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Staff blog

BLOG: Parenting at Queen's

"All staff can avail of support for different aspects of their home life."

Image of adult and child holding hands against a background of asphalt and bushes

A blog by Gary Kane, Staff Wellbeing Officer, People and Culture Directorate

Hello all, I am Gary Kane, the Staff Wellbeing Officer here at Queen’s but also, more importantly, a parent working at Queen’s. I have a six-year-old daughter who is both the absolute apple of my eye and the most intentionally irritating person I have ever met.

When she was first born, my partner had just started working at a new job so she wasn’t eligible for any type of maternity pay beyond the statutory amount. Things where tough for the first six months! As a father, it is expected that I would go out to work after my two weeks were up and provide for my family, but this was very tough. I had a new baby at home and a partner who on balance needed me more to be physically there rather than out earning money. I will admit I struggled with this.

After eight months, my Caroline had to go back to work due to the financial implications and the precarity of her role at that time and Robyn started in creche. I remember thinking when she started, we had just moved into our first home and for the two years we lived in the house the cost of the creche was more than our mortgage! In fact, it is only due to the increases in interest rates over the last few years that our mortgage has overtaken our childcare costs.

I started at Queen’s in January 2023, having come from another University where I spent a large chunk of my time there under Covid-19 working from home mandates. Working from home made it easy to drop Robyn to creche and pick her up afterwards.

Moving to Queen’s was daunting in the sense that I didn’t yet know if I would have the ability to drop Robyn off and pick her up all in good time to get her home for homework and dinner before bed. However, thanks to the flexible working processes in place, I can work from home some days and start earlier and finish earlier when I need to work around her needs. We also have access to the onsite childcare facilities and family leave policies.

Via the Staff Wellbeing team, all staff who are parents or guardians can avail of support for different aspects of their home life, such as Inspire for free counselling, legal and financial advice and other supports, courses delivered by Parenting NI on things like 'Teen’s Emotional Health', 'Keeping Children Safe Online' and 'Helping Children Manage Change'.

Our Parent’s Network here at Queen’s is an amazing group which makes sure parents don't feel alone when things are tough.

Finally, and for many of us most importantly, the Queen’s Sport Summer Scheme is another initiative on offer at Queen's to help staff who are parents or guardians. We all know how difficult things can be during the holidays trying to keep our children occupied, engaged and out of trouble during those long days off and the Queen’s Summer Scheme is an amazing way to do that. It also means our children are close by, saving commute time before and after work as we are able to drop them off and pick them up close to where we work.