For Carers Week, Chris Butler shares his story of balancing raising his adopted 8-year-old son and his career at Aviva.
There are 6.5 million carers in the UK1. People who are caring for friends or family members with disabilities, mental or physical illnesses, or who just need some extra help. Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges these unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
Chris, our Head of Audit for Group Centre, has shared his story.
My wife, Emma, and I adopted our eight-year-old boy around the time of his third birthday. Since then, our lives have centred around helping him cope with the effects of his difficult early years. This has been most challenging over the last three years or so, during which time I re-joined Aviva.
Aviva has strongly supported me in finding a balance that works for everyone.
From the start, I was supported by agreeing a really structured work pattern between London and my hometown of Bristol.
But it’s the emotional support that I’ve found most valuable – particularly in those sensitive moments when I need to immediately respond to something that is more important than work.
Our 'Little Man' thrives on routine so knowing where I would be at any time, when I’d be coming home and when I’d be doing the school run helped to manage his anxieties. At my leader’s suggestion, we even took him down to St Helen’s, our London office, during half-term so he could meet my workmates, see my desk and (most importantly!) where I eat my lunch.
More recently, we’ve needed extra support.
On a practical basis, my leaders and team-mates have been fantastic with allowing me to attend whatever course or counselling we’ve needed at any given time. At the moment, I’m flexing my hours to attend regular family therapy sessions - a long-term commitment that I feel fully supported on by Aviva.
But it’s the emotional support that I’ve found most valuable – particularly in those sensitive moments when I need to immediately respond to something that is more important than work. I’ve never felt judged for what’s happening in my Teams background or for having to abruptly hang up on a call.
Although COVID has let many of us into each other’s homes, it’s still not easy to talk about what is really going on in the toughest times.
My team have seamlessly stepped in mid-presentation or audit debate on more than one occasion!
When I’m stressed by being late for a meeting with no notice, I’ve been reminded that the main pressure is coming from myself. It’s a simple message, but it works. It gives me a much-needed sense of control over my own feelings.
As I think about what makes this work while my life feels so strained; I’m self-aware enough to know it’s a little bit from both sides. Although COVID has let many of us into each other’s homes, it’s still not easy to talk about what is really going on in the toughest times. I feel lucky to work for such a supportive and flexible employer, but they can only truly support me and my family if I’m open and flexible with them too.
So, if you need help with your caring or parenting responsibilities, please talk to someone at work. Good people will be listening.
Carers Week: https://www.carersweek.org/
All voices at Aviva deserve to be heard. See how our Aviva Communities, including Aviva Carers, support this: https://www.aviva.com/about-us/aviva-communities/
Hear from our Aviva Carers Community co-chair, Lee, on the Aviva Podcast (Lee's section starts at 12:05. A transcript is also available on the page): https://www.aviva.com/newsroom/podcasts/building-a-more-inclusive-organisation/
1. '6.5 million' figure from https://www.carersweek.org/about-carers-week/