News / 17th October 2023

Managing Change As A Parent Returning To Belfast Office Life

Managing Change As A Parent Returning To Belfast Office Life

A Guest Blog by Alan Irwin, Belfast Central Mission, for Parenting Week 2023

As I engage my daily two-minute wet wiping routine (rogue toddler toothpaste and porridge related disasters are very evident across my work wardrobe) I often momentarily reflect on where I am now and the lurching changes that have thrown me back to office work after a spell working at home.

Having recently returned from a 7 year stint in England has contributed to a tangled web of new logistical issues, set within a mad dash to adjust to new work patterns for both me and my partner; morning parental text exchanges now mostly centre around the ongoing debate of “who’s got the kids today”, or “which car has the child seats?” or “Did our children eat breakfast this morning?”. And oh the mess…

I have recently started to notice and engage with others who are facing all these issues afresh, especially during the autumn months: Young working parents who are just getting back into work after a time well spent with their growing little ones, or parents who are adjusting back to hybrid office working after being home-based for the last few years.

Puddleducks Day Nursery

You see I happen to work in a Linen Quarter based charity which houses the city centre’s only children’s day care location. Puddleducks Day Nursery has been running successfully on Glengall street for over eleven years now, with space for seventy children- used by a mix of working families, and those who live in close proximity to the city centre.

As someone who is eternally curious, I have started to perceive the nursery as a microcosm of our wider city centre workforce. There have been manys a conversation with parents who never are quite sure if they are doing the right thing in handing their kids over for a few hours each day en route to the office . In the last year we have gotten alongside parents facing challenges in affordability, conflicting schedules and keeping their children as their first priority. Challenges to costs, workforce and local legislation have made it doubly challenging for the childcare industry in Northern Ireland, and Puddleducks is no exception.

Their approach to childcare, whilst pioneering in the local market, doesn’t shield the social enterprise from changes in workforce behaviour with work patterns and locations more fragmented than ever before.

Working Parents & Resources To Support You

Stats around the impact of rising childcare costs are startling. The Guardian recently found in a survey of 27,000 parents, that 43% had considered leaving their jobs, and a further 40% were forced to reduce their hours. This continues to predominantly impact female working parents, but it is also a constantly changing picture, which undulates depending on the industry and type of work.

As a parent myself, thinking about all this change and associated pressure can feel just downright draining- trying to preserve the bank of mum and dad whilst engineering quality time with kids can be a thankless balancing act. Moving back to office work/ increasing hours is a change that many are going through by necessity, and it’s one that I personally am trying to perceive as a constructive challenge rather than a source of gloom- continuing to look with new eyes and extra colours.

So in that spirit, I have persuaded the wonderfully knowledgeable team at Puddleducks Day Nursery to consider running some helpful resources for working parents like me – to generate ideas on how to make sense of new contexts with our children as we deal with so much change. They will be hosting a free upcoming lunchtime talk online on Tuesday 7th November. Let’s hope it will be a great conversation-starter for those working parents in Belfast who are trying to make work… work.

Alan Irwin is a Business Development Manager for Belfast Central Mission, based on Glengall Street, and the charity operates the award-winning Puddleducks Nursery as a social enterprise business that helps to fund wider charitable work within the community.

Upcoming Webinar

Sharon Malcolm, Manager of Puddleducks Day Nursery will be running a helpful session on Tuesday 7th November at 12.30pm on tips to make best use of the time we get with our children. Book your space via this link.

Sharon Malcolm   Puddleducks Day Nursery