Book Review: Confessions of a Working Father
Updated: Oct 4
Here at AXIS Network we believe that education is key in changing the narrative on workplace culture and that its everyone’s responsibility to understand prejudice and discrimination of marginalised groups. To this end, we are very excited to launch The Twelve Books of Christmas, a weekly series of book reviews from now until Christmas to help you or anyone in your life better understand the lived reality of women or issues on gender parity in the workplace.
For those of you who absolutely don’t want to hear that there’s only twelve weeks until Christmas, this series is definitely better gift inspiration than a partridge in a pear tree or ten lords a-leaping, which is surely the best cautionary tale ever of what happens when you panic buy three days before Christmas.
Confessions of a Working Father by Brian Ballantyne
Who should read it: Working parents, leaders with working parents in their teams and anyone who wants inspiration for a bit more flexibility in their working lives.
Why you should read it: In reading about Brian’s experiences, it helps you reflect on your own working life and it gives you an insight into some of the challenges and joys of raising a family whilst holding down a career.
Written before the pandemic, Brian’s collection of LinkedIn posts published in this book are still as relevant as ever.
Don’t expect a ‘how to’ book or structured advice on juggling work and parenting (although some gems are buried within his posts). This is a book that allows you an insight into the world of one working parent. Brian is an advocate for women’s rights and for men playing an equal role in family life.
Being a working parent doesn’t come without challenges and Brian’s concise, empathetic and direct insights help you reflect on the occasional madness of the working world and at times unrealistic business expectations. He’s candid about the shame he’s felt in the past missing emails from work because he’s chosen to be present with his family and how he worked through those feelings. He draws on insights from numerous friends and colleagues.
One particular anecdote struck a chord where a parent was starting a new role and their partner reflected that the first 6 months was the opportunity for them to train their new company in how available, or otherwise they would be outside of office hours. A good lesson for us all to reflect on if we take on a different role or have a change in line management; personal responsibility does play some part in this. To balance this, Brian is very firm that 'these days companies need to offer genuine flexibility if they want to attract and retain dads to work for them.’
Brian coined the phrase ‘parenting from work’ to squeeze in all the myriad of minor administration tasks that need to be done by a working parent. With insights on how to do these things efficiently, it’s useful and practical reading as well.
Looking at the bigger picture, Brian has clearly thought about what type of father he wants to be. There is a smidgeon of sentimentality as he reflects on his own upbringing and draws lessons to guide his own values, which clearly appear to be the foundation of his decision making.
He also rails against the depiction of men and fathers in the media, with the incompetent Daddy Pig (father of Peppa and George) being a key example. Although he recognises the challenges faced by working mothers are different and sometimes harder, Brian sets out why he believes men have a right to talk about their experiences as dads and caregivers and to be celebrated for this.
Brian finishes the book, with that wonderful verse that Heinz used in their Spaghetti advert, dragging those of us of a certain age back to our own childhoods:
“With hands like spades,
And a heart full of love,
My father, my father.”
Ballantyne, B. (2018) Confessions of a Working Father. Independently published.