possibly finish in eight hours, so you always had to work overtime.' Barry acknowledged that the long hours made 'relationships with the children harder'. From a present perspective, he admired his son Paul who had been a 'home-dad' for four years. However he did not think this was something he could have done 'on the full scale that Paul's done it'.
Although Paul went to sixth form college, he did less well than his father in terms of qualifications. Paul and his girlfriend were doing a course in health and social care but dropped out of college. Paul got a number of agency jobs in factories, left home and moved in with his girlfriend. Aged 21, the couple had their first child. At first he and his partner both worked shifts and were able to share the care of their son with some additional childcare,
And then I'd pick him up from the nursery and take him home and do the tea and put him to bed and do the baths and all that, cos my wife didn't finish work till 10 o'clock, so I did all the afternoon stuff and my wife did all the morning and dinner time stuff. So it was just working as a partnership as a team, like we do.
However, when they had a second child, Paul decided to become a 'home-dad' because his wife was earning more than he was, 'it just made sense'. His wife returned to work full-time and, including travelling times, she was out of the home for 12 hours a day. For the next four years, Paul was a full-time father, 'Um, and it's the best job I've ever
had____rewarding but testing but so rewarding.'
When interviewed - the children were by then eight and five - Paul was working 16 hours a week as a parenting support worker. The hours were flexible and together with the flexibility that his wife had gained from her employer they 'boxed and coxed' childcare. On some occasions, Paul took his sons to work with him. He said that only now that he was working and hoping to make a career in this field (he was considering doing an National Vocational Qualification level 3) was he able to acknowledge the loss of self-esteem he had experienced while he was at home.3 He said he missed 'that adult interaction'. Moreover, as the children got older, he considered it important to inculcate in them a strong work ethic,
It's good modelling to show your kids that you have (pause) to have the nice things and to have the good things you have to work hard to get them... Fun time. But yeah work is important. And trying to get them to understand that being a house husband as well, that was work.
Thus in this family there are striking discontinuities between Barry and Paul both in their employment trajectories and in the centrality of work in their lives as fathers. In Paul's case, involvement with children involved taking on major responsibility for their care. On the other hand, Paul was mindful of passing on a strong work ethic to his children.