Extended Paternity Leave
This week we're talking about Shared Parental Leave, from the perspective of Alana and her hubby over at the Baby Holiday blog.
Only a tiny proportion of partners have taken up extended parental leave – so it’s great that today’s interview is a double whammy – an interview with both Mum AND Dad.
Alana and Stew will be taking advantage of the Government’s (fairly) new Shared Parental Leave scheme. They live in Wales and have two sons – two-year-old S, and E, aged five months.
Alana is currently on maternity leave from her position as an assistant editor at a newspaper, but has accepted a new role in communications which requires her to go back to work after six months – several months earlier than planned.
Although it was a difficult decision to make, both agreed that in the long term the new working hours and conditions would be more positive than Alana continuing her leave and returning to her previous position, where she worked shifts and felt she was missing out on life at home.
To ensure their littlest doesn’t miss out on having one-on-one time with his parents before starting nursery, Stew, who works in the NHS, will be taking three months off to be at home, starting next month. Go Stew!
Alana blogs at Baby Holiday and is debating letting Stew take over while he is on his leave! Now that’s another great reason to start following!
So, let’s start with Dad:
1. Talk us through your decision process…
An opportunity arose for Alana to apply for a job that she would liked to have had in the future.
The job was initially advertised as a part time role, which would have been ideal.
My job is relatively well paid, as would Alana’s have been, and with our combined salaries we would have been able to afford for her to work part for a few years while the two boys grew up, and then had mammy home part time.
However, the position was altered to full-time after the interview, and after much deliberation we agreed that the opportunity was too good to miss.
We were unsure when the opportunity would come up again, and Alana felt she could not return to her previous job due to the very unsocial hours she worked after S was born – essentially it made me a single father in some respects.
We reasoned that if she didn’t accept the role, with better pay and more suitable working hours she would be returning to a job that would make parenting difficult.
2 How did others react?
Most people have been surprised but encouraging. Some have said jokingly “I wouldn’t leave my husband have the time!” but generally the response has been very positive.
Most people seem to understand it will be nice for me to bond with our baby and also that the bringing up a child should be the shared responsibility of both parents.
3. How do you think you will find it?
I think the leave will be a strange experience at first, especially adapting to not having to go to work.
I have looked after both children on my own on occasions, so that will be normal, but usually only for a few hours, I’m sure a whole working day of caring for them will bring about its own difficulties, particularly getting baby E to sleep while S creates a whirlwind of activity around us.
Our activities will be dependant on the weather, as I will be off over the winter and Alana will need the car for work. Hopefully on dry days I will be able to get the boys out and about, even if it’s just to see the ducks, or to the playing fields for a kick around.
Luckily Alana has a good group of baby friends, so I will try to meet them as this will give our little ones continuity and a chance to be around children their own age.
4. Many women struggle with feelings of low confidence and loneliness during maternity leave. How do you think you will find it?
I think we’ll manage okay as I’m quite happy in my own company. Even now I sometimes wish I could have more adult conversations, so that will be missed as I won’t see my work colleagues who are probably the only adult conversation I get apart from those with Alana.
5. Do you feel it’s been damaging to your career or future prospects?
Luckily my managers have been fantastic about the whole situation and been very supportive of the position we’ve found ourselves in.
I don’t think it has harmed my career or future prospects as there are already plans to continue my training and development within my current role once I return to work.
Bonus question: What would you say to other families considering Shared Parental Leave?
Really consider it.
Sometimes the bond between father and child is forgotten about, while bonding between mother and child is constantly mentioned – from the first moment of skin-to-skin contact right through to when mothers return to work and beyond.
Dads are given two weeks paternity leave at the beginning of the child’s life and that’s usually it.
From my perspective, particularly after the first child, I felt that I didn’t or couldn’t actually do much except make food and tea, and change the baby’s nappy.
After our second son was born I felt I spent more time caring for our eldest than our newborn. I feel the opportunity to have time off at different stage of E’s life, when he is more alert and active will give me a greater opportunity to bond with him.
1. It’s somewhat expected that ‘mum’ takes the maternity leave. How did it feel going against the grain?
For me it doesn’t feel at all strange. Stew is very hands on and loves spending time with our boys, so I’m more than happy for him to have extra time with them.
It feels unusual to be going back to work earlier than we had planned, but this new job will make family life easier.
My condition on accepting the new job was that I didn’t want E to be starting nursery at six months old – it just felt too early for me.
So, after looking into a few different avenues, Stew will be taking a three month career break to stay at home.
The reaction when we’ve told people has been mostly positive. One friend said I would be missing out on precious time with our baby if I went back to work early, but if you think about it dads always miss out on that time so I feel like this is a great opportunity for us as a whole family.
2. Do you feel that you will be left out or that your bond will be affected?
To be completely honest, yes, I think I will feel left out, especially during the first few weeks.
I took 11 months off for my first maternity leave and really enjoyed it, so I am sad that I won’t have that amount of time off with our youngest.
But it’ll be lovely for Stew to strengthen his bond with the boys, and I’m really happy that he will get this time with them while they’re young. I’ll just have to make the most of our weekends together!
3. Do you think your relationship with your husband will change?
It’ll be interesting to see if our relationship changes.
I’m very lucky that Stew understands how full-on it is looking after our two little ones, and doesn’t expect the house to be pristine or food to be on the table when he gets home from work, so I won’t expect it from him either.
I bet he’ll manage to be way more organised with his time than me and will show me up though!
Hopefully he will understand that it can be really difficult being in charge of two little ones on your own – there are great days when you wish you could stay at home forever, but there are also the days when by 9am you can’t take any more children’s TV or nappy changes!
4. What would you say to other mums who feel under pressure to take solo maternity leave?
I’d say to definitely look into other options if you feel you need or want to return to work.
I know there are a lot of mothers out there who don’t feel that the natural thing for them is to stay at home with their children – maybe they worry their chances of progression will be hit, or they are the main earners in the household and it would make sense financially to return to work.
Alternative options have been put there for a reason – do what is best for you and your family.
Thanks guys! When you hear it put that way it’s a wonder that more don’t consider it – especially second time round. If you’ve any more questions, or are considering this option yourselves feel free to contact Alana.
Baby Holiday is a parenting, family travel and lifestyle blog that Alana started while on maternity leave the first time around. It started as a humorous look at life as a first time mother, but has grown into a place to record memories – little moments and times that can’t be forgotten, like welcoming baby E into their lives or their first holiday as a family of four. You can find Alana at Instagram, Facebook and over at www.twitter.com/alanababyhols
Via our Baby Blogger Emma at Day 48