Today in the UK, the government announced a huge publicity push for shared parental leave. Around 285,000 couples are actually eligible every year for such leave but apparently only 2% of men are currently taking advantage of it and around half of the general public are unaware that this option even exists, according to the Department for Business.
First up, though…
What is shared parental leave?
- Shared parental leave (SPL) was introduced in April 2015
- It allows parents to share 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after they have a baby
- Parents can take time off separately or can be at home together for up to six months
- SPL is paid at £140.98 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower
I think it’s a fascinating topic, and of course so personal to each and every parent. For Sam and I, it felt natural and practical for me to take my 12 months maternity leave and for him to continue working in his job. I breastfed both my kids, and he is also the main breadwinner as well as the fact he wasn’t actually eligible for any leave (to find out if your partner is, check out www.workingfamilies.org.uk). That aside, I also (selfishly?) knew I didn’t want to give up any part of my time, and equally, he didn’t show huge inclination to duck out of his workplace for any significant amount of time either. Instead he took annual leave which is better paid, and I guess, more socially acceptable. On that, I’ve got a friend who deeply wanted to take leave but was worried about what his male work colleagues would say – is it emasculating ? I certainly don’t think so but perhaps society would have us think otherwise (at least right now…)
I’m really torn; looking back, or forward (!), I’d love our kids to have that experience of being cared solely for by their dad, and for him too to know what it is to be that day to day key carer although equally for us it worked super well for both of us sticking to this slightly more traditional format and there’s no doubt Sam is incredibly bonded to the kids. It’s also just so complex to make head or tail of it (something today’s announcement is hoping to dispel). To make it a bit simpler, it’s best to think of it non as leave for fathers but as transferable maternity leave. Ideally though, dads need their own leave and not to be dependent on mums giving up theirs (something I wasn’t willing to do).
What about you? Did you and your partner do shared parental leave? How did it pan out ? Were there any tensions that arose or was it super simple and a great experience ? Or are you having these discussions right now? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this issue.
Thanks for reading as ever,
P.S The one thing about motherhood that baffles me
The US is soooo behind :(. Thankfully I was working seasonally so I actually planned it just right and got 6 months off with my little one. I’m a federal employee and I don’t get a single paid day of maternity leave (except it I have saved up enough sick or annual leave).
i know, its so unfair and backward of the US. here’s hoping it will change soon …xx
I grew up in the UK but have been living in Norway for the past 8 years. It is safe to say that Norway has a much better system than the UK! We get 49 weeks paid leave in total (10 wks for Mum, 10 wks for Dad, and then the remaining 29 wks is to be decided/split in whichever way the parents want). So it ended up being that my partner took 10 wks and I took the rest (mainly due to breastfeeding but also because I felt that my body would need it most!). The connection that my partner has with our son is so much stronger than I think it would have been if he did not take leave for such a long periode of time. After his time at home he just had a much better understanding of life with kids and how exhausting and rewarding it can be. Only positive things to say about paternity leave and I hope that more Dads in the UK take advantage of the opportunities. The more do so, the more socially acceptable it will become!
ah so interesting to hear about other mama’s experiences in different countries and YES, Norway sound way more forward thinking and compassionate in their ways. your time together as a new family sounds bliss <3 x x x thanks for reading and for being here x
Hi Emma! Thanks for the pool BTW I had a beautiful birth in the living room and baby Robin has arrived and is just perfect. Really enjoying her so far. Just read this piece. My partner and I have just started SLP – 6 months off together. It’s been amazing so far. We plan to head off travelling and will start with spending some time in Ireland with my family and then onto France…Switzerland…Italy. For us one of the key reasons was the change in society around living close to family. So many of my generation and friends don’t live near family anymore. I have some amazing friends in london – but no immediate family. So having this opportunity to be off together has been about support and also protection from loneliness and isolation. So far we are living it and look forward to making the most of some travels while she is small and sleepy!!!
Thanks again for the birthing pool. Hope all is great your end. Xx
ah so nice to hear from you and so great to hear your birth was so wonderful and that the pool was put to such amazing use. so so happy <3 and gosh how exciting re your upcoming travel plans - what adventures you will have and how precious to be with extended family and introduce them all to baby Robin <3 xxxx
We have only just moved to Copenhagen and I’m not completely sure how the systems works here. I do know that here in Denmark it is much better than in Holland where I’m originally from. When I gave birth to my little girl (back in Holland) nearly two years ago, mothers got a total of 16 weeks paid leave. And fathers only 2 days. Since this year the rules have changed slightly giving fathers now 5 days off of work. Some improvement, but hoping this will improve even further throughout the years. I personally didn’t feel that 16 weeks was enough, so I handed my notice is and was a stay at home mum for a year. So glad I did that though!! 🙂 Xx
wow, 16 weeks – that’s nothing 🙁 sounds like you made a brave but hopefully amazing decision to stay at home for the year – go mama <3