20 JUNE 2018

Seems odd to have to justify why a dad should spend time with their child in a 700 word blog post. In fact, it’s quite perplexing to me that this is even a choice that dads would not immediately embrace. Maybe our addiction to traditional work place norms have an unconscious influence on our behaviours and choices.

For me, when the law changed and the ability to spend time with my son arose, all patriarchal conventions, pressures and judgments that I knew would be placed on me were immaterial, because shared parental leave is a once in a lifetime opportunity, not afforded to our own fathers.

While men are legally entitled to take up parental leave in the UK and obviously families benefit from dad’s spending time with their kids, there are still deeply ingrained biases and consequentially, emotional hurdles to overcome.

Both men and women buy into the culture of the hard-working employee – long hours are proudly displayed as badges of success and commitment. Those who arrive at 7 and leave at 9 are often rewarded and revered. But what’s really happening? Is all the time efficiently used or do people sit there waiting for their bosses to leave – scrolling their Facebook feeds, and day-dreaming from time to time? It is well documented that human beings are incapable of efficient or innovative thought after just a few hours. So where did this concept of longer hours equate to superior work output and therefore more valuable employees come from? This farcical concept often influenced the interactions I was forced to confront before, during and even after my 3 months of parental leave.

Common responses to the news that I, as a dad would be taking 3 months leave to take care of my son included:

It must be nice to be able to leave the daily rigmarole here and take a relaxing break – some even went so far as to call it a holiday.

Who is going to handle your work while you’re on off – the idea of “off” is fundamentally flawed and implies rest and indulgence.

He’s going where? What’s his wife doing? Who approved that?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was hard. It stung. It hurt. And every now and then, I wondered if I was doing the right thing.

But ultimately, the idea that my son was more important than anything else in the world prevailed. I was no longer under the illusion that work came first – and felt a new and unparalleled freedom of thought, decision and power over my own destiny.

Once I recognized and became comfortable with my decision, I began to learn and grow as a dad and became a fundamental part of the family unit. My wife and I now had shared experiences that I believe has led to greater family cohesion.

If I hadn’t have taken those 3 months to be with my son, would I be sitting here today believing babies are easy – they eat, they poop, they pee, they sleep, they repeat – how hard could it be? It only took two weeks before it started to sink in, this is a lifetime of work and it’s a slow grind. It wears you down sometimes and you need picking up – you need true understanding and knowing empathy. The moment you get comfortable it wakes you up with a bang – every day brings new challenges that you haven’t been trained for and that surely can’t be ignored. Being the primary carer, on your own each day, makes you understand the limitlessness of your responsibility.

Do you still need convincing to take up your legal right to care for your kids? If you do, ask yourself, 20 years from now, will my company even remember that I took a few months to care for my child and if I don’t do it, how might it impact my relationship with my partner and my kids?

I’ve achieved 659 words. If I could use the remaining 41 words for my son, I would. But not sure he would appreciate 41 random words unless they included baa baa black sheep and nee-naw nee-naw nee-naw.


Attitudes towards fatherhood and caring for children are changing, but our parental leave system is still based on a 1950's model of family life. This Father's Day and beyond, we're campaigning for a longer, better paid dedicated period of leave for fathers. 

Stand with us and for families everywhere by becoming a member today.