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 CM, 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 CM, 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, CM, 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 CM 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.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
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

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect