Expectant Dads: Life as normal or planning for change?
Life as an expectant dad at work can carry on as if nothing has changed – and traditionally this has often been the case – even if anxieties do indeed sit below the professional exterior.
Thankfully things have changed a lot over the last few years, and more expectant dads are being offered more support and options by the organisations. The biggest consideration for any expectant dad is whether to make use of additional leave during the baby’s first year.
Should I take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) as a dad?
Deciding whether to take a few weeks, a few months or the whole 50 weeks of Shared Parental Leave can be a tough decision…it can feel counter-intuitive to be planning to take time away from paid work when instincts are telling us we have to work harder to gain financial stability for our new family. We’ve put together a few things to think about to help you make the decision:
David Willans, facilitator of our dads’ workshops and founder of www.beingdads.com – kicks us off with his thoughts:
The main thing is to go from just thinking about it to really wanting to do it:
- Try and find another guy who's done SPL and ask them about their experiences, even if it's reading stories online.
- Get clear in your motivations for it, what you'd gain by doing it and what you'd lose by not.
- Call out your fear - that they won't think you're still committed to your job - with your boss. Tell them it doesn't mean that, it means you want to give your little one the best start in life and build a strong bond from the beginning.
Louisa, a solicitor in a City law firm, attended one of our maternity coaching workshops. We heard from Louisa’s husband, Ben, who took 3 weeks Shared Parental Leave.
- My driver for taking Shared Parental Leave was (i) that my wife returned to work early so we needed childcare and (ii) I work fairly long hours so I wanted the opportunity to spend more time with my young child.
- The response from both my company and manager was excellent – they were very supportive. They allowed me time off, organised educational sessions about being a new father and are generally supportive of working fathers.
- The benefits were that I got to know my daughter much better l (including the fun bits and the less fun bits). I am very pleased that I did it and I don’t feel that there has been any impact of taking time out on my working life.
- My husband and I both have careers that we are serious about and that require a lot of commitment and focus. Our daughter is obviously the top priority in both of our lives but there's no doubt that taking an entire year off would present some challenges to furthering my career.
- We both think there is a big difference between a dad taking a few weeks' leave at the end of the mum's longer stint of maternity leave and a dad who asked his employer for a long period like 6 months.
A few final tips from us:
- Whether or not your organisation pays for you to take SPL will play a large part in your plans – however don’t let this stop you from taking SPL altogether. If financial stability is very important, consider taking a few weeks SPL rather than a few months. If you take this leave towards the end of the baby’s first year, you have several months to prepare for it. Also, if your partner has gone back to work and you would otherwise be paying for childcare, you are making a saving here…
- If you take more than 1 month off, ensure you make a career plan with your manager before you go – and plan to keep in touch too
- Find out if there are internal parent networks in your company – if you go along to an event the chances are pretty high that you will meet others in your situation
- If you need to prep your manager on the ins and outs of SPL – see our blog here
- Finally – there’s no better way to forge a strong bond with your baby than by spending quality periods of one-to-one time with him or her – which can carve out a relationship that will last you both a lifetime