Nick Clegg knows all about the challenges facing working parents - he and his wife both work full time and have three boys, aged 12, nine and five - but what is he going to do to about them?
When M&B interviewed Nick Clegg last week, we asked you to send you in your questions on Twitter. You wanted to know everything from how long he took for paternity leave to his favourite children’s book.
So we cornered the Deputy Prime Minister and asked him…
On Paternity Leave
How long were you on paternity leave and do you wish you’d taken longer?
‘I was actually on paternity leave for quite different lengths of time for each of our three children… I was lucky enough to be able to take decisions myself. When our oldest boy, Antonio, was born back in 2002, I took a fair amount of time off. It was a very intense period for Miriam’s career, so she went back to work quite quickly and I, I sort of juggled things quite flexibly.
‘Fast forward to 2009, when my youngest Miguel was born and I was already leader of the Liberal Democrats and we had a year to go to general election and then Miriam took more time off than I did. I took two weeks.
‘My aim is to ensure that the government rules don’t inhibit mums and dads from chopping and changing their parental leave in different ways for different children at different points in their careers and that’s the hot point behind this move towards making parental leave interchangeable.’
On Changing Employer Attitudes
How are you going to change perceptions of the employer so that there’s less stigma attached to men taking longer for paternity leave?
‘Dads should know that not only are they entitled to take up more flexible parental leave under these new arrangements [from April 2015, the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave can be shared between the parents]. But also that there’s an active hope and expectation that they’re not inhibited by outdated or misplaced preconceptions about how much time dads should take off. And its win-win if its done properly. Its clearly answering to an increasing demand of dads to be more involved with their kids from an early age.’
On Who Picks Up The Kids
When your kids are ill, do you ever leave work early and pick them up?
'Miriam works very hard, she’s a city lawyer so it can be difficult - we’re just like any other parents'
‘Sometimes. Miriam works very hard, she’s a city lawyer so it can be difficult - we’re just like any other parents. Sometimes you just have to look someone in the eye at work and say I’m sorry, I simply can not do this meeting because my children need me. And when it comes to parental leave I think, or hope, that relatively quickly employers who are nervous about these changes will actually see there’s a certain advantage for them in having an arrangement where more women might come back to work more quickly.’
On Making Nannies Affordable
Assuming you have a nanny, do you think that option is becoming less affordable with changes to how we pay nannies? [Parents now have to pay into a nanny’s pension as well as pay their tax and national insurance]
‘I think its important when you employ someone that you employ them properly and I think everybody understands that that this necessary in every walk of life.
'We are very lucky that we’re able to rely on two wonderful grandmothers … my mother-in-law has just gone back to Spain today having helped out for the last 10 days. My mother is coming tomorrow afternoon. But we’re also lucky that we are able to pay for help, but that is very expensive for people and that’s what we’re trying to change with the new two year old entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare for low earning families.'
‘I’m absolutely loving that Quentin Blake book about the French professor and the parakeets – it's called Cockatoos'
On His Favourite Children’s Book
What’s your favourite children’s book to read to your children?
‘I’m absolutely loving that Quentin Blake book about the French professor and the parakeets – it's called Cockatoos (Red Fox; £5.99). It's a brilliant way to teach your children to count.'