When I’ve mentioned to people I’m taking shared parental leave I’ve been met with mixed reactions. I expect these sorts of reactions are fairly commonplace for anyone thinking about, or taking shared parental leave. Here’s a few of the more common examples:
- “Oooof, you’ll be desperate to get back to work after a few days“
- “That’s fantastic. Good on you. I think that’s really great”
- “Oh right, you can do that can you? I’ve never heard of that before.”
On the whole, and particularly once I’ve explained the position in a little more detail, the response is generally positive and I think that’s how it should be. In these modern times when equality is becoming the norm, more couples with children (whether married, co-habiting, same-sex or whatever make up) are both working and the family life dynamic is changing, it should be ok for Dads to stay at home with their children, whether for shared parental leave, or on a part time or full time basis.
So now I have logged off from work for the final time for 3 months, and my out of office is set, it’s made me sit and think about why I am actually taking a three month break from work to delve into an uncensored world of pooey nappies, untold bursts of tidying the house (over and over), tantrums and baby classes. The simple answer is: to spend more time with my children – and to enjoy all the amazing good stuff that outweighs anything that might be considered a pain of being a parent. Having children and spending time with them is an absolute privilege (one that some people aren’t fortunate enough to have) and I try never to lose sight of that. I will never get an opportunity to spend such quality time with them again, especially at such brilliant ages: 6 and a half nearing 7, just turned 4, and 8 and a half months. So I intend to make the absolute most of it!
The above is pretty obvious, but when I gave it more thought, the common reason I kept coming back to for taking the shared parental leave was to also try and make myself better…
- to be a better daddy: to have real quality time with the kids – playing, building, singing, doing craft, or whatever else; to try to shout less when I’m stressed; to learn more about them, how their minds work, their fears and loves; and to let them enjoy being with their daddy as much as possible by giving myself and my time to them fully and totally as far as I can;
- to be a better husband – to try to understand better what I understand in mummy parlance is called “The Mother Load“, that is, the daily stresses of being a stay at home Mum, or part time/full time working Mummy and everything that comes with that whilst running the house and staying on top of kids’ parties, presents, food shops and countless other things. I also want us to spend more time together as the parents’ time together is always the thing that gets sacrificed amongst everything else. We’re lucky in that Karen is taking a couple of weeks’ holiday when I start so we can have time together and, whilst some of that will be spent tidying the house and getting some jobs done we just haven’t had time to (like sorting through our mountains of filing and the ridiculous number of boxes we have stored in the cellar for countless things, many of which I’m sure we don’t even have anymore!), we’ll also be able to go out for lunches and do some nice things together with Toby and the girls. It should be great!
- to better appreciate myself – what I do, what I’ve achieved and what I hope to achieve in the future and to take stock of everything by pressing pause on normal life for a bit, take a step back, and reassess. I’m also hoping to get a bit fitter as I should be able to fit in more runs and more trips to the gym and to increase my own wellness, physically and mentally.
- to be better with my friends and family – all too often time flies by and a busy life is an easy excuse to lose touch with people. I’m generally pretty good at keeping in touch from a distance, but with my time off and absent the stresses of work for 12 weeks or so, I plan to reconnect with some close friends who live further afield, see friends who live nearby and see more of my Mum and brother, nephews and niece.
- to hopefully be better at work – in the sense that when I go back, my batteries will (hopefully!) be recharged, and I’ll be raring to go and will have a better appreciation and a more rounded view of the world.
So that’s the idealistic plan, no doubt to be put to the ultimate test running after the three kids and doing jobs galore. But I plan to make the most of every minute. And to enjoy it all. Wish me luck!
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