Welcome to our series of ‘Real Stories’ where we’re fortunate to have a snapshot into the personal lives of working parents in the hope that their experiences can help others who are interested in taking a similar path. In this particular story we sit down with Steve who works at a global Investment Bank to discuss his journey of sharing parental leave.

ECC: What motivated you to opt to take extended / shared parental leave? 

Steve: I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my daughter in the first 6 months as I really wanted to bond with her and help my wife as much as possible as she has had mental health issues in the past.

ECC: How did the reality match up to your expectations? 

Steve: It was tough – we spent a week in hospital after the birth due to complications.  As a result I was left with my daughter for the first 3 hours of her life – the birth plan went out the window.  But spending so much time with my family in the first 6 months made me calmer and hopefully helped my daughter who has a very close bond with me now at nearly 2 years.

ECC: When you told colleagues this is what you wanted to do, what reactions did you get?

Steve: Very supportive – it was rare for a father to take 6 months off but I explained the reasons why and they were very supportive.

ECC: What were some of the highlights and lowlights of your experiences on leave? 

Steve: Highlights included going to the zoo with my daughter during the week when it was less busy.  And going for afternoon teas with her too!  Lowlights were the first week in hospital and when my wife found it difficult to cope in the first 3 months when she wasn’t bonding with our daughter.

ECC: Would you consider taking it again, if circumstances allow? What would you do differently? 

Steve: As my wife is not working I wouldn’t be able to do it again under the current rules.  But if I could I would take even longer as it’s such a precious time.

ECC: How can organisations support parents taking extended / shared parental leave, what else might help? 

Steve: Ongoing support during the parental leave – I was basically left alone even though I wanted to keep in touch more.  And maybe organise sessions with parents going through the same process with DB.

ECC: What advice would you give others considering taking extended / shared parental leave that helps smooth your exit from, and return to, work? 

Steve: See a parental coach – it was invaluable.  Also make sure you agree a suitable WFH plan before you go off to make sure there are no misunderstandings when you return.

Keep an eye out for the rest of the ‘Real Stories’ series across the other stages of the parental transition!