Reflecting on our experience of Shared Parental Leave

On Friday my husband spent his last day at home caring for our son.  This week our little boy started with his childminder and my husband returned to work.  He’d met up with his colleagues for after work drinks on the Thursday and had a chat with his managers about his role returning to the company.

I’ve taken some time to reflect over the past 10 months of our shared parental journey and share my thoughts with you.

One thing I’ve been very grateful for has been the positive reaction to our decision.  Sometimes you read articles where women have been ‘mummy-shamed’ about their decision to return to work early or the father is questioned why he isn’t providing for his family (the internet can be the worst sometimes).  We have received no judgement from family and friends or our workplaces and we feel incredibly lucky for this.

One of the main reasons we chose SPL was financial.  Since I am the main breadwinner, I was keen to get back to work once my maternity pay had dwindled. As it turned out, we had saved enough to safely cover emergencies (thank you PF/FIRE community!). Good thing too as we had to purchase a new car and pay a one month deposit to the childminder.  Would we have done SPL if my husband earned more? Probably as there have been other benefits too.

My husband has had a valuable chance to bond with our son and develop his own style of parenting.  We have different approaches and sometimes I question why he is doing something a particular way but then I have to stop myself.  His way is no less effective than mine, only different so I have learnt to respect his judgement more.

Some of the downsides have been I have lost some of the friendships I had developed when I was on maternity leave since going back to work now that I can no longer hang out on weekdays.  Some may say this isn’t much of a loss but I do miss having people to talk about parenting with and children of a similar age for my son to play with. Thankfully I still have a couple of people that I still get to see on the odd weekend and of course all of our other friends, with or without children!

Setting up SPL was a bit of a pain as it is still reasonably new and there was a bit of paperwork to complete.  We almost had to be experts ourselves before approaching our HR departments.  There was an issue with my first month’s pay back at work full time as I hadn’t been put back on payroll so there was a flurry of activity and a lot of anxiety on my end as they sorted it out.

I think my husband found the change of pace challenging at times and although the landscape is changing slowly, he would still sometimes be the only man at our son’s activities. We also had to consciously make time for each other, rather than just ‘changing shifts’ when the other parent got home from work.

Overall though, it’s been an amazing experience and I highly recommend looking into it, even just to give yourself more options when deciding on childcare.  I have had colleagues of both sexes ask about how we set it up and about our experiences and I hope we can help them as they decide the best course of childcare for their families.

More information about Shared Parental Leave can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay

http://www.acas.org.uk/spl

https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/

 

Author: Diamonds in the Rough

Family of three saving for a house deposit with a self-imposed goal of October 2018! Profile illustration from wallcoo.net

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