I’m taking 6 months away from my day job to look after my son, Archie, who was 6 months old last week. I’ve been following GeekDad for a while (even before I became a dad) and thought it might be interesting to share my experiences.
I live in London, England, and am taking what’s known in the UK as additional paternity leave. It’s a relatively new employment right that allows the parents of a new or adopted baby to split the standard, statutory maternity rights between the mother and father instead of falling just to the mother. It’s recent legislation and is not a commonly taken option (or even well known about).
What this means for me is that I’m taking a 6 month break from my career as an IT architect (I work in data mining and predictive analytics) to look after my baby son. My wife has gone back to work and I’m going to be the prime carer. I’m intending these blog posts to chart my progress and share anything that I think might interest other GeekDads.
So, why did I make the decision to do this?
I first came across the concept of additional paternity leave when I was consulting for a German car manufacturer in Munich around three years ago. The technical lead of the project I was working on was going on leave and I’d been asked to help train up the person providing his cover. It turned out he was doing the equivalent of what I am doing now. I thought it was a really nice idea at the time and thought it was a shame that it wasn’t an option in the UK.
Then, a few months later, as part of the 2010 Equality Act, the law changed and it became a viable option. I discussed it with my wife – if we ever had kids I’d like to share the responsibility of looking after the baby in the first year.
In 2011 my wife became pregnant and in January 2012 Archie was born, healthy and happy. After a few months of the challenges of new parenthood I was undeterred and spoke to my employer about my intention to take the leave. Fortunately, my boss was very supportive – he has four kids – and he proceeded to tell me how he can change a nappy with one hand and a glass of red wine in the other.
That kicked off the process and it’s been interesting to gauge reactions from people since. They’ve been very positive, on the whole. Several of my colleagues indicated that they would have liked to have done the same or would consider doing the same if they were still to have family. The main issue for most is the financial one, although I’m fortunate that my wife and I have similar incomes. Most, though, aren’t in the same situation, partly due to the still significant gap between average male and female pay. I’d hope that, as more men take up this option, that gap could be reduced.
I’m looking forward to the whole thing. My wife went back to work this week and I’m now in charge. Hopefully you’ll find my journey interesting. It’s now my first week in charge and I’ve set myself some targets.
- Get to know some people
- Get out and about each day
- Keep myself intellectually stimulated
This blog is part of #3, I should be able to manage #2 with a bit of will power but #1 could prove a challenge. I’m quite a social being, and have always had a job which involved working with others. The only times in my life that have ever got me down have been when I’ve not had regular social contact. Obviously, being at home full time is a risk, so I knew I had to do something.
The challenge was how to find a social circle when the obvious support groups for parents of babies are female-oriented. I’d already been to a health visiting clinic, where I felt a little bit uncomfortable as the only bloke and, despite the fact that I had gone through the ante-natal classes, I didn’t feel as if I could meet up with my wife’s ante natal-friends without changing the dynamic of their group.
Fortunately, if there’s one thing the internet is great at is allowing people to find communities of people with the same interests and a quick Google lead me to a perfect solution – Dads and Little’uns, a playgroup for dads with babies and toddlers. They meet twice a week and the Wimbledon group is close to where I live so I was definitely in luck.
So, on Monday morning I got Archie ready and headed over to their meet-up and I couldn’t have been more warmly welcomed. They’re a mix of full and part-time dads (and a couple of mums) with pre-school kids. The meeting hall is large, and there’s a good amount of toys for the kids to play with. There were around 20 dads at the meet up so I think that’s a great foundation for my socializing in the next six months or more.
Later in the week, my planned cinema visit (the local cinema does a baby/toddler-friendly screening once a week) was curtailed by a poorly Archie. A stomach bug took him out of action for a day, unfortunately. He’s only started weaning over the past few weeks so I imagine his immune system is having to cope with a lot more than it did.
Being a parent in the 21st century gives you access to all sorts of gadgets (very few of which I was aware of before becoming a dad). One of our most well used is a smart 3-in-1 thermometer which uses infra-red to take temperature from within the ear (or from the forehead as an alternative). Any sign of a sick baby and we can get a quick and accurate temperature measurement – a nicely designed, clever piece of kit. In this case there was no fever, just some sickness and Archie was back to his normal self within a few hours.
The end of the week brought some walks through the local area and another visit to the dads’ group. I also spent a little bit of time playing about with comic book effects in Photoshop (one of my hobbies). At the weekend I was back to sharing the duties with my wife and we had a nice Sunday lunch with some friends.
So, one week down and I’m feeling very positive. It was great to meet some new people and get into the swing of things.
Follow Paul’s journey over on the GeekDad Community and let him know if you’ve got any tips!