We discussed all of the aspects: her going back to work (full time or part time… she opted for full time); what about my pay (no pay was the answer, she had used up all allowances); could I handle looking after two kids… Could I?! How long should I take? What would my employer say? Gulp. What would they say?!
What an amazing, once-in-a lifetime opportunity: Quality time with the kids. Time to properly bond. Time to be a “present” dad. It would also give me time to think about my career, do more exercise, learn a new language, write a book… or so I thought! All being well, I would have another 30 odd years of working life left, so a few months out to look after my kids would be fine – wouldn’t it?
So that was it. Decided. Now to broach the subject with my boss.
I work in the shipping industry, for a company with a very traditional work ethic, so you could be forgiven for thinking it’s not the most progressive place when it comes to work/life balance. What to do? Arrange a meeting, run it past HR first, send an email? Hmmmmm. Got it: take the boss out for lunch first to soften him up a bit, then hit him with it. Bangers and mash with a pint of real ale, now who wouldn’t agree to anything after that, right?
After a bit of general chitchat, I went in for the kill: “I’d like to take four months off for paternity leave please!” His initial reaction of “what do you think this'll do to your career?!” wasn't wholly surprising. I argued that the company would surely see that I was doing the right thing for my family (my wife’s salary was actually higher than mine at that time, so it made financial sense for her to go back and for me to be at home. I saw the “really?” look in his eyes.) As no dad at my company had requested this before, my boss wasn’t actually sure this was even possible (and to be fair, before my wife told me about it, neither was I) and asked me to check with HR. HR confirmed all was OK – I was good to go.
So that was it. Everything in place for four months at home looking after my nine-month old daughter and my four-year old son.
Now the real work was to begin…
N.B. This blog first appeared here: http://www.cityparents.co.uk/Blog/Cityfathers/117.htm on 11 May 2014