Anyone who is a parent will know that it is a full-time job in itself, and then some. And while being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences, it doesn’t stop the reality of economics: we need to work. Event professionals often have to work long and occasional anti-social hours, which makes balancing work and parent life a challenge. In this feature, CN speaks to four event professionals on how they try to find the balance.
Michael Charles, creative director, Julia Charles Event Management
This is the 21st Century and millennial dads are far more hands on; we should all focus on how to accommodate working parents. I’m a single dad and have my daughter over 50% of the time and pick her up from school three days a week. I’ll spend time with her to have dinner and to help her with her homework and then I’ll continue to work once she is in bed.
Running my own agency is a double-edged sword. Family and friends may think that being my own boss means that I can do whatever I like, whenever I like, but the reality is that deadlines don’t simply disappear because I have my daughter.
Our suppliers all have families so we all understand each other’s needs and no-one bats an eye lid if someone isn’t free because they need to pick up a child. Being a parent means that I do appreciate and better relate to the needs of the parents in the team too. We offer part-time school-day hours to some staff and flexible working hours too.
I strive to be the best possible dad that I can be; my daughter comes first but there are times when I have help from my family.
Jason Phillips, software developer, RefTech
I share custody of my seven-year-old daughter with my ex-wife. She is with me for the first half of the week and with her mum for the later part. I work full-time but RefTech allows me to work flexible hours; I work shorter days at the beginning of the week so that I can take my daughter to school and pick her up, and then longer hours at the end of the week when she is with her mum.
I’d already been working for RefTech for about six years when I became a single dad and they were extremely accommodating to my suggestion of working this way. I’m also able to work from home when I need to, and we have a couple of ‘duvet days’ each year which come in handy if ever my daughter is ill and I need to stay at home with her. I don’t attend events, but I have to be on call for the two IMEX events that we support; during IMEX America we work on US time (from 4pm to midnight each day) so we are ready to act should something need our attention.
Jill Hawkins, director, Aniseed PR
I’d been joint MD and co-owner of a PR agency since 1999, and then had my daughter in 2005. When I went back to work, my daughter went to a local nursery four days a week and I had one day off to be with her. When she started school in September 2010 I needed to have a more flexible way of working because I wanted to be able to take her to school and pick her up most days. I’d become a single mum when she was young so while it was important for me to be there for her, I also needed to pay the bills. Although I was already working for myself because the agency was partly mine, we had 12 staff and there was an expectation that I should be in the office from nine to five to manage both staff and clients.
Setting up Aniseed PR meant starting again, with no clients. But working on my own enabled me the freedom to take a few hours off in the afternoon to do the school run, and then I could work in the evening to catch up if needed. Juggling work and children can be tricky when you are self-employed because you don’t have colleagues to help; I would be at the park with her after school and the phone call I’d been waiting for all day would come through; I became very good at switching into ‘work mode’ while in the park surrounded by children.
Joanna Lunn, events sales manager, Victory Services Club
I have two girls – aged two and four and I work full time. When we moved back to the UK [from Australia] in 2017 I took five months off to help settle the girls into their new home, but by the end of that time I was itching to get back to work. I love my job and I could never imagine not working.
I couldn’t work full time if it wasn’t for our au pair. She looks after the girls for two days and takes them to lots of classes and activities, and then she takes them to nursery three days a week – which I think is a great balance. If I didn’t have an au pair I’d be rushing to drop the children off and rushing again to pick them up but having an au pair means things are far more relaxed in the mornings and that they are only at nursery from 9 to 5 and not from the crack of dawn until late.
My dream would be to work four days a week but it’s just not practical at the moment – we are a relatively young events team and so I need to be here to lead and coach my staff. I would always want to do more than my team, so I feel guilty because I can’t always do the long hours that they work when we are busy. I do sometimes work on evening events, but then I can take off time off in lieu, so it can be beneficial.
Being a working parent in the events industry means having to be extremely organised and also being totally exhausted all of the time, but I love it.