As I sat slumped in a sugar coma at my baby shower, the subject of the new Equal Paid Paternal Leave with my employer was brought up. The new policy means that my husband would also have the same six months full paid leave as myself. We had the choice to take the six months one after the other, however, due to my planned C-section we opted to take it together.
As I unveiled the plan to my friends, it was met instantly with responses of “he will do your head in” and “he’ll just get in your way”. Interestingly these comments came from friends who already have children. Suddenly the panic kicked in “should I get my solicitor on speed dial?”.
The standard paternity leave policy in the UK is one or two weeks paid leave, and depending on your employer they may offer Shared Paternity Leave Pay. My husband and I both work for the same employer who introduced the Equal Pay Paternity Leave last year. We’re one of the first employees to be using the new policy making us guinea pigs to this new process. The company’s goal is to remove any obstructions with career advancement for their employees who are taking a break due to parental leave.
In theory, it's extremely business savvy to provide the extra support to your employees as they begin their journey into parenthood. In addition, it helps to eliminate both the financial limitations and the much dated belief that maternity leave results in less career opportunities.
The initial six weeks recovery advised is the same as cooking instructions – it’s a recommended guideline only.
In practice, this new policy has proven to provide a varied amount of advantages and disadvantages as my husband and I begin the most important roles of our lives as Mummy and Daddy.
After a rather difficult pregnancy which my midwife described as “one of the worst she had seen for a while” and Joel being breech, I was given a planned C-section. The initial six weeks recovery advised is the same as cooking instructions – it’s a recommended guideline only.
I found that it took me a bit longer to get back to normal as I had been on crutches for four months due to severe pelvic girdle pain (PGP). During this recovery my husband was my feet rubbing, snack fetching Almighty God and I was his biggest worshipper. I was unable to pick Joel up, carry him upstairs, bath him or carry the car seat. It would have been easy to give into the lurking temptation of tears and pyjama days, however, I found he motivated me to try a bit more each day and I kept remembering it would be a long time until we would have this amount of time off again as a family.
Once I felt stronger, we put into force our daily routine allowing him to still be the hands on Dad he had always dreamt of being. Of course this gave me the added bonus of a clean house and my fears of stressful weekly shops on my own with a baby haven’t yet happened.
It wasn’t until my third or fourth visit from my health visitor mentioning the importance of baby groups that it dawned on me how I had failed to go to them. I had always imagined attending these groups moaning about how Paco Rabanne had taken early retirement from my neck and my new scent was 'Essence De Vom' by Joel Lloyd! My husband had never discouraged me from going, however, the idea of going made me feel guilty about having time apart.
Along with guilt, my current Jekyll and Hyde persona indulges in a collaboration of different emotions. I’m either crying at what I would class as an “emotional” episode of Holly and Ben or adopting a tough love armour when it comes to Joel’s bedtime.
After my husband innocently double checked Youtube- making me doubt my invincible maternal instinct - the faeces did inevitably hit that innocent fan. My hormone infested self roared out language that would have made Gordon Ramsay blush and this was concluded with a washing basket being launched down the stairs. Instead of following our usual mantra of “never go to bed on an argument” we realised it’s difficult to follow when you have a newborn and every grasp of sleep is very precious!
I’m either crying at what I would class as an “emotional” episode of Holly and Ben or adopting a tough love armour when it comes to Joel’s bedtime.
My husband’s perspective of our time off together was a bit of an eye opener for me - It also made me feel awful for my rant the previous night, but I’m going to let those delightful hormones take the fall for that one - he has felt the time off hasn’t only allowed him to embrace fatherhood easily, but has given him some much needed headspace from a busy job. He doesn’t have the stress of work deadlines or being sat stuck behind a screen whilst receiving photos of Joel’s first giggles and smiles feeling he’s missing out on milestones. All was quickly forgiven and there wasn’t anything a good Craigie chippy couldn’t sort out!
We’re now halfway through the six months off together. Firstly, I would like to point out we’ve both still talking and all washing baskets are safe in our house! We’ve decided to use our time off wisely and have been away to Argyll and Bute, Aviemore and the Lake District creating happy first holidays as a family. We’ve also planned a few nights away to Dublin for our wedding anniversary in August, so I can finally show him Temple Bar.
My husband has even allowed his inner Bear Grylls to run free up North for a whole week with friends, as I enjoyed the week to myself with Joel and a toilet seat staying down.
I'm now currently attending various baby groups in the local area and have met some lovely people. I’m also using the opportunity to have some me time and enjoying a pampering session or two whenever grey hairs or dull nails start needing attention.
This experience of Equal Paid Paternal Leave so far has not threated my natural role of Mummy - as I had initially feared - but has strengthened his role as Daddy enabling us to share and treasure those first memories. It allows us as individuals to still be us and have our own time to destress. So to all the doubters of this policy I can concur it so far gets a beautifully painted thumbs up from me!
Find out more about Shared Parental Leave on the Gov.UK website
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