Joining the estimated 2% of UK fathers that take advantage of shared parental leave was a fantastic experience that I feel has really enriched both my personal and professional life. But, what prompted me to take on the challenge of caring for a 10-month-old baby on my own, and what could that possibly have to do with management consultancy I hear you ask?

 

 

Our son was born in May 2017, and although I took three weeks off around the time of his birth, that flew by and before long, I was back at work, leaving my wife at home to cope single handed with the joys and challenges of first-time parenthood from Monday to Friday. Well before our son was born, we’d looked at the shared parental leave option with great interest as it seemed a hugely progressive and beneficial way of enabling me to get some quality time with my son and for my wife to be able to make a smoother return to the working world.

Before we knew it, 9 and a half months had whizzed by and my leave period had arrived. Negotiating my break with work had proved a lot easier than I imagined. My colleagues at Methods were hugely supportive from the start, although one client did ask me if I was looking forward to my holiday…. which I was very quick to correct him on!

So, what did I learn and how might this help me professionally?

It’s fair to say nothing requires an ‘agile’ approach to delivery more than caring for a baby – with constant user feedback I was able to iterate my approach on the go and respond to ‘real-time customer satisfaction data’. Feedback was instant, loud, and not always easy to establish the root cause of, but it certainly sharpened my ability to respond to non-verbal cues!

Management of resources was critical – could a single banana wafer be made to last the walk up the hill from the swimming pool while an increasingly hungry baby went through various stages of post-swimming hunger pangs?! My time as a solo parent required careful planning, but also a willingness to adapt to the unexpected and let go of pre-determined plans, something I’ve not always been the best at professionally.

I also found lots of support from my peers, something which can’t be underestimated, both as a parent and a professional. Being able to drop in on friends who were on parental leave at the same time for a cuppa was often a lifesaver, while local baby classes and community groups were a great source of support. Part of this means admitting when you’re struggling and asking for help and advice from others, not always easy in professional environments where competence and confidence are promoted and rewarded, sometimes to the detriment of showing vulnerability or admitting weakness.

Making my own transition out of and then back into work for my shared parental leave has also been valuable. Having looked after my son for just a few weeks, I now have even greater respect and admiration for people (which in the most part means mothers) who do this for many months on end and then have to adapt back to life at work. Hopefully, as a manager in the future, I’ll be better placed to support this transition when colleagues are taking maternity or paternity leave. I also hope I can encourage other dads to follow my example and take some time out from work and thereby increase the take-up of shared parental leave.

There are many benefits of working for Methods – to find out more visit our careers page.