Wednesday 28 January 2015

Daddy duty...how politicians juggle work and fatherhood

Family time: Thomas Byrne with his children Sinéad (5), Tomás (4) and Daithi (2)
Family time: Thomas Byrne with his children Sinéad (5), Tomás (4) and Daithi (2)
Hands full: Damien English with his children Harvey (4), Karla 2 and twins Andrea and Darcie aged four months
Family time: Thomas Byrne with his children Sinead (5) Daithi (2) and Tomás (4)

How do politicans juggle work and fatherhood?

Politics has never had a reputation of being family-friendly, but a number of our TDs and senators have been finding out the hard way that combining their job with their duties as a dad is a never-ending juggling act. As the Dáil and Seanad get back to business after the summer break, we ask some of them how they make it work – and why they wouldn't have it any other way.

'MY JOB IS A LOT LIKE RUNNING A BUSINESS'

Damien English

Fine Gael TD

Father of four

Damien English lives in Meath with his wife Laura and their children Harvey (4), Karla (2) and twins Andrea and Darcie (four months). He's been a Fine Gael TD for Meath West since 2002.

When he was first elected to the Dáil, Damien was single and childless. Life now with four kids under four is very different.

"We get through about a hundred nappies a week," he laughs. "Things are fairly hectic. I'm very hands-on with the kids, so I'm always trying to fit the job in around that. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I would be up in Dublin at the Dáil and I could be working day and night. The other days, I'd be working in Meath. But if I can at all, I try to get home for the evening rush. Feeding four kids can be fairly manic!

"I think my job is a lot like running a business," Damien continues. "I make calls and check emails on the move. I've just developed better time-management skills.

"Even with four mad kids, you'd hope to have them down and asleep by 9pm, so I can catch up on work then, too."

Damien goes out of his way to make sure he doesn't miss big events like birthdays, and treats weekends as family time. "I try to keep Sundays free from work," he says. "I bring them to various fairs, and swimming is a big hit with the older two."

He explains to his children why he's sometimes not around, but keeps it simple. "Everything I do is 'a meeting', so they know that," he says. "They've been up to the Dáil and they know I have an office in Navan. Sometimes Harvey will ask why I have to go to work and I just tell him it's a fact of life. I have to earn money to pay the bills.

"I always make a point of being there at breakfast'' continues Damien. "When I first started in the Dáil, I might have stayed in Dublin some nights, but now I always try to get home."

"When I finish up in politics at some stage, I always say I might get a career in logistics or time-management," he laughs. "But it's all great. It's hectic, but it's great."

'IT'S AS DIFFICULT FOR FATHERS AS MOTHERS'

Michael McCarthy

Irish Independent

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