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DIFF podcast: If I could do it again, I’d spend more time with family, not working – Montlake

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  • 06/09/2023
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DIFF podcast: If I could do it again, I’d spend more time with family, not working – Montlake
There is pressure on men to be providers for their families while also being present parents, said Andrew Montlake, managing director of Coreco.

Speaking on the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) podcast he said as a working parent, “there is a lot of juggling to do” and added that he “felt like a bit of a failure” when it came to his family life in terms of being present as a father, particularly in his children’s younger years.  

He said while the pressure on working mothers needed to be addressed, the issue is  also important to working fathers.  

Montlake said personally, he found it hard to get away from the idea that he needed to work all the time and look after people while running a business.   

He said it could be confusing for men as they did not know whether they were “meant to be the traditional alpha male who goes out and earns a crust and looks after their family. But then they also have to be the new type of man – which I believe you should be – which is sharing responsibilities and doing things together and being sensitive to everything else,” he added. 

Montlake said he spoke to a lot of men who said they would lie about having to do the school run and pretend to have a meeting or claim to be unwell instead.  

“Anything that doesn’t suggest that you have to go home and look after kids because it was frowned upon for a man to do that,” he added.  

Montlake said this dilemma and uncertainty about identity contributed to stress and the rising suicide rate among men. If he could do it again, Montlake would “learn from my mistakes and spend a lot more time in the family home rather than just being obsessed with working”. 

Montlake said he now tried to create this environment at Coreco where employees were encouraged to put their families first. 

 

Challenges at all ages 

Esther Dijkstra, managing director of intermediaries at Lloyds Banking Group, said when her children were younger the routine helped her as a working parent. 

“It’s the transition periods that make it really hard,” she added, mentioning that school holidays made it difficult to get back into a routine. She said schools were also not geared up for both parents working because they tended to organise events during the day. 

Dijkstra said: “It was very hard for the children because we have no family living close, so our children were always the only ones who didn’t have a parent present at sports day, didn’t have mum present at [the Mother’s Day] tea party. Trust me, I tried to make it in the six to eight years they were both at primary and I never made it.” 

She said with her job it was not logistically possible, particularly if she was travelling or speaking at a conference as she could not “let hundreds of people down”. 

She said this did not become easier over time as while Dijkstra had to arrange childcare when they were younger, when they were older the “problems tend to get bigger”. 

Dijkstra added: “That then takes time because it’s very ad hoc because you either have to attend school meetings or other things to sort it out or be there.  

“The guilt is then really bad because you constantly battle with the ‘if I had been there more, would it not have happened?’ and you do feel judged.” 

 

Workplace culture 

Dijkstra said Montlake was being “hard on himself” and was not a “failed father” and agreed that it was important to signal the importance of her family life at work so people saw her as a whole person. 

She said it was important for companies to be flexible so parents could manage one-off events but when it came to regular duties such as the school run, there needed to be a “balanced discussion” because it should also be fair for non-parents and other carers as everybody might need “ad hoc flexibility at some point in their life”. 

Montlake said since the pandemic, he noticed “discontent” among non-parent employees when flexibility was given to parents. 

He added that it was a battle to balance how to bring people back into the office while retaining flexibility, particularly for those who needed it. 

Dijkstra said there needed to be more of a focus on outcomes rather than presenteeism or how many hours are put into a job and agreed it was not easy to figure out. 

Host Danielle Moore, operations director at AE3 Media, raised the financial challenge of arranging childcare and keeping children entertained during the summer holidays, as well as the impact of that on parent employees. 

Dijkstra said summer holidays were a “total utter nightmare” because the routine was broken and that was “sometimes all you’re hanging on to when you have a full-time career”. She said it was too short to find another routine, so parents ended up “limping through it”. 

She said the timings of summer holiday activities did not align with regular school timings either which added another difficulty and as a working mother, she never managed to form enough of a connection with other parents to share the childcare load. 

Montlake said this was the first summer holiday that was really challenging as his kids were not interested in doing anything. 

 

Listen to the podcast [34:35] hosted by Danielle Moore, operations director at AE3 Media, featuring Esther Dijkstra, managing director of intermediaries at Lloyds Banking Group and Andrew Montlake, managing director of Coreco. 

 

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