Stigma in the officeStarker still is the stigma attached to “stay-at-home dads”. The notion that men need to play the role of breadwinner certainly seems to contribute to the dearth of uptake. Indeed, HR directors interviewed in 2016 suggested that taking SPL could be “frowned upon or career limiting”… for men. Outmoded preconceptions of masculinity aren’t the responsibility of businesses (except for, ironically, those in my game – advertising). But highlighting the policy, and being prepared for fathers who want to take extended paternity leave, definitely is. Alarmingly, almost half of HR professionals admit that they don’t actively promote shared parental leave within their organisation. Stories about businesses making it difficult or impossible are rife. It’s a crying shame when the benefits are so clear.
Spending quality time with your kidsI can’t imagine having missed Fede’s first birthday, clambering over the obstacles at a soft play in Barbican, or taking him to swimming lessons every Tuesday morning, singing “Old McDonald” while hopping around the shallow end. Although, it has to be said, spending half an hour coaxing him into eating one mouthful of solid food was only a subtle change from some conference calls I’ve been on. Most important to me, though, was the first day that I was fully in charge, rather than merely supporting his mum. It was slightly terrifying, but being the primary carer, rather than a bit player, allowed me to bond with my son during the most formative part of his life, in a way that many fathers will never experience.
A proper Father’s Day gift
Getting to take a hands-on role in raising Fede was incredibly satisfying and made me reflect on why more new fathers aren’t choosing to take the option. After all, a mounting body of evidence makes clear the benefits of SPL to wider society. For instance, SPL fundamentally reduces gender pay inequality: when women can go back to work, their careers thrive. Also, families that take SPL are more likely to stay together. And in those that don’t, the father takes a more active role. Kids achieve higher marks at school, are better adjusted, and have greater self-confidence. The list goes on. The role of fathers in their children’s lives is changing. However, it is still the case that mothers in two-parent families take on responsibility for twice as much of the childcare, and most of the domestic work. It’s archaic, and it means that both kids and fathers miss out. So this year, after the dog has eaten that miniature drone, why not get your staff a proper Father’s Day gift, and let them know that they have the option of taking SPL?