Dave from Dave’s Dad Adventure shares his highs and lows, goes in depth on how shared parental leave works, and why he believes more dads-to-be should look into it.
I count myself to be extremely lucky, yes because I have a wonderful wife, and yes because I have a beautiful daughter (Amber). But that is not what I’m here to talk about. I’m extremely lucky because I was able to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL). SPL has enabled me to see and engage in a whole host of different, and amazing things, of which I am more than happy to detail.
How Does Shared Parental Leave Work?
Shared Parental Leave allows for mother and fathers alike to share parental leave. Traditionally, parental leave is taken by the mother, and the father goes off back to work. Not anymore! Many companies have adopted the government scheme of SPL which allows for fathers to take a proportion of the mothers’ leave, alongside, or in blocks. This allows for both parents to take separate lengthily time off, or time off together with the newborn.
The specifics of how shared parental leave works varies from company to company. Some may fund the additional wages to bring you back up to your usual salary, some may help a little bit, and some may not.
Why I Did It
Myself and my wife decided that I should take SPL so that it would allow us all to have time together, during the first weeks of our daughter’s life. I feel that this has given myself and my family an amazing start, and is encouraging us to engage and bond effectively as a new family.
As I write this article, I find myself in my final week of SPL (week 14 / returning back to work). Reflecting on my time off from work I feel that I have bonded immensely with my little girl, and also been able to support my wife.
During the labour of our child, my wife was unexpectedly rushed for an emergency C Section. After delivery, she was advised to recover and do minimal exercise for 6 – 8 weeks. I struggle to figure out, if she were a single mother with few connections, just how she would manage. She was told to lift nothing heavier than her own baby, and to expect a fair few days for her to be up and on her feet comfortably. I don’t like to imagine just how strenuous and tough this would be for a mother with minimal support. Well done to all who have had to do so!!!
Fortunately, during this recovery period, I have been able to support my family by doing what I believe any dad should be able to do. Cleaning, washing, feeding / attending to the baby, helping as much as possible, etc, etc…
Being able to help and contribute during these early days – along with having the time to bond and get to know my new baby girl, is truly the most amazing thing I have ever done. Watching my baby be delivered, my wife handling the whole situation extremely well, and being able to support the both of them for the next 14 weeks full time, has been truly amazing. I hope that one day, this becomes the norm for all fathers and families out there. It’s about time that we dive out of this old fashioned image of mothers staying at home and taking care of the child while the father immediately goes back to work. Men are parents too, and should be allowed to parent their child during this critical time.
Things I’ve Been Surprised By
There are a few scenarios while I have been on SPL which have surprised me. People asking questions like “are you babysitting today ?” to which a reasonable reply is “no, no I’m not – I’m out with my daughter”. Or even the fact that, if your child is in the push chair, then not many people seem to help / assist you and tend to not move out of the way, however, if you have your baby out of the push chair, then no one can be kind or assist enough.
I have seen this point numerous times, but I feel it’s still worth a mention, as we should be moving away from this in this day and age. Baby changing facilities. More often than not, they are usually only available in female toilets or disabled toilets. Men can change babies too!!! I know it is slowly getting better, but hey – it really should be the norm.
Anyone who has had a baby will know that it can be hard work. Draining, tiresome, and relentless. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. To me, it seems that no matter how tired you are, how little sleep you have had, that moment when you are woken up at 4am in the morning for a feed, you pull yourself out of bed, and mid-way feeding you get that adorable little smile. In that instance, none of the aforementioned matters – you melt, and smile right back at that amazing bundle of joy sitting on your lap.
It’s true that you don’t quite understand it before you have children – I can certainly admit that I didn’t. But hey, having my little girl has completely changed me. There’s nothing better than seeing her little smile and watching her grow.
My wife has been fantastic – always researching, and always so great with Amber. Grandparents are completely and utterly obsessed with helping out and wanting to baby sit. I know now that we will never be short of baby sitters. If you don’t have this kind of support, then turn to your friends. If none of these are an option then I would suggest going to a baby class and meeting new people in the same situation as you. This way, you will be able to help each other out when needed.
There are also many different social network groups / pages, where you will b able to find local people, in which over time you could become good friends and trust each other to help babysit etc.
I could write all day about the highs, but I feel we better carry on.
I previously mentioned how tiresome and relentless parenting a newborn can be. Yes, this can increase your stress levels, and if you are not careful and thoughtful, then this could relay onto your relationship. You just have to remember what an amazing achievement the both of you have accomplished, and be thankful for what each other brings to the table.
If it’s all a little too much, take a step aside, take a deep breath. Remind yourself how you all may be feeling. Try to comfort and help rather than make the situation worse. This seems to work for me. It might be that you need to simply put some of your favourite music on and lie down for a little. Find your soother, and use it.
In terms of Shared Parental Leave – yes different companies do support it in different ways. Be sure to find out as much information as you can about the scheme and how your company implements it. For some people it won’t be on offer. Hopefully, this will change in years to come.
Yes, if you use SPL then the mother will be giving up some of her time off. But if you can afford to, then you can always top up her time off by a few weeks of unpaid leave.
Going Back to Work
Yes, after such a long time it is not the most pleasant experience. The dread leading up to going back to work is immense. Not being there to help, not being there to comfort, not being able to see your child all day every day is truly hard.
Though you are back to work, and you may have a lot going on, stress it high and your time with the family is limited. But, when your partner sends you images and videos of your child playing and getting up to all kinds – it really does smack a smile on your face. These moments help you through every day.
At home your rota will change, trust me. You might only get an hour or so to see your child before they go to bed, so make sure you spend that time smiling and laughing.
You may be tired off work, and you may be stressed, but as soon as you see their face, it really helps to alleviate the day’s aches. Try not to take it out on your partner, remember that they may well have had a tough day too. Comfort one enough, help each other.
Why I Would Recommend SPL
In summary – I feel that SPL enables you to really bond as a family and over time how to work efficiently together. Both Mother and Father can pitch in and do their fair share of work and spend a good amount of time with their child. The first few months are so important, and no parent wants to miss it.
In particular, if there have been any implications during the pregnancy / delivery, then dad is there to help.
SPL enables you to do so much too. You can sign up to many different classes, which normally would have not been an option due to dad being at work. Days out are so much easier to have, being able to go during the week, and having plenty time to do so.
I would recommend SPL to any expectants. I would also recommend that you start filling out the forms as soon as possible, as in my experience they were a little complicated and the whole process took a fair few weeks to finalize.
If I’m to mention one real downside to SPL, then that would be when you reach your final week – you know that it’s not long until you are back at work, and you will no longer have as much time to spend with your beautiful bundle of joy.
For more information on SPL, check out the following:
Or if you’re an employer, check out the ACAS information: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4911
As I’ve said, each employer is different, so it’s vital that you speak to your employer and get their documentation on SPL.