Shared parental leave: You what mate?



I was on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (you can listen here from about 02:45:45) responding to a report from law firm EMW claiming that dads are snubbing shared parental leave. I think it’s safe to say a small minority have taken SPL, and that’s perhaps not unexpected for something that has only been possible for just over a year, but I don’t think the data available to us at this point enables us to say whether the policy has succeeded or failed (not that this has stopped quite a few from doing so).  We shouldn’t be drawn into rubbishing the policy without a) good data and b) thinking seriously about what success would look like in this case.

Government will release official statistics in 2018 and even at that point they expect take up to be between 2 and 8%.  In Sweden where shared parental leave has been possible since the 1970s, 25% of families take advantage of it.  Does this count as successful policy?  If not, what figure would? From my perspective, data is interesting but the most important thing is that families now have a choice.   If my son had been born a year earlier, it wouldn’t have been a consideration; I would have returned to work and my partner would have done the whole 9-12 months of maternity leave. No options.  SPL isn’t perfect but for the first time it allows families a choice over how they approach their baby’s first year and that has to be a good thing.

The excellent Sarah O’Connor from the Financial Times has looked at the figures from today’s report here but whatever the veracity of the data, I think it’s difficult to judge the success or otherwise of a policy based on three months of data.  Full stop.

Reports in April based on research by the Women’s Business Council and My Family Care suggested that 1% of eligible men had taken shared parental leave. On closer inspection the data showed that in fact 1% of men at the surveyed companies took shared parental leave REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT THEY’D HAD A CHILD.  I’m not sure how much of this is down to poor analysis and how much is down to poor reporting from journalists that prefers to report a disaster than a triumph (less still an unclear picture that may have some light shed on it in two years’ time) but there have now been two reports and two rounds of media stories that claim the policy is a disaster and neither have been based on what I would describe as robust data.  I think this does real damage to the idea of SPL without the justification for doing so.

Lots of people won’t want to do SPL.  Lots of people won’t be able to make the finances work. The policy needs improvement to make it a real option for families.  Employers can clearly do much more to promote SPL and to make it a more financially viable option.   Quite simply SPL worked out for our family at the time and the aim for employers and government must now be to ensure that SPL is a realistic option for all families, no more and no less.  In my book, giving families that real option, not an arbitrary percentage take up will be the real measure of policy success.

19: We need to build a gate. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.

I’ve decided to carry on doing blogposts but probably not every week. This is therefore update 19 rather than week 19 ((which is week 23) which is technically week 45) (if you see what I mean).

Nursery is a place where small people with no immune system go to sneeze in each others faces. Consequently since starting nursery a few weeks back Captain Poo Pants has been off nursery ill more than he’s been there well.

What a business model. By mid-week the employees are probably sat with their feet up and a fag on watching Trisha; all the children having successfully been sent home ill.

I jest of course. In fact he’s settled in very well and is doing so many activities that spending time at home is now pretty boring in comparison. This is why he spends his time at home climbing on tables and pulling at dangerous wires.

When I picked him up from nursery last week he was sitting just waving a tea strainer round his head so as a dad who wants to give his son the best in life I treated him to a new whisk on the way home. Only the best for my lad.

An ill baby means an awake baby so we’ve spent several nights providing early hours comfort. CPP has taken to gently pinching the skin of my upper arm and pulling as he drifts back to sleep. By the time he’s actually sleeping through the night I’ll have one big flappy arm like one of those fat fuckers that’s lost 10 stone but now has to tie their skin in a pony tail.

I’ve gone back to work. That’s happened. Yup. Great. Loving it. Through the liberal use of working at home I’ve still only been into the office 12 times this year.

We need to build a gate
Who’s going to pay for the gate? MEXICO!!!


The big news is that Captain Poo Pants is now a professional crawler who moves faster over the ground than a cheetah that’s just spotted a vulnerable gnu.

We’ve had to begin the process of baby proofing and have imposed a wall both to protect CPP from falling down the steps but also to stop migrants from the kitchen coming to competently and cost-effectively perform service jobs in the lounge. It’s a beautiful thing.

Indecipherable lyrics
I haven’t got any major insights on parenting but I do have one recommendation for the manufacturers of children’s toys: if they play a song, please, please, please provide a sheet of lyrics for parents. Deciphering the lyrics from CPP’s pretend TV remote was possible only through searching obscure internet fora for confused parents on the DarkNet. Deciphering the song coming out of his truck however proved beyond the entire internet but came to me in the dead of night.

Carry vehicles around the town, load them up and roll them down. Driving, learning along the way. Learning’s so much fun today.

When we thought it was;

Carry me along Ipswich Town, loan me a cup and roll a clown. Diving, earring,  a longer play. Lemons, sonar, much fine toad eh?

Shows what we know, eh?


As Captain Poo Pants said earlier “it’s questionable whether the institutions of the EU can withstand a further eurozone or migration crisis but on balance the possibility of major employers relocating might be too much of a risk for some to take.”

Week 18: The Final Countdown. Dudu du du. Dudu du du du

Well that’s it – almost 5 months of shared parental leave is over and I have to go back to work. Can you believe the injustice? I am very much Peter Shilton in this scenario and Maradona is played by the notion of full time employment.

For our last week it rained, we both had colds and we had a tonne of baby related admin to complete. Cosmic.


Nursery drop ins
You might have got used to the low level moan of your own baby but the low level moan of 15 babies at once is something else. Getting louder as we approached the door to the baby room it brought to mind the original issue of DOOM and being a child of the 90s that put me on edge slightly. After holstering my imaginary plasma rifle we left CPP with some strangers for an hour, then two hours the next day. We had to PAY the strangers for preventing us spending time with our own child. What sort of madness is this?

We had to fill in a form with CPP’s likes and dislikes which was surprisingly tricky.

Likes: Sneezing, putting his hand in other people’s mouths.

Dislikes: Not being fed quickly enough.

Obviously leaving him was the worst thing that’s ever happened (for us, not him).

Health visitor
Our exciting last week was infinitely improved by a visit to the health visitor (the title sort of implies that the effort to visit should be made on their part rather than ours doesn’t it?) for a developmental check. In yet another example of the UK’s testing culture we had to set CPP a series of challenges and fill in a form before going.

1) Can he pull himself up from standing?
2) Does he babble using different syllables?
3) Can he pick up a piece of string?
4) Can he stroke a pigeon in the right direction?
5) Can he identify the Princess Royal from a group shot of Europe’s remaining Royal families?

If the situation requires it babies can produce a limitless amount of snot. Most of my remaining time this week was spent trying to get the snot off his face. His sole aim has been to keep hold of it resulting in a sort of mucusy tug of war.


Cleaning teeth
It is extremely important to clean your baby’s teeth. It’s also impossible. We’ve tried really hard at it this week and can confidently say that CPP has the cleanest lips and chin in town.

And with a whimper my shared parental leave came to an end. We spent our last weekend at the beach with some friends and then went for a walk in the sunshine as a family on the Sunday. It has been the best, most rewarding and toughest thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. We’ve been really lucky to have been able to split our leave, for both of us to have been able to spend long periods with Captain Poo Pants and to have had plenty of days to spend as a family.

On the downside, the extra meal a day I’ve been having for the last 5 months has taken its toll and I now look like Russell Grant.

I’m planning a post or two on shared parental leave and returning to work but let me know whether you think I should carry on the blog as a more general parenting type blog or just pack it in right now before someone gets hurt.

Week 17: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

I’m all ears. I’m f*cking Andrew Marr over here
To the untrained ear CPP might sound like he’s simply added a couple of syllables to his stream of babble (ma and ba mainly) but I’ve been listening carefully and it turns out he actually said his first words this week!!

Marmara – As well as being a region of Turkey the Marmara sea joins the Black and Aegean seas splitting European and Asian Turkey.

Abada – a mythical unicorn type animal in the Kongo language. Its horn is said to be an antidote to poison.

What an advanced little sausage we have!

Either way it doesn’t look like spending the last 4 months together will result in him saying dada first confounding the pundits.

Cot cat nap nope
This week’s wildly optimistic challenge was leaving CPP to get himself to sleep in the cot during the day. He’s fine doing this at night but during the day it goes;

1) Settle him down lovingly with tenderness.
2) Look away for 3 seconds.
3) Sat up in cot playing face xylophone on the cot bars.

Talking of cot bars….as he’s now progressed to pulling himself up on things awkwardly and dangerously I’ve had to lower the cot to its lowest setting. Putting him down at night is now like putting the neopolitan back in your nan’s chest freezer. Careful you don’t fall in now!

Actually it’s pronounced ‘frazzles’
I’ve become one of those parents. Captain Poo Pants has some healthy snacks that look remarkably like popular maize based fried crisp treats so to avoid the judgement of bystanders I’ve taken to loudly asking;


All to avoid strangers thinking I’m feeding my baby cheesy wotsits.

It was my birthday this week so I got a lie in and didn’t have to deal with any of the 5 poos he did that day. Yessssssssss.

I’m slightly menaced by CPP’s bookshelf. Not sure I remember buying this book…..


I accepted delivery of the new car seat, went upstairs to change a nappy, came back down, forgetting about the car seat and almost had to change my own nappy because of this MASSIVE SMILING BABY THAT HAD INVADED OUR PLAY AREA.


Week 16 – I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a crawler


Useless idiot

Well, what do you know? I mentioned last week that Captain Poo Pants had developed a brand new sleeping position; on his front, head at 90 degrees and bum in the air. It turns out that this was the key to our sleeping problems all along and he’s slept really well all week. All that crying in the night for the past several months was just him saying “AAAAARRRGH STOP PUTTING ME DOWN ON MY BACK YOU PRICKS!!!!”

One morning he slept until 8.30 which to you non-parents out there counts as two nights’ sleep back to back. We both woke with a start and glancing at the clock immediately assumed the worst; that he’d been carried away by a condor in the night…..but no! Instead he’d actually been asleep. Comfortably asleep for ages! Needless to say none of our sleep aids actually made any difference including Ewan the sheep – the battery-guzzling woolen gommo.

As a consequence of the extra sleep this week my appearance has been upgraded from ‘the undead’ to ‘off putting’.


We all crawl down
You’ll recall that like British manufacturing in recent times, CPP has only been able to move backwards (in this analogy space-time represents the increasingly competitive global market (expressed in relative terms, naturally)). That is until this week when he very clearly bounded forwards to fondle a large red ball.

His motion now resembles what I imagine a daddy long legs would look like carrying a heavy rucksack. Bumbling along, not really in control of his limbs and toppling over every couple of seconds.

The great escape
That’s it now. When he’s down on the floor now he makes a beeline (well, a daddy long legs line) for the most dangerous thing in the room (ooh look some wires to get tangled up in. Ooh look a big sign saying Acme bird seed – free!). Nappy changing has gone from a straightforward operation to a WWE grudge match where I have to get him in a submission pin before I can wrestle the poo off him. He’s getting into the spirit of things regularly braining me with a metal chair whilst the referee’s back is turned.


Another first this week – I lovingly made him three different kinds of crustless sandwich to try (cucumber, cheese and peanut butter, if you were wondering). Placing them in front of him he looked at me like I’d just asked him to play the trombone. Then one by one he picked them up, looked me in the eye and expressionlessly dropped them over the side of his high chair onto the floor. Cold, man. Cold.

Sort of standing up
He’s also sort of pulling himself up to standing. His best effort this week came using my nipples as grippage. So proud.

Double poo bin
I’m not sure what happened this week in terms of wee (this is me getting back into office speak in preparation for going back to work) but I had to empty the nappy bin twice. Double turd anaconda!!!


Week 15 – Thomaaaaaaaaaaas!


MORNING! 4 o clock in the MORNING!

The end of my parental leave is nigh. In my efforts to create an overnight fortune I’m even considering turning to some of the less well known and shitter lotteries; the health lottery, the postcode lottery, the Bolivian state lottery. If this blog and my face suddenly have a radical makeover you can guess I’ve been successful. As it stands I have to leave Captain Poo Pants with an expensive stranger in less than three weeks and then leave and get on a Southeastern train which really just adds insult to to being kicked in the cock.

Very early mornings
Some of the worst nights we’ve ever had have been followed by two really good ones this week. In technical terms this is ‘a false sense of security’. We had a couple of stupidly early mornings – waking at 4am and not really going back to sleep – so we’ve been watching some early morning cartoons. Now I’m older I definitely find myself sympathising with Tom more than Jerry. I think Jerry is a metaphor for our dreams and Tom’s persistent failure to catch him represents our own ultimately futile pursuit of happiness. Furthermore is it not Tom’s pursuit of Jerry from which he derives the pleasure? Would he be truly happy if he actually caught him? Who can say? Alternatively it might just be about Tom getting hit on the head with big hammers and I need to get some sleep.

Bum in the air
The good nights of sleep we’ve had have coincided with Captain Poo Pants getting himself into a new, ridiculous, sleeping position on his front with his bum stuck in the air. Not only that but he insists on being in the top corner of his cot so on the baby monitor you can just make out a speck on the horizon from which we’re supposed to discern whether everything’s okay or not – like being on watch the eve before the 2nd battle of El Alamein but arguably being quite a bit tireder (although less covered in sand).

We’re convinced that Captain Poo Pants is a lefty. He seems to use his left hand for all his favourite activities; sucking his fingers, grasping for snacks, playing willy banjo the second his nappy comes off.

A second way of playing with things
Until now ‘playing’ has meant grabbing things (plugs, gravel, viles of anthrax) and shoving them straight in his mouth. The last week has seen him learn a second, marginally safer, way of playing. Firstly passing an object from hand to hand and then deliberately dropping it to watch it fall before repeating over and over and over and over again. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon particularly when you haven’t slept for 72 hours.

Big choo choo
We had to get a big choo choo to take nana and gramps back to big London (I really need to start talking like a grown up again before I go back to work). This is all great preparation for when Captain Poo Pants inevitably has to commute for miles to a job he doesn’t care for.

For some reason by the time we got back he’d done the most wee he’s ever done. The nappy was heavier than a night time nappy and some of those require up to 3 people to lift into the bin.

Remember you can follow us on Twitter at @cpp_chronicles.

Gerrit down yer son – The Captain Poo Pants guide to food and nourishment



Food for babies is great. They eat regularly.  High fat foods are encouraged. They can get it all over their face and all over the floor and everyone’s full of nothing but praise. They don’t even have to lift the food to your mouth themselves.  They will never have it this good again in their lives and yet they are too young to appreciate it. Here is what we’ve learnt so far transitioning from mook to grub.

Having round the clock access since birth to a never ending supply of sweet boob nectar, Captain Poo Pants was naturally pretty cheesed off when mommy went back to work and I tried feeding him from a boring old cup.  Having no experience of drinking from a vessel, when presented with it he was as stressed as if I’d asked him to recreate it in watercolours. When he realised further down the track that I merely wanted him to drink from it things got a lot easier but the first few weeks of my parental leave were quite tough. I’d say at 5:30pm when mommy got home;

“He’s done really well – he’s drunk 8ml of milk today!”

Now he’s downing pints of it like a rugby thicko in freshers’ week. It’s still 3 months to go until we can feed him normal milk (i.e. forcibly harvested from a cow) rather than the scientifically formulated supermilk that somehow mankind managed to do fine without until relatively recently.

There’s a load of cash to be made from baby food and milk and it’s all made by the same people that make shampoo and those little useless tubs of bacteria that you buy.

“Baby porridge now with added pro-V molecules that beat the 7 signs of hunger leaving your baby with a thick, glossy coat.”

In reality – a small bag of expensive dust.

First tastes
The World Health Organisation recommends waiting until 6 months until introducing solid food (don’t rely on this – I can’t be bothered to look it up but I think that’s right).  We did it a bit earlier; actually on Christmas day. So whilst everyone was tucking into turkey with all the trimmings, he was tucking into overcooked brocolli mushed up with breast milk – yummy!!  It really makes it an enjoyable moment for the baby if the whole family can anxiously stand around shouting “oh god I think he’s choking”.

Incidentally you’ll think your baby is choking far more than it actually is. Babies have a good gag reflex which is good news for us as Captain Poo Pants has a tendency to eat, say, a rice cracker or a mango in a single go.

Increasing the range
You’ll soon realise that what you’re feeding the baby is disgusting. My rule is that if I wouldn’t eat it (non-mushed) why should he. Would I eat overcooked brocolli with a side of breast milk? Probably not (unless it was in a fancy restaurant and I could make out I was being sophisticated).

The sheer number of flavour combinations are limitless so you might want to try some of the classics – e.g. guava and kumquat, chia seed and almond pressings, kiwi soil and a flange of porcini shavings.

Cooking for babies
If you can cook the same thing for your baby as you’re cooking for the rest of the family then great but be sure to cut out the salt and chilli. This provides me with a bit of a challenge as salt and chilli are the main ingredients in many of my recipes.



Finger foods
It’s really important to give baby finger foods not only to improve their fine motor skills (how are his motor skills? Fine, thanks for asking) but also crucially to teach them how to mash things into their clothes.

Especially during the summer months it’s sensible to offer your baby water. Naturally as he’s been used to drinking milk for months giving him boring old life-giving water is likely to be received poorly. Every time I try to give it to CPP I get a look that says “why have you done this?” as if having offered to make a round of teas at work, I’ve returned from the kitchen with mugs of hot urine.

The transition
The transition to solids takes place at both ends. The good news is that poo-splosions stop almost completely. The bad news is that some poos are now so dry they will roll away out of the nappy and under a bureau if you don’t get a firm enough grip. Largely though nappy changes become like taking a geological sample with rings of differently aged sediment allowing you to correctly age your sample for cataloguing.