My thoughts on shared parental leave…

We’re currently over half-way through our trip on what is a honeymoon of a lifetime. Visiting two spots in California and two Hawaiian islands and lots in between.
We were planning our wedding when we found out we were pregnant with Rishi and we were over the moon. I had been wanting a baby for a long time and after losing a baby in early 2017, I was slightly obsessed with becoming pregnant. For our honeymoon we always wanted a gap between the wedding and our big trip so we decided we would go on a mini moon to Paris straight after the wedding. It was a short trip but totally luxurious and indulgent – and absolutely the right choice when I was nearly 7 months pregnant. But we both said we would have a bigger trip when I was on maternity leave…. which turned out to be a month long honeymoon!
When we started thinking through life with a baby my husband looked into his works shared parental leave policy. It’s pretty good as far as I can tell – with four weeks paid leave on top of two weeks paid parental leave – it means you can have time with your baby or family, without the strain financially for that month. I suppose why wouldn’t you, if it’s fully paid to take a month anyway, the only thing you “lose” is a month of “my” maternity leave. Even though we are only half way through, I can already seen the gains massively outweighs any negative – it’s been incredible.
Krish is a very good dad and is more than willing to take his share of being a parent. That means changing nappies, looking after Rishi when he’s ill and being up through the night when Rishi isn’t sleeping well and then going to work the next day.  He’s certainly been involved in caring for Rishi while we have been away, and he’s got to know Rishi – and his little moods – better, and so all in all is a better dad for having more time to understand him. Seeing them have a cuddle melts my heart and when Rishi has been cutting more teeth this passed week (oh my poor nipples!); Krish has been able to comfort him (rather than Rishi just wanting me). I can see this makes Krish so happy that he can do more for Rishi.
On top of this, we have spent time together as a couple. Life gets so busy and hectic that you can forget to make time for each other. This trip has had amazing family moments and we have also been able to fit in quality time together and to just sit and chat – something we don’t do enough of at home. So, this trip is not only an incredible adventure but it’s also been great for us as a new family to really bond and experience so much together.
When Krish told people he was taking shared parental leave, he received lots of supportive and positive comments from both men and women.  I was really proud that he was open about what he was doing – and think this is important for other men looking to take it.  I am all for shared parental leave but it does make me wonder – when I went on maternity leave I didn’t have comments on how great it was that I was taking time out of my career to care for my baby – it was just the done thing that I was off to do the”baby thing”. I assume that’s because it’s been normalised and I don’t need people to validate my reasons for taking maternity leave (it is the best and most rewarding decision I have ever made). I love my job, but I love this more. But I do think that there are career sacrifices that I have made / will have to make in the future (and which many women make when they have a baby) which are not really thought about – it’s just what women do?
I guess it just makes me think men and women are still treated a bit differently. Don’t get me wrong; I am not begrudging Krish his shared parental leave – it’s amazing.
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I think one of the barriers to shared parental leave is the perception of why people take it and what it means for the careers they “leave behind.”
I hope that as more men take shared parental leave, the taboo which I feel exists, starts to diminish and it becomes the norm for men to take some parental leave just like women do. Equally, I hope that employers come under pressure to improve their shared parenting leave policies and benefits – and it will be normal for men to ask “what’s your shared parenting leave package?” when looking at the benefits on offer from a new employer. Having chatted about this with other friends, I know that certain employers / industries aren’t keen on this – but isn’t it about time they caught up with the 21st century … equal opportunities for both men and women!
That said, I’m not sure I could cope with giving up more than a month of my time with Rishi as my maternity leave already seems to have gone by in a flash but I know having this special time with both me and his dad is the best thing for Rishi and for us to have this time as a family!
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