What you’re not allowed to say on Paternity Leave

What you're not allowed to say on paternity leave

When anyone asks how paternity leave is going, you just say ‘Yeah, it’s great’, right? But what if it’s not… and the reason isn’t an expected one

At 5:53 am on the 11thof July 2019, I started paternity leave for the second time. Welcoming my daughter into the world was an amazing – not to say shocking-unexpected-home-birth – experience.

As far as babies go, this one was pretty chilled. We didn’t have any of the complications we had with my son (I spent half of my paternity leave in hospital with him). She slept well. She didn’t cry every time I picked her up.  What’s not to like?

There was one problem, though, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I was missing work.

The day before paternity leave I was engrossed in a presentation to our senior leaders on PECR (a new Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation), demonstrating my plans and timelines for delivery. I was supporting colleagues who were going for new roles. I was thinking about the future direction of my team, and excited about new projects on the horizon.

And then it all stopped. My daughter was born, and within an hour I’d sent an email to the team to share the news; I’d updated my boss; and, finally, put the out-of-office on. That was it. Silence. For three weeks.

Maybe it’s FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Work doesn’t stop. Conversations still happen.  Decisions are still made. The only difference is I wasn’t a part of them. And whilst I was truly enjoying the extended family time, I felt slightly incomplete.

By now you’re probably thinking one of two things: “This resonates with me”; or “Get your priorities straight”

Trust me – the latter response is more common. But unless what I’m saying does resonate with you, “missing work on paternity leave” is a hard thing to talk about. Most people just don’t get it.

It’s not that I don’t have my priorities straight; it’s that I am equally fulfilled by my career as I am by my family. Both provide me with different things that all contribute to me as a whole. I can’t just “turn one off” – in the same way that I wouldn’t stop thinking about my family when I’m at work.

As much as I need and am thankful for the love and support of my family, I also need the mental stimulation and the feeling of achievement that I get from work.

On the plus side, having down time and lack of mental stimulation was the catalyst for starting Career Dad, and I’m really excited to be on this journey.

I’d hate to think that other guys are having a similar experience, feeling like they can’t talk about it without being judged

So how do we fix it? Should employers offer Keeping In Touch days for dads, as they do for mums? Would that idea be laughed out the door? Is it the responsibility of the individual to request this if they feel it would help them? The answer to all the above is “Yes”. My question, though, is how can we expect change unless there’s an environment in which people feel comfortable to speak up and challenge the status quo?

That’s my aspiration for Career Dad. I’m going to build a community centred around great content, but more importantly I want to build something that connects dads with shared experiences

I want to tackle the challenges and stereotypes of pursuing a career whilst being “a good dad”.

If Career Dad gives a collective voice to those oh-so-common, yet silent, men – the career dads – then this will all have been worthwhile. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.

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