As I sadly reach the end of my Shared Parental Leave and prepare to return to my split week of being at home with the munchkins 4 days a week and working the other three. I’ve been thinking about SPL and the reasons why more dads don’t take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. A decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly – as I wrote about in a previous post.
Juggling a baby and a toddler is not easy, and it’s true to say there were some hellish days. Equally as frustrating was the immense pressure of self-judgement: my annoyance when I catch myself looking at my phone for a few minutes rather than playing with the girls, or for failing to do any laundry, or running out of milk, or not having the energy to make a healthy tea. Those things and much more have dominated my thoughts throughout these four months. It has not been a stress-free time.
So would I really want to do it again?
The answer is a resounding yes. The frustrating days have been overwhelmingly outnumbered by the wonderful ones. I’ve got to know Robyn so much more than previous because of Rachel being on maternity and me being at work, cramming in the overtime to help with the finances. I’ve cared for her as she’s grown from a five-month-old who could do nothing more than lay on her back and cry to a nine-month-old who can laugh, crawl and is not far from being able to walk. I’ve had some precious moments with both children, as well as with my own parents, sister and nephew.
And my shared parental leave has also brought me this blog and introduced me to an awesome community of other bloggers
One of the most important things I have learnt is that Shared Parental Leave is definitely in its infancy!
While Shared Parental Leave is a good step in the right direction, for many, it’s still not very attractive financially. For example, currently very few companies seem to be offering dads Enhanced Shared Parental Leave Pay, meaning he’ll only get £138.18 per week, and that allowance only lasts up to 39 weeks after the birth. In fact, many companies might not even offer the mum any Enhanced SPL Pay, even if they offer her Enhanced Maternity Leave Pay, so in those circumstances, it won’t make financial sense for the mum to trade in her Maternity Leave for SPL until her Enhanced Maternity Leave Pay ends.
I’m a great supporter of dads taking time off for their kids and this initial negativity is disappointing. What employers need to realise is the positive impact it will have on them. Yes, you’ll be out for a few months (a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things) but once back, this will soon be forgotten and you’re likely to make a more engaged and motivated employee.
But above all that, I’d like to think that my children have benefited from having me at home 100% of the time. For now, however, I am back to having a ‘proper job’ on the side of my true vocation of being a stay-at-home dad.
If you’re expecting a child this year, I would encourage you to seriously consider Shared Parental Leave. Taking time off has been great for my family and has also led to flexible working and in turn a deeper personal commitment to both work and family.