Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members

When Charanpal Matharu, a 42-year-old business manager at Credit Suisse bank, had to miss his seven-year-old daughter's sport's day to go to work, he did not think she would mind. What's one sports day, after all?

But Mr Matharu, who also has a three-year-old daughter, has still not lived it down – 10 months later. He works up to 50 hours a week in the City, usually leaving before his children wake up and returning once they are in bed. He misses most mealtimes and rarely sees his children from Monday to Friday, when his wife looks after them. "My elder daughter has held against me that sports day I couldn't make," he says. "But the worst thing is, she probably only spoke to me about it months later. I thought she'd forget, but she didn't."

And so, Mr Matharu, along with more than 200 others – including the Deputy Prime Minister – found himself at the launch of a new support and networking group called Cityfathers yesterday at the offices of KPMG, in Canary Wharf, London.

All the men I spoke to were trying to get ever closer to that often-elusive "work-life balance". But, according to a new survey by the organisation, many fail. Nearly half of 753 City fathers surveyed by the organisation described "missing their children" as their biggest daily challenge. Some 45 per cent described their work-life balance as less than satisfactory; more than a quarter either took no paternity leave or did not take their full share.

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 – a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members. "The cultural challenges facing fathers in City professions who want to spend more time with their families and progress their career can be even greater than those facing mothers," she said. "There is a greater need than ever to change the culture of the City."

What is this culture? Long hours are a major part of it, the working fathers told me. We might be one year away from fathers being able to share parental leave, but fathers such as Mr Matharu believe there is still a "stigma" around asking to go part-time. Colin Leckey, a 36-year-old employment lawyer at Lewis Silkin, can work up to 60 hours a week. He has to juggle the care of his two children, four and two, with his wife, who is also a lawyer and works four days a week. Both of his children are in nursery from 7.30am to 6pm, and a member of its staff has to drive them home.

Father-of-two Brijesh Patel, 34, an associate director at financial services corporation State Street, is out of the house from 7am, when his young sons are still in bed. He returns at about 8pm as they are going to sleep. But he thinks things are slowly changing. "There is more flexible working," he said. "It was my three-year-old's first day at nursery today. I got in to work at 10.30am and I worked at home in the morning, so I got to see him go."

But, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, to achieve greater equality, we must embrace "more radical change." He added: "We need to challenge the ways in which many fathers are still pushed to see themselves as a breadwinner first and carer second – whether it's by a manager's raised eyebrow when you ask for some family time off... or your own ingrained fear that if you choose to work more flexibly, you'll find your career stuck in the slow lane."

Perhaps it is just going to take pioneers. Philip Gilbertson, a financial services auditor at KPMG, has gone down to four days a week, along with his wife, who also works at the firm, to care for his 13-month-old son Edward. They can each work up to 60 hours a week, but fit it around picking up their son from nursery at 4.45pm. "It used to be that you'd work until 8pm, go home, have dinner, catch up with your wife, and watch some TV. But now, I leave to pick him up, play with him and then do my work. Your work day is split into two halves," he said.

He does not know any other City fathers who are working part-time. Perhaps, after reading this, others will take his lead.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

    PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

    Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

    Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering