Working parents: Power lunches with my two-year-old

A city-centre nursery is helping fathers to see their children during the day, writes Sarah Jewell
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The Independent Culture
Fathers who commute to work often find that they have little time to spend with their children during the week. Broadgate nursery in the centre of the City of London was set up with the aim of combating this problem by encouraging commuting parents to drive to work with their babies and toddlers, drop them off at the nursery, visit them during the day and then drive home together in the evening.

Ian Brown, a director at SBC Warburg, drives to work every day with his wife, who is a financial printer in the City, and their seven-month-old baby William. What used to be a boring 40-minute journey, they say, has now become "an enjoyable family outing with William sitting and chatting and throwing things around". William spends the day at Broadgate nursery and is collected by Ian's wife, but at least once a week Ian "dives into a taxi" to see him during the lunch hour. For Ian, these midday visits are very important: "I look forward to them enormously, as it is really the only time during the week that I get to spend with William, and if we go out into the garden for half an hour and play daft games, that's time we would otherwise never have had."

Adam Tracey has been taking his 16-month-old son Jason to the nursery for nearly a year, and is delighted with the extra amount of time they manage to spend together. Adam works in IT for a bank in the City, and he and his wife and Jason leave the house at 7.40am and drive in together. "Even if Jason is asleep in the car I am still with him in a way I wouldn't be if he were asleep at home," says Adam. He picks Jason up at 5.15pm and collects his wife from her office, and they all go home together.

As a result he sees his son for "far longer each day, mornings and evenings than if Jason were at home with a nanny". Adam also visits during the lunch hour, though he doesn't come as often as he used to. Jason is sometimes disrupted by the visits and "takes time to settle after I have gone".

The nursery staff are used to children being disrupted by their parents' visits but, as Jacky Roberts, the nursery co-ordinator, says, "we find the children settle back quite quickly into what they were doing after the parent has left, and it is our responsibility as staff to make sure that the child is diverted." Jacky usually asks parents "not to take the child right away from the group when they first come in to visit; we like the parents to participate with what is happening at nursery" - but parents are allowed to take their children out to lunch, particularly the older ones, and, as Jacky says, "any time the parent can gain with their child during the day is a benefit."

Andrew Walsh, a City lawyer, drops in to see his 14-month-old daughter, Flora, whenever he can and he enjoys watching her "learning in a safe environment, socialising with the other babies and being kept busy and entertained all day". It is a long day for all the children and Flora is tired by the evening but Andrew thinks that is a good thing. "Nursery tires her out rather than us out, she sleeps during the day, she has a regular pattern and she sleeps very well at night." The nursery is expensive (about pounds 200 a week for a full-time place) but Andrew Walsh feels "it is better for us and it is better for Flora, and this way I avoid being a weekend-only parent."

Broadgate nursery, Nurseryworks (0171-247 3491)