Back in November 2014 my wife and I were overjoyed with the arrival of our daughter Beatrice. Being at home with her for those first two weeks was amazing and she was perfect in every way, but a month in to her life she was diagnosed with hip-dysplasia and we were told she would need surgery. After bringing her home she was made to wear a large, heavy & very awkward spica cast and the practicalities of this meant a simple thing like picking her up became too much for my Wife.
At the time my job had become dull and unfulfilling so I was more than happy for a change
of scenery. I took split paternity leave in May 2015 and would spend eight months off work and at home with Bea. The first few weeks it felt like a holiday as the sun was shining and the feelings of stress, monotony of the daily commute and rat-race dissipated. I found myself getting up with a smile on my face and sorting Bea’s breakfast, changing her nappy, dressing her and planning the day ahead. It all felt fresh and new and different but no doubt these feelings were born out of a craving for change. I did get some people (you know who you are) questioning my decision and giving what they saw as banter about how I was now a house husband (amongst other offensive labels) but I took it all in jest.
While I was finding the arrangement quite easy I knew my wife was struggling emotionally. She is one of the strongest willed people alive and she had always been determined to go back to work after having a baby but she felt like she was fighting society’s image of what mothers should be and her own instincts to care for our daughter.
As the weeks went by and I’d fallen in to good & bad routines. I started to get a bit defensive with continuing comments from (mostly) male friends, coupled with waves of bottled up anxiety about Bea’s condition. She would play on the living room floor by pulling herself around with her arms, dragging her cast behind. I was also feeling guilty by not being at work and earning money. Looking back, I was in a very bad place and I wish I’d opened up and found some help. I read this week that 28% of Men suffer from post-natal depression but all I could think when I read this statistic was what my late grandfather would have thought of men these days. My generation has had to re-mould the male image more than any other as we’ve advanced in to more gender fluid times.
When October rolled round and I had gone way past the six months originally agreed for split-paternity leave. My work couldn’t have been more helpful at the time as they were well aware of Bea’s needs and we’d agreed that I could return on a three-day basis. We worked out a schedule between family who we couldn’t be more thankful for and I returned to work.
Going back was strange and the biggest annoyance was having to constantly explain my situation to anyone asking where I’d been. A group email hadn’t gone round before I’d left as I wasn’t the one with the womb. I got questions on whether or not we were going to have anymore kids which began to feel intrusive.
We did eventually decide to have another baby and Eliza came along in the September of 2016. As my wife’s employer couldn’t offer her flexible hours she decided to go it alone and I was back full-time. A few months in I was asked to go for a promotion within my dept. I had been with the company for 10 years but when it came down to the final decision they chose someone else and I still wonder if my taking SPL had anything to do with it.
Overall I think we’ve been lucky as since I started working for our websites I’ve heard terrible stories from women who’ve been moved sideways, demoted or let go simply for choosing to have children. There needs to be a total attitude shift in the way parents can work and the way mothers are treated by their employers. Technology allows us to work anywhere these days and everyone should be given the option to work flexibly.
By Liam Hamilton
Co-Founder @ Daddyjobs.co.uk