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Women in Law

Does Society Still Say ‘No’ to Stay At Home Dads?

When I was born, my parents, as most parents do, had to make a decision about who would stay home to care for me and who would return to full-time work. It was a straight-forward decision for them and until recently, it is not something I had given a lot of thought to. My father (a Doctor) would work part time to care for me, and my mother (also a Doctor) would return to fulltime work. It was a convenient and mutually agreed upon decision that suited everyone. So why was it met with such resistance and what does this tell us about how society treats stay at home dads?

“Male friends (who were also high-powered doctors) started mostly talking to your mum when we had time together as they had more in common now … and my boss would say ‘how’s that high-powered wife going?’,” says my Dad who got the impression that his boss didn’t understand a dad choosing childcare duties over a career. “My own parents, especially my mother, thought I wasn’t doing the right thing and that as a man I should have been doing more,” he says.

Fast-forward 25 years … Is society still saying ‘no’ to stay at home dads?

Although, the number of stay-at-home fathers has doubled since the 1970s, society still seems to be struggling with the idea. A recent British Societal Attitudes Survey revealed that public support for dads staying at home is close to zero with only 5% of us thinking dads should work part-time and the majority of us (73%) believing dads should work full time. Outdated attitudes at work don’t make things any easier for dads either as they are twice as likely as mothers to have flexible working requests turned down.

As for our mums, 33% of us think they should stay at home; 43% say mums should work part time and only 28% favour mums working full time even after their kids start school. So despite the increase in working mums and stay-at-home dads, it seems much of society still thinks it’s a woman’s place to raise children and a man’s job to bring home the pay cheque. But here at Obelisk we hear a different story. We see countless dads who have chosen the flexible working route to spend more time with their children and loads of mums eager to maintain their hard-earned careers around their families.

And why shouldn’t this be the case?

From an employer’s point of view, flexible working options for men and women can only be positive. A recent IBM survey showed that 33% of people with flexible timetables had been promoted twice (or more) in the last five years, but only 24% of those who worked regular full-time hours had done the same.

And as far as I’m concerned, my upbringing was a blessing. I grew up with a strong, career-driven female role model who showed me that gender doesn’t restrict achievement. I also had an amazing male role model who taught me to embrace creative pursuits, to reject gender stereotypes, and that whilst work is important, there are more essential things that define a person. There’s no right or wrong way for mums and dads to share childcare duties – what works for one family may not necessarily work for another. So let’s stop saying no to stay at home dads or working mums and start empowering parents to have their kids, and career too.

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Women in Law

The Female King

On a recent trip to Egypt I was lucky enough to learn about the life and legacy of an astonishing King. A courageous King. A strong King. A female King.

Queen Hatshepsut began her life of power very conventionally as the wife of King Thutmose II. When the King died, leaving Hatshepsut a widow before she was 30 years old, an heir was sought. However, Hatshepsut and Thutmose II only had a daughter, and the male heir, born to one of Thutmose III’s concubines, was an infant and too young to rule. So Hatshepsut dutifully stepped in to the role of Regent. The Queen initially fulfilled this role as many Queens before her had done – paying careful respect to traditional rules. But before long it became apparent that Hatshepsut was different from her predecessors, that she was special, that she wanted something more. Hatshepsut did not want to be a temporary Queen – she wanted to be King.

The Queen began performing acts normally carried out by a King, she worked hard to make allies of influential leaders, and began to construct temples and obelisks as symbols of power. But despite her strengths, religious beliefs said that a woman could not adequately perform the duties of a King and as such, Hatshepsut’s rise to power was at a standstill. Not one to give up, Hatshepsut demonstrated previously unseen levels of political skill, and was able to adopt the full regalia and title of Pharaoh. She ruled for a total of 21 years.

Under Hatshepsut’s role, Egypt prospered. She devoted her time to the country’s economic growth, she introduced a building program dedicated to the restoration of temples and monuments around Egypt, and through her sea voyages she established new trade routes with faraway lands. One of Hatshepsut’s most notable achievements was the building of two of the most impressive Obelisks in Egyptian history. These Obelisks, over 30 meters tall, were made of solid pieces of red granite, weighing over 300 tonnes. Despite Hatshepsut’s nephew’s attempts to erase her images from every monument she erected, the Obelisks could not be damaged and one of these Obelisks still stands today in Karnak temple.

Hatshepsut’s legacy is more than just a history lesson. It is a lesson in beating the odds, in thinking outside the box, and that sometimes, breaking tradition is necessary for things to evolve. In a world where it was unheard of for a woman to rule on her own merit, Hatshepsut demonstrated a remarkable sense of self, courage of conviction, and creative thinking. As Cornell University anthropologist Meredith Small said, “In ancient Egypt, just like today, you simply can’t keep a good woman down.”

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Family & Work Trending

Creativity to Productivity: how hobbies help at work

It’s no secret that having a creative outlet outside of work can make you happier and healthier. It helps relieve stress, provides social opportunities and takes your mind off the daily grind.

But having a hobby doesn’t just make you feel better; studies show it helps you cope better at work as well. Organisational psychologists have discovered that employees who are involved in creative activities outside of work experience 4 key benefits:

Mastery and control

Learning a new skill encourages a greater sense of mastery and control which leads to a better performance at work.

Creative problem solving

Although it might not directly relate to what you are doing at work, like all things, creativity takes practice. So if you practice being creative at home, studies show that you are more likely to be creative when performing in your work and to initiate a more imaginative way of problem-solving. In such a competitive working world, having the ability to think outside the box can be vital in helping you stand out from the crowd.

Effective recovery from work

Employees with after-hours hobbies are more effective in ‘recovering’ from a stressful working day. This is because they have a channel for self-expression and discovery. Creative activities allow us to mentally disengage from stressful work situations and this is vital in our recovery between work periods. Although you might go home for the night, if you don’t focus your mind on another activity, chances are you’re still mentally at the office and you’ll soon fatigue the systems you need to get your work done. This is especially true in an age of mobile phones and social media where our work can, quite literally, follow us home.

A better night’s sleep

Employees who engaged in creative activities reported less fatigue at the end of the evening and got a significantly better sleep than those who didn’t.

So with this in mind, perhaps now is the perfect time to spare some time for a creative endeavour. But which to choose?

  • Playing music boosts neuroplasticity
  • Chess improves strategic thinking
  • Knitting improves fine-motor skills
  • Reading slows cognitive decline

Whatever activity you choose, you are sure to be on your way to a happier and healthier way of life – which is good for you, your family and your work. As for me, I’ll be acting on this advice, literally. I’ve signed up for a screen-acting course as a way to explore my love of the performing arts and to gain some new life skills in the process. I might not make it to Hollywood, but at least I’ll get a good night’s sleep.

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Family & Work

Take a break from technology

Take a break. Seriously. It’s good for you. I don’t mean sitting at your computer typing emails through mouthfuls of salad. I’m talking about a proper break to stretch your legs and get away from your computer screen.

Although UK law requires that all employees take at least one uninterrupted 20 minute break per 6 hours of work, in many workplaces, there is a culture of eating lunch at your desk or skipping breaks altogether. Many employees feel they are losing time or will seem less committed by taking their whole lunch hour, but in reality, if you’re not taking a break, you’re probably not making the best use of your resources. So, whether you’re working from home or in a city office, what can improvements to your productivity can you trigger when you take the time to stop?

1. You get more done

The human brain wasn’t made for the intense, long haul concentration we expect of it during the course of a working day. All the decisions (big and small) we make fatigue our brain and decrease productivity. In fact, studies have shown that even a 5 minute break is enough to sustain concentration and increase productivity by an average of 13%. By not allowing your brain to take a break, you’re decreasing its capacity for creative thought processes and your work can suffer.

2. You’ll be healthier

Ever noticed how much better you feel after going for a quick walk? Taking time out to stretch your legs and get moving boosts circulation and increases oxygen flow which is a great energiser. Going for regular walks can help prevent dementia, osteoporosis and improves the body’s cardiovascular fitness. It’s also a great opportunity to explore your local area and discover new cafes and green spaces – as well as giving your Vitamin D levels a boost while you’re at it.

3. You’ll be happier

With the Spring weather coming out in force, there’s no better time to take advantage of London’s green spaces by spending your lunch time outdoors. People that regularly spend time outside report lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, the endorphins produced from physical activity can be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression.

4. You can practise mindfulness

There’s a lot to be said for putting down your phone/tablet/laptop and just ‘being’. Even focusing your attention only on eating your food instead of also tapping away on your phone can be hugely beneficial. Whilst multitasking can make you feel like you are hyper efficient, in reality, the human brain doesn’t cope very well with multiple tasks and struggles to switch between them. Singletaskers can actually switch from one task to the other better than multitaskers, and can also filter irrelevant information more effectively. So, use your break to focus on one thing only and you’ll be setting yourself up to be more productive when you’re back at work.

5. You’ll save your eyes

Remember the 20-20-20 rule. That is, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you don’t, you’re in danger of getting Computer Eye Strain – something that 50 – 90% of office workers complain about. Symptoms include physical fatigue, decreased productivity, an increased numbers of errors, as well as eye twitching and red eyes. Getting outside on your break will also protect your eyes from the overly harsh lighting found in most offices. If you can take a break and get out of the office and away from the computer screen, you’ll be saving your eyes and improving your work.

So if you think you’re too busy to take a break, actually, maybe it’s time to think that you’re too busy NOT to.