Lawrence's blog: The Parental Leave Experience
Through a chance meeting with a member of the HR team at work earlier in the year I was made aware of my firms recently enhanced ‘shared parental leave’ offering. As you can expect, I had some reservations about taking a prolonged amount of time out of the city rat-race at first, however, the fact we were expecting twins meant the extra hands and support would definitely be needed at home; I therefore decided to take 3 months off. As my leave date got closer, I began to really look forward to stepping out of the bureaucracy cauldron and having a break from the late nights, conference calls and laptop screen.
Whilst I knew going from 1 child (we have a 4yr old daughter) to 3 was going to be challenging, I was quietly confident that with both myself and my wife at home, provided we didn’t kill each other (3 uninterrupted months of my OCD and sometimes childish sense of humour would put a stain on any marriage) we would not only crack the parenting side but I would also have time to do some extracurricular activities; namely, some running, white collar boxing and reading various ‘intellectual’ books. I could also spend much more father-daughter time with my 4yr old. It was settled (at least in my own head), after 3 months I would return to work smarter, with the body of a young Denzel Washington and with a deeper understanding of the workings of our 4yr old girl.
My wife gave birth to 2 beautiful girls in April and I am now in my last week of parental leave. Whilst I have loved every minute of it, needless to say I was over ambitious (to say the least) with my plans for parental leave and will be returning to work unfit, tired and ‘baby brained’. Thoughts of a young ‘Denzel’ figure are long gone, hell… I’d settle for a Morgan Freeman physique at this point……
Some of the highs:
Watching the growth – Being around for some of the mini milestones (first smiles etc) and not being informed of these via a Whatsapp picture whilst in the office (as I was with our first child) has been truly welcomed. Whilst I will of course miss more milestones when I return to work, it has been a pleasure to catch the first few.
Parental Teamwork – My wife said last week “I thought we might be divorced by month 3” (accompanied by the small giggle that denotes a joke with a hint of seriousness). Fortunately, the opposite has been true. I can only liken it to some sort of feel good sports movie (e.g. Mighty Ducks or Remember the Titans) where the seemingly insurmountable task of navigating through the chaos of new born twins has compelled us to work seamlessly as a team. There have been some minor niggles along the way, but these have mostly been around our respective sleep tallies, “You got 5hrs last night whereas I only got 4hrs 55 minutes!” However, on the whole the physical and emotional support we have provided each other has been invaluable.
Father / Daughter Time – I’ll admit, I still don’t know how my 4yr old’s brain is wired but spending more time with her has been great (typically my only awake time with her had been during the morning nursery run and at the weekend); there have been various trips out, lots of storybooks and plenty of superhero chatter (who would win out of a battle between the Hulk and Supergirl is still our big topic of debate). I have however, been given an abrupt taste of things to come in relation to boys though; my daughter recently told us her ‘heart skips a beat’ when she sees her boyfriend (a fellow 4yr old from nursery)… thank you Disney princess culture! TBC how I deal / cope with this going forward. For now I’ve resisted the fatherly urge to get this boy round for a long ‘chat’ and instead decided to grit my teeth and not make a big deal of it.
Fitness – Whilst I started well with regular morning runs, these came to an abrupt halt during month 2 when one evening during the mini-heatwave, a Seagull (may be a bird fanatic can explain why on earth I’m seeing Seagulls inside the M25) defecated on my head whilst I was out running. In my haste to speed away from the laughing traffic opposite I twisted my knee. Injury and shame means running is over for now. White collar boxing didn’t even get attempted, I decided I would prefer to keep thinking that I would be good at it than actually attempt it.
Twins means Twice as much – Twice the poo, twice the nappies, twice the amount of projectile vomit. Enough said.
I have been extremely fortunate to be in a position to take three months parental leave. I only hope that this changes from being good fortune to a readily available choice for most parents. For what it’s worth, if the opportunity is available my advice is to grasp it with both hands (whether for the birth of multiples or not). Believe me, work will still be there regardless of how long you take off but the opportunity to play an active part in those first few weeks / months will not. Don’t plan on being able to make a dent in your reading list or get a celeb body though.
Lawrence works as a Senior M&A Manager at a professional services firm in the city and is father to 3 gorgeous girls, a 4 (going on 14) yr old and 3 month old twins.
Category: A Cityfather's Diary