`I just couldn't bring this baby into the same pressurised environment as my other sons'

Manager turned father and porter
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PAUL GIGGLE, 47, of Happisburgh in Norfolk used to be in charge of 300 employees in a mechanical engineering factory. He put in a least 60 hours a week and says he had virtually no contact with his two elder children until they were four.

"I hardly saw my children when they were younger. I never changed their nappies, I never fed them, I never got up in the night when they were crying because I was always exhausted from the day's work.

"I had a 45-minute journey each way and two evenings a week and all Saturday afternoon I was playing football as a semi-professional. Basically, I was never there which was awful for the whole family."

Mr Giggle says his sons, now 31 and 23, missed out on having a father but he was a slave to the wage.

"You have the mortgage to meet and all your other financial commitments and the overtime paid very well," he said. "The only time we would all get together was for Sunday dinner. It didn't only affect my children, it affected me and my first wife."

Although he remarried, Mr Giggle's life did not change. "My stepdaughter was the probably the only three-year-old able to order an Indian takeaway. My second wife, Debbie, also had a very demanding job so we ended up eating out six nights a week."

It was not until his son Charlie was born five years ago that Mr Giggle decided to have a radical work-life change.

"Even before Debbie became pregnant, we both decided that things had to be different," he says. "I wanted to make up for all the things I didn't give to my other sons. I just couldn't bring this baby into the same, pressurised environment."

In 1992, Giggle took voluntary redundancy and became a house husband. "It was the best decision I ever made in my life," he said. "I had to leave my job because there was no way the company would have been open to flexible working options."

Now Charlie has turned five, Mr Giggle works as a night porter, a job which allows him to sleep during the day while his son is at school.

"I don't think I'll ever go back into engineering," he said. "It is too pressurised and I don't want to give up what I've got."

Director helped by nanny and parents

ESTHER KAPOSI, of London, is a 38-year-old mother of two and director of corporate affairs for PowerGen. Although currently on maternity leave with her five-week-old baby, Ms Kaposi intends to go back to work full- time.

On an average working day, Ms Kaposi leaves the house at 8am and returns around 7pm. "I have a full-time nanny who comes to our house and my parents live nearby which is very helpful," she said. "My husband works from home which means his hours are more flexible than mine. It is definitely easier for me to work with two small children than it is for some other mothers."

Ms Kaposi believes people in senior positions have an easier time balancing their home and work lives because they can tailor the day to suit their own timetable.

"I'm not one of these people who stays at work just to be seen," she said. "If I need to do a longer day because of a particular project then I will because it will probably be something that motivates me. But you don't need to work long hours to get on."

Her fine balancing act is, she says, down to effective time management. "To be successful I think you need to manage your time well at work and at home. My elder daughter has a sleep in the afternoon and doesn't go to bed until 8pm, so I try to be at home for then. If I'm not home in time I will speak to her on the telephone.

"My situation is not ideal but it is not awful, although I'm always going to remain flexible and keep an open mind about the way I work. I am not going to close off the down-shifting option."