Are you and your partner wondering whether to go for Shared Parental Leave? We did and it worked out pretty well. After nine months maternity leave I schlepped back to the office and Anthony (or Daddy Day Care as he was known back then) took over for five weeks. I was ready to go back to work and Anthony jumped at the chance to take the time to be with Willow one on one. After an intense breast feeding experience for Willow and I it was just what they needed to strengthen their bond and have a jolly fun time.
Tip: Don’t get Shared Parental Leave mixed up with Paternity Leave. Your partner is still entitled to up to two weeks off taken as Paternity Leave after your baby is born regardless of if you choose to take Shared Parental Leave as well.
For those of you thinking of going for it I thought I would write about our personal experience to give you a bit of first hand insight into the pros and cons of taking this option.
So it’s over to my darling other half who I have thoroughly grilled on your behalf:
- Why did you want to take shared parental leave?
I felt like missing out on the best bits of her early life having to go back to work after only two weeks paternity leave. I saw this as a chance to bond just me and her.
2. Was it easy to organise with work?
No not really. I got the impression they thought it was something that men don’t usually do. I think they thought i just wanted five weeks off work. It was actually harder being at home than it was going to work! They made me wait for a decision; even trying to fob me off at one point by saying they didn’t have the right form for me to fill out. I think they were trying to look for a way to say no but eventually they agreed.
3. What did you get up to while you were on shared paternal leave?
We had a kind of routine most days. Get up, breakfast and then get her dressed as quickly as possible. I think we used to go through five nappy changes before we could even think about going out! It was August so we went on walks and to the beach and the park a lot. We went out for lunch a few times and people would comment how adorable we looked together! We went swimming and I took her to a teddy bear’s picnic organised by one of the parent groups you used to go to. They made me feel really welcome. The days just used to fly by and you would be home from work before we knew it.
4. What was the best thing about shared parental leave?
I really felt that we bonded a little bit more and I have some lovely memories from the time we spent together which is priceless. Not having to set my alarm for work every moment was an added bonus.
5. What wasn’t so good?
It was bloody hard work – more than I realised! I don’t miss the poo explosions! The five weeks seemed to whizz by really fast and then of course there was the going back to work part. That was hard. Just when you get into a routine and think you are cracking it. I really missed her at first.
6. Would you do it again?
Without a doubt yes! Maybe next time, if we can afford it I could do a bit longer…. (looks at me hopefully!)
7. Any tips or advice for dads who aren’t sure about taking this option?
I would say go for it. It’s so rewarding. They grow up so fast, you’ll never get this time back again while they are so young so listen to your instinct and go with it.
So that was Anthony’s experience which was overwhelmingly positive.
According to The Guardian in 2016 only a tiny proportion of men opted to take Shared Parental leave. They cite stigma and financial reasons for not doing it which makes me sad. We were broke (still are!) but we muddled through and there’s no shame as a father in wanting to be with and take care of your child surely? To help you decide check out the information on the Gov.uk website which sets out your entitlement and how your pay will be affected.
Conversely a couple of my mum friends have said there is no way they would give up their maternity leave because they like having the time off work. It totally depends on your situation. I know I’m always bleating about this but at the end of the day it’s all about choices and what you think is best for your family.
Did you and your partner choose shared parental leave? How was it for you? Have you got any advice for other families currently making a decision? Leave me a comment to let me know.