Shared Parental Leave | Daddy’s View | The End

Shared Parental Leave | Daddy’s View | The End

By now you will all know that my shared parental leave is over. It has been over ten weeks since I returned to my day job. Penny asked if I would come and do one final blog post covering my back to work experience and my final thoughts on shared parental leave. So here I am for one last time. Penny also reliably tells me this will be the final shared parental leave post for a long while. I had better make it a good one then hadn’t I? No pressure!

The return to work

My return to work marked a couple of changes for me. This has meant my transition back into working life has been different. For starters I am now splitting my time in two of my firm’s UK offices. Previously I had just been based out of one office. This has meant a longer commute and gaining an even more intimate knowledge of Great Western Railway! Secondly, I am now on secondment for 12 months, which is quite common in legal circles. The result is that I am now working with a completely different team.

Those two points aside, how have I been treated?

I returned to work to find an e-mail in my inbox from the firm’s managing partner {that is the big boss to non lawyer types} asking if we could meet up to discuss how SPL uptake can be increased in the firm. This is a BIG deal. It is great that the firm are taking SPL so seriously that they want to try to increase uptake.

Around the office, I have taken a bit of ‘banter’. The banter mainly is around me taking an “extra long holiday”. I know it is all said in jest but those kind of comments won’t help encourage others to take shared parental leave.

My immediate colleagues {in the team I am on secondment from} have all been really supportive though. They, well to my face anyway {!}, think that what I did was great and that I clearly gained a lot from my time off. And they are right I have gained an incredible amount from my seven weeks off {more on that below}.

It is, however, really too early to tell if I will be treated any differently. I have read stories online that men who have returned from shared parental leave are often overlooked for promotion and find themselves side tracked in their careers {in much the same way that some mothers do when they return to work}. Given how pro-shared parental leave is at my firm, I would be very surprised if this happened.

My outlook on life

This will sound incredibly cliched but shared parental leave has changed my outlook on life. I have realised the importance of being around to see Bump grow up and make an effort to not be on my work phone at weekends when we are doing things as a family.

But it is a fine balance. I want to be the best father for Bump but I also want to ensure I am the best lawyer I can be. I don’t want to be known as “the good lawyer but he never works late because he wants to be with his family”. That does mean long unpredictable hours, last minute change of plans and an element of stress. However, what it shouldn’t mean is staying in the office for the sake of it or not working flexibly.

It is hard though. One looks around the office and I note very quickly that, for example, the successful female partners at my firm are those without children. The successful male partners with children are those that are always in the office. It will take myself and my immediate peers who are all starting families to buck that trend. If we can start to work more flexibly, for example, leave the office at 5pm to do the nursery pickup but be back online later in the evening, then that will start to set a precedent.

The best take away points from my experience

If I am honest, Penny’s excellent post over on Rock My Style covered a number of points I was going to raise in this post.  If you haven’t read it click here. In summary though, for me, undertaking shared parental leave has:

  1. Enabled me to develop an incredible bond with Bump. The bond that we now have would have taken a lot longer to form {if at all}, if I hadn’t taken seven weeks off work;
  2. I have had an opportunity to experience a number of the fantastic “firsts”  that I would have missed had I been at work;
  3. Penny and I have had a chance to really develop our parenting style together. Had I not taken SPL, I would have just followed Penny’s parenting lead. SPL has enabled me to really buy into how we raise our son; and
  4. I now have a much greater empathy for colleagues who juggle being a full time lawyer or PA and are raising a family.

Shared parental leave has been really fantastic for us. Of course, it won’t suit every family but if your partner is offered the opportunity to take enhanced shared parental leave, I would urge you to really consider it. Do leave a comment below if you have any queries about SPL. Equally I’d love to hear from other dads who have taken SPL, how did you find it?

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