Our first child, Jasper, was born 12 years ago. Being a teacher working in a permanent position for the NSW Department of Education, I was able to take off six months at half pay and six months’ unpaid leave and then work part time until our youngest child enrolled for school.
13 months later we had our second child. The three months leading up to his birth saw me in hospital with placenta previa. This was a very stressful time for our little family, Jasper had just started daycare at the age of 12 months, two days a week, my mum had him for two days a week and Steve for the other day. Both women and men can take on emotional caring roles. Steve and Jasper became super close when I was in hospital.
If Steve was able to access the 26 weeks’ paid parental leave it would have made a huge difference. He would have been able to be home more during that time. At one point we thought our second child would be born at 28 weeks. We were very fortunate to welcome him into the world at 38 weeks.
We had our youngest, Fletcher, eight years ago. Stephen started his own business when Fletcher was six months old. He worked from home the first six months and took Fletcher two days a week. I also had 12 months off, six at half pay and six at no pay.
As we had the extra family help from my parents and Steve’s aunties, Fletcher didn’t go to daycare until he was two. By that time, the older boys were at school, so Fletcher at daycare a few days a week meant we didn’t hit the Child Care Subsidy threshold, thankfully.
Spending time with our boys prior to them going to school brought so much joy. We had time to live life and be out with our babies. We loved sharing the joy of our children and seeing happiness in other people’s faces when they saw our kids. We were very fortunate that we didn’t have to stress about their sleep or rush around. We were there to facilitate our kids’ happiness. It was great to be able to share the load of parenting between the two of us with the wonderful support of our extended family.
I feel it’s important for children to see mum and dad both being parents. It’s been important to us that our boys see their Dad, just as they see their Mum - emotionally and mentally present as well as physically present.
Sharing the parenting load enabled us to understand each other better. It was easier to be in tune with how the other was feeling and dig in and help. Having time at home means we were able to maintain that great relationship with each other and take stock of what’s important in life.
It’s extremely important you work for an organisation that understands the challenges and difficulties new parents face. Life is new and unknown; making it to the office on time in many cases becomes difficult and beyond the control of the parents. At the time we had the boys, flexible working and parental leave was pretty non-existent. Fortunately for us our respective employers were very understanding and supportive.
While we have missed most of today's benefits, we strongly encourage the government and organisations to fully support paid parental leave and let parents and families bond and be connected in the best possible way, which is to spend time together. I personally encourage dads to be dads, it’s the best thing you will ever do!
Having 26 weeks’ paid parental leave for both parents would be a huge benefit to so many families. It would enable children to have that precious time with both of their parents and better support the family unit as a whole.