This week marks the first anniversary of the implementation of Shared Parental Leave (SPL); a change that allows parents to….er….share leave when their baby arrives. It won’t work for everyone but we have found it to be a great fit for our family.
Although the two weeks’ paternity leave guaranteed in the UK is better than some industrialised countries (e.g. the USA where fathers are allowed just 10 minutes off after the birth of their child to fire guns in the air) we still lag behind particularly the Scandinavian countries in parental leave provision for dads. The move to SPL is therefore a step in the right direction both for women in the workplace and for men’s involvement at home.
Families in Sweden have had the right to share leave since 1974 at which point men in Britain were too busy drinking pints out of glasses with handles and doing football hooliganism on one another to concern themselves with child rearing.
A father’s role in bringing up children in Britain has historically been limited to;
1) Pacing up and down the delivery room smoking endless cigarettes.
2) Bouncy bouncy horsey on the knee.
3) 18 years of unpredictable bursts of rage.
4) Deathbed apology.
Men’s attitudes to family have changed and perhaps society’s opinion of a dad’s role in the family has changed as well. It’s right that the rules change too. Does the culture change lead to the rule change or the other way round? I’m not sure
Credit where credit’s due though – it was the Lib Dems that introduced SPL 12 months ago and began to drag us kicking and screaming into the mid to late 20th century and so I think we should have three cheers for Nick Clegg! Hip hip……….hip hip……..hello?
It is partly down to fate therefore that I found myself becoming a father at the right time to have been amongst the first beneficiaries of SPL: One of a small but committed group of vomit stained pioneers in ill fitting jeans.
I wasn’t one of those blokes you get who think women on maternity leave spend the whole time drinking soya lattes and watching Trisha. I knew it was going to be tough and the first few weeks were probably slightly tougher than I imagined. Now though we’re in a good groove and whilst it’s utterly mentally draining and harder than any job I’ve ever done it’s most definitely the best thing I’ve ever done as well. I’d much rather be singing wind the bobbin up at Monkey Music than fiddling with spreadsheets or whatever the hell it was I did at work.
SPL isn’t for everyone but it’s a nice option to have. If you can make the sums add up and it works for your family, I would 100% recommend it to anyone expecting. Hopefully the rest of this blog will give you a flavour of what else to expect.