Zoe and Sherman
Names and jobs:
Zoe is a general practitioner and Sherman is a restaurant manager.
Zoe took six months’ maternity leave when Lucien was born, returning to work when he was five months old. At that point Sherman, who had taken two weeks’ paternity leave when Lucien was born, took three months’ additional paternity leave (a scheme that was a precursor to shared parental leave).
Pay during leave:
Zoe received enhanced maternity pay for six months; Sherman received statutory paternity pay for the three months of his APL.
Both Zoe and Sherman work full time; Zoe’s work is spread across four days each week and Sherman works shifts. Both children are now at school and Zoe’s parents help with childcare.
Sherman says taking extended leave was important to him, so he could look after Lucien and support Zoe after her return to work: “I had to make sure I was available…so as not to miss anything at all, make sure I was there for my young man…just to bond and show plenty of love to my kid.”
And for Zoe, the time Sherman took off work has set the tone for his ongoing contribution to family life, including housework and caregiving.
“Sherman does all of the shopping, all of the housework, basically… our relationship now is not a traditional the wife doing all the washing, shopping, everything like that. And I think that started when he was off, and when he went back to work, he carried on doing that,” she says. “Also he’s just got a really lovely relationship with the boys, so he’s just very, very close to both of them. Because obviously, he had more time with Jacob when he was off looking after Lucien as well.”This has also affected the way the children view their parents, Zoe suggests. “I think the boys see us in
This has also affected the way the children view their parents, Zoe suggests. “I think the boys see us in a very equal way. Whereas I think a lot of families, you see them just going to their mum, asking their mum, and the dad’s just kind of there in the background – in our family, they expect Sherman to be cooking the tea, getting them dressed, in exactly the same way as they expect me to be doing it. So it’s a very even relationship from that point of view.”
Sherman’s time off also had a welcome impact in terms of breastfeeding, Zoe says. “When I went back to work, because Lucien was only five months old, I really wanted to be able to carry on breastfeeding, because I wanted to be able to maintain my bond with him. Even despite long days at work and not seeing him, I wanted to be able to keep my kind of ‘mummy’ bit going”.
“The fact that Sherman was off really helped me to do that, because the baby would only take a bottle from Sherman at that point, and Sherman was able to take part in that feeding activity, but it took the pressure off me, to show that I could carry on breastfeeding because Sherman was going to be able to support me with that, and it made the whole process much easier. I then did carry on for 18 months.”
If shared parental leave had existed when Lucien was born, both Zoe and Sherman say they would definitely have made use of it. “If I could have taken six months I would have done it, you know. It was special,” Sherman says. “Yeah, it was a very, very special time. For each one of us, for me personally it’s a big moment in time for me. But overall, yes, it was very special for me, the wife and the boys, and it makes the relationship much stronger, I think. It makes me and the boys unite, and my wife, everything was really special.”