For any child born on or after 5th April 2015 the parents can opt to split 50 weeks of leave between them, and the employer has to allow this. The mum still has to take the first two weeks (which the dad can also take as Paternity Leave) but after that they can split the next 50 weeks.
2) I can't afford it.
This is a fair comment. Many companies offer Enhanced Maternity Leave Pay for mums but only a few, so far, are offering Enhanced Shared Parental Leave Pay for dads. This means that if you both decide to take Shared Parental Leave the dad might have to manage on the statutory pay of £139.58 per week. However, if you have any savings, then, in my opinion, there's no better way to spend them than watching your children grow up and develop. Also, the mum will have her income coming in once she's gone back to work.
3) I'm worried that when I go back to work I won't be in the same role.
You employer is legally bound to allow you to return to the same role and can't discriminate against you.
4) It will affect my career in the long run.
On the contrary, I'm pretty sure that after a few months back at work, your employer will almost have forgotten that you ever took the time off. However, YOU won't have forgotten, which means better staff retention for the employer! Additionally, don't underestimate the power of being a role model for other men. Strength in numbers!
5) My friends and family will think it’s strange.
I received only positive comments and praise when I took my four months off to look after my kids. I had a great response from everyone, including my son’s teachers and other mums (and my kids of course!).
6) Looking after kids is a little too feminine for me.
On the contrary, I think it's quite a masculine decision to "take charge" to ensure that your family is looked after. Also, I think it shows a level of male confidence to allow the wife to continue her career while yours is put on hold for a few months and to take on a different position with regard to the early care of your child.
7) I'm not sure I can cope looking after the kids on my own.
Fair comment, and one I wondered about too, and although it's hard work, it's simply about establishing a routine and sticking to it. After the first couple of weeks, it will be "child's play". Sorry.
8) I'll go nuts being at home all day looking after a baby on my own.
Now you know how mums can feel! Another fair comment and, in fact, if you can (to help keep your sanity!), I recommend getting someone to take over for a few hours every now and again. Perhaps a local childminder. This will give you a bit of space for yourself which is always important.
9) Children need, and want, their mums more than their dads.
Children equally need and want their dads. My kids responded really well when I took time off to look after them. Even my son's teacher commented on how much my son enjoyed having his dad at home. Both children seemed to really enjoy it and I'm now as much a part of their lives as my wife is which makes me feel good too!
10) I'll be too out of touch with work by the time I return.
You and your partner can work up to 20 "keeping in touch" days during your time off. This is in addition to any your wife might have taken during her Maternity Leave. The actual number of days, what they will entail, and your pay will have to be agreed with your employer. I didn't use any of these, but you can if it suits you.
I encourage all dads to think about this seriously. Spending a few months out with your kids could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a decent amount of quality time with them and I believe it helps the whole family unit.
N.B. This blog first appeared here: http://www.cityparents.co.uk/Blog/Cityfathers/177.htm on 28 October 2014