Martina and Dave
Martina and Dave, who both work for charities, each took six months of leave to look after Catherine.
Names and jobs:
Martina, charity policy officer; Dave, charity researcher
Amy, 3 and Catherine, 15 months.
The couple each took six months’ leave. Martina took the first six months and then handed over the lead caregiver role to Dave.
Pay during leave: Martina had 13 weeks enhanced maternity pay, 10 weeks statutory maternity pay, 4 weeks statutory shared parental leave pay and 2 weeks accrued annual leave. Dave’s employer changed their workplace SPL policy whilst he was on leave, so what started out as 12 weeks statutory SPL pay followed by 13 weeks unpaid SPL and 2 weeks annual leave became backdated to match with the enhanced maternity package, resulting in 18 weeks enhanced SPL pay followed by 7 weeks unpaid and 2 weeks annual leave.
Martina and Dave both work the equivalent of 4.5 days in 4, which means that alongside the day’s care provided by Martina’s mum, each of them looks after their daughters for a day a week and the girls attend nursery for two days per week.
Martina says a key benefit for her of sharing the leave was that it allowed her to go back to work earlier and experience “less of a shock to the system”, especially as compared to mums returning to work after 12 months and simultaneously getting children used to paid childcare.
“Workwise, it was helpful to go back a bit earlier than I had done the first time round,” she says. “It was really nice having Dave at home whilst I was easing back in, in a way, knowing that Catherine was at home with him. And, not having to work out the entire childcare pick up, drop off thing at the same time as working everything else, was really helpful.”
She recommends that expectant parents keep an open mind about SPL, rather than assuming women must take a year off when they have a baby, and only go back to work part-time.
“It was only being on maternity leave the first time, and meeting other sorts of women, who had found all sorts of ways of making their life work afterwards, that I thought, it would be great if maternity leave could work like this too,” she says. “So when SPL came along we were able to explore it and split it. It’s about challenging that thing where women are expected to take a year, and you’re uncaring if you don’t – and being open minded to making it work for you, and for your situation, and what you want to do, and how much time you want to spend with your family.”
The couple agree that sharing the leave was the right decision and that it has helped them relate better to each other as hands-on parents. “My approach was always, you only get to have children a few times and so if I didn’t take the opportunity I’d always regret not spending an extended period of time looking after them, and seeing them grow up. And I think we definitely have a shared understanding now, of what it’s like to be at home looking after the child,” says Dave.
The experience has also made him more empathetic with women’s experiences of returning from maternity leave, he adds: “There were practical things that I hadn’t considered, like if you’re looking at your CV, for example, do you put ‘I’ve taken six months off on leave’, which I hadn’t considered. So, it definitely made me see the other side, that I hadn’t seen before.”
The practicalities of planning Catherine’s first year were a challenge, though, and the couple recommend creating a week-by-week timetable to map out who is on what leave when, and on what pay. “That really helped us make sure we could afford it, and that we knew when the money would be coming in, who would be off at what time,” says Dave. “It was really helpful for talking to our employers as well, and made the whole process a lot easier.”