Isla McGuckin, Marketing Manager at 3D Issue
A few weeks into my new job, at 3D Issue, this wasn’t a conversation I expected to be having with my boss. To support my husband’s photography/film-making business by shouldering most of our family’s day-to-day “stuff”, I was already working half-time. So, I’ll be honest, I did give Paul McNulty’s question a moment’s thought. Would it be possible to squeeze a demanding job into just four four-hour slots? But with young daughters still at national school, the prospect of having an entire morning to myself was incredibly appealing. I chose the Fridays-off option.
How carefully I guarded those precious Friday mornings. I used the weekly headspace to tackle long-neglected creative projects. (I even got a publishing deal for a picture book – but that’s literally another story!) And then the pandemic struck.
According to a recent UCD study about parental roles during lockdown, “There was a clear gender difference in who was helping the children with remote learning, with 95 per cent of children reporting that their mothers helped them, compared to 52 per cent of children reporting that their fathers helped them.”
Because of my work set-up at 3D Issue – Monday to Thursday, 9 till 1, 100% remote – our family was able to manage things more equitably. I worked in the mornings, we’d have lunch together as a family, and my husband worked in the afternoons. My “Free Fridays” became “Family Fridays” during lockdown, making me appreciate them all the more when schools reopened.
Living through a pandemic has helped me to post-rationalise many of my life’s decisions. My family is my priority. But I do need to work. And not just for financial reasons. A Harvard University study highlighted the benefits – to daughters, in particular – of working mothers. Who’s going to deny their kids better careers, higher pay, and more equal relationships?!
But Sheryl Sandberg makes an excellent point, “When a couple announces that they are having a baby, everyone says “Congratulations!” to the man and “Congratulations! What are you planning on doing about work?” to the woman.”
Maybe our collective experiences during and following the pandemic will prompt more discussions around different ways of working and promote respect for the choices that women – and men – make, both at home and work. I, for one, couldn’t feel more invested in proving that a four-day week is productive, positive and possible.