“Hey, Dad” Interview with Pedro Lopes 

May we introduce?

Pedro Lopes is an officer in the militia fire brigade and team leader of the fire brigade guards at Schutz und Rettung Zürich. He is a 50% single father of two children.

Pedro, you work and also have a lot of commitments in your free time. How do you organise yourself to balance everything out?

My ex-wife and I have joint custody. So I organise a lot of activities during the weeks when the children aren’t with me. Hobbies especially are not neglected then and serve as a balance for me. During the weeks when the children are with me, I start early in the morning with office work, phone calls or preparing for the day. I then take a break to have breakfast with them. I am lucky that I can plan my daily routine myself. It is more of a challenge when we have early morning appointments or meetings. That’s when we support each other as parents.

I was also lucky that my parents wanted to and were able to support me a lot.

You work as a team leader for the fire brigade at Schutz und Rettung Zürich? What do you do on a daily basis?

My co-workers and I maintain the equipment and respiratory protection mechanics at Schutz und Rettung Zurich. I plan and organise the maintenance or dispatch of fire brigade material at all locations of the professional and militia fire brigades.

Due to the decentralised workplaces of my employees, I am very often on the road at the individual stations and can therefore develop solutions directly with our customers. Such as in the case of the airport fire station, where we are responsible for the logistical processes at the firefighting training site. We really make our customers sweat by lighting fires and designing the exercise sequences according to their needs.

For the past year, I have been in charge of the breathing apparatus working group and the respiratory protection workshops. This involves carrying out the technical and tactical separation of breathing apparatus and supervising the maintenance of this important equipment.

In addition, the SRZ is currently undergoing a change with our site strategy. I therefore now regularly take part in construction meetings and drive the technical development with stakeholders.

From time to time we are called out as a logistical element to support operations.

How do you describe your job to your children?

The most difficult thing was to explain to them that I am not a professional firefighter. As they saw me in uniform or civilian clothes with the SRZ logo.

Now aged 11 and 9 years, and due to home office, they see me working at home. When the pager beeps, they just ask me if I have to go to the fire brigade or to work.

As for my job, I have explained to them that my team ensures that the emergency services can work safely.

What did you imagine would be easier in your everyday life as a “working dad”?

As a single dad, I have to be able to improvise during the week. To be honest, my children make it very easy for me. They sometimes are forgiving if I fail to cook because I responded to an alarm and had to make a quick phone call, for example. But yes, it is strenous and most of the time I am completely exhausted on Friday evening.

In family life, there are always moments when one person gets more done at home than the other. With single parents this is not possible. I had to learn that. Initially I tried to please everyone, tidy up, clean and bring them up as well as besides work, which is another full time job. Over time that became noticeable. The burden was and is enormous.

Hand on heart: of all the responsibilities as a dad, what do you like least?

When discussions arise between the kids and I that could be avoided, such as arguments or the like. Very often I have the feeling that I am too strict. Fortunately, the children don’t see it that way. (I just asked them)

Who do you talk to about child and family issues? Where do you go for advice?

It varies. Some topics I discuss with my ex-wife – others with friends or with my girlfriend, she is also a 50% single parent.

After the separation, I mainly read books.

How do your children react when there is an emergency and you have to drop everything?

Sometimes they are afraid that something could happen to me. When they know that I “only” have to go to work, they are relieved. During the weeks in which I have the children, I hardly ever take part in militia fire brigade operations, except when I need to lead an operation. Then my sister steps into her role as “aunt”.

After the operation, my children always want to know exactly what I had to do. Sometimes my daughter wants to boast about it at school. My son is quite different.

When a child is sick, who steps in first at home – you or your ex-wife?

It varies with us. Usually it’s the one who has less to do at the office or no external appointments. There have been times when I was at home more than my ex-wife. However, she was willing to take over the care fully at the beginning of the pandemic.

What career advice will you give your children one day?

I’ll give them three:

Firstly, whatever path you choose, stay true to yourself and fight for what is important to you.  Secondly, take responsibility for your actions. Thirdly, create space for yourself to enjoy life.

Awina is committed to improving the compatibility of work and family life by providing earmarked loans for daycare financing. But what does compatibility actually look like in everyday life? In the series “Hey, Mom”, “Hey, Dad”, working parents talk openly about their experiences and challenges as working parents and give insight into how they personally reconcile child and career.