I found out I was pregnant with no.2 the day I signed a contract for a new job. Not the best timing but babies tend to run to their own schedule. As I had just started the job I knew I would not be entitled to any additional paid parental leave other than the government payments, which while better than nothing was still nowhere near my salary. As a result quite early on I asked my husband to contact his HR department and look into paid parental leave policies. He had been there 7 years and they were a big company so I was sure they’d have something in place.
After much digging (it wasn’t easy to find) we realised that he could take 6 weeks leave FULLY PAID. Woo. So the decision was made I would go back to work a month earlier than planned and he was going to stay at home with our 2 kids for 6 weeks (the 4 year old was in day-care 3 days a week.)
We’ve just reached the end of his parental leave (sob) and I wanted to share with you why I’m a huge advocate for Dads being able to take extended breaks at home.
Confession time, when I was on maternity leave I’d go a bit mental if hubby told me he was going to be late. Being late meant he wouldn’t be there for the majority of the dinner/bath/bed time massacre that I found utterly exhausting at the end of the day. He couldn’t understand how him being half an hour late would send me (his usually rational wife) into such a tizzy. Boy during those 6 weeks he did he understand!
Going back to work after maternity leave is difficult for any mum. For me knowing that their dad was at home and not having to worry about drop offs and picks ups made more mental space to adjust to working again. Knowing that someone was sorting dinner or that if one of the kids was sick I wouldn’t have to take a day off meant that my level of stress was not sky high and helped me to find my work flow again.
There is a lot of talk about how women shouldering the mental load for families is having a detrimental effect on their relationships, for reference check out this visual story, which really resonated with me. Thankfully hubby has always been fairly hands on (and is a way better cook than I am to boot) but being at home made him realise that there is always laundry to be done, dishes to wash and food to cook. It NEVER ends. Whilst we’re not perfect we are partners in this and try to divide and conquer rather than me turning into the feared nag that I would hate to be. He tends to cook and I tend to do laundry and if we feel like someone hasn’t pulled their weight we try to just say it rather than quietly getting pissed off at each other. Communication is key.
Hubby confessed to me that he found bonding with no. 2 a bit more difficult than with no. 1 and that makes total sense. During the initial 6 week feeding frenzy he was very hands on with our 4 year old making sure she wasn’t feeling neglected as mum had a baby permanently attached to her. This meant he had less time for the baby. The 6 weeks parental leave meant that he got to spend one on one time with our little boy, get to know his personality and hang out with him. Now they are totally bonded, our little guy doesn’t look for Mum in a room anymore, Dad is just as good too. For this reason alone Dads should be given the option to have a decent shot at parental leave.
Now that we’re both working again the real fun begins! While I loved being at home with my kids in the long term it’s not for me. I truly believe being a working mum makes me a better mum as it gives me the space to be my own person whilst also appreciating the time I spend with my kids.
Sarah Chegwidden is a digital marketer, a mum of two, a wife of one, a failing domestic goddess and a successful wine drinker.
I’m Jen Murphy, award-winning blogger and wellness advocate for working mothers. I created Working Mother Wellness as a platform for mums to share our wellness experiences. Sign-up to build your own Working Mother Wellness toolkit. You will receive updates on Kundalini yoga and meditation practices, wellness tips, and info on upcoming workshops and programmes.