Sharing More Equally
Associate Assistant Principal and Literacy Lead, Farrah Heerah (@farrahheerah) explains how having the opportunity to take shared parental leave resulted in greater parenting equality between herself and her husband, and invaluable support for her as she returned to work.
With the joy of learning that you are pregnant, conversations about logistics of childcare and financial security inevitably ensue. We found out that I was, slightly surprisingly, pregnant for the third (and final!) time. Very soon, we decided that I would go on maternity leave just after the summer holidays in 2019. Baby was due in October so that would give me time to rest up. Our two other children were at school and nursery and we saved some money from September onwards from not having to send them to after-school clubs.
I officially went back to work the week before the summer holidays in 2020. We made the decision this time to take shared parental leave. My husband works for an engineering company and, as part of his employee package of perks, could opt for paid shared parental leave. He was able to take the final 9 weeks of parental leave with full pay, whilst I went back to work. It meant that for the entire summer holidays, we were able to spend the time together as a family of five. The intention was to travel around Europe in our van; the pandemic put the brakes on that plan.
However, the time we spend together was invaluable and really helped my husband to bond with our daughter Zara, in a way that he never had the time to with our other two children. It is incredible that, even though I still breastfeed her, she often looks to her dad for a cuddle when I’m in the room. Despite my husband’s efforts, in the first year of our older children’s lives, it was always their instinct to look for me first. Shared parental leave has enabled us to share the parenting more equally.
Another benefit was that Zara was being looked after by her father whilst I returned to work after the summer holidays. It meant that she was that little bit older when she first attended nursery. It allowed her to have that extra time with a parent taking care of her and strengthening that bond. Also, it made my own return to work, that little bit less stressful, knowing that I was leaving her at home, rather than the wrench of dropping her at nursery. Returning to work after maternity is always difficult in many ways. The knowledge that she was at home with her dad made it much easier.