According to Google/Ipsos in 2017, millennial fathers watch more parenting-related videos on YouTube than mothers. This suggests that dads today are keen to spend time at home with their newborn.
Returning from your two week paternity leave or coming back from a longer period of Shared Parental Leave, might be challenging.
Leaving a newborn baby to return to work is one of the hardest things a parent has to do. Physically, you're leaving the house and getting back to the morning commute, but emotionally you're rooted at home with your family and its newest member.
According to research by the Fatherhood Institute, nearly 90% of UK fathers take formal leave of some kind near the time of their child’s birth. This can range from taking shared parental leave to paternity leave, though in many cases this includes some annual leave. It's important when you get back to reset your work/life balance and explore all the options to make your new life easier.
Research has also found that one in three fathers feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of meeting unchanged work expectations and radically expanding caring expectations.
But here are a few things you can do to make things easier when you get back to work.
After paternity leave
It's only natural to miss your family after spending so much time with them on paternity leave. Arrange for a catch-up meeting to get up to speed and define the "work" side of the work/life balance.
Ask for clear direction from your employer and find an effective way of managing your work commitments around your home life. You may not be able to work late when you have a newborn at home, so you should have plenty to do during the day at work.
Dan Dorrington, Head of Practice at Montash's Bristol office, recently came back from his second period of paternity leave. "The second time was much harder. We had a challenging birth, which was emotionally difficult to manage."
Many businesses offer flexible working options for their employees. If your work offers flexible working, it might be worth looking into. You may find that you find a way to work in a way that better suits your home life.
Whether that's starting later so you can help out at home in the morning or working from home to take the weight off babysitting, flexible working can help you better balance your commitments.
"I was able to spread my leave over 5 weeks, because I needed to be flexible and present at work and at home. I was frank about my situation and Montash were supportive of my decision. They allowed me to be flexible ."
Establish a line between work and home
For new fathers, re-establishing your work/life balance after paternity leave can be a real challenge. You need to make sure that you are able to do your job and support your new family to a level that works for you and them.
Agree ground rules for regular communication and get into a routine so you can keep life from interrupting work. It's important to be performing at your optimum in all aspects of your work and home life.
Getting back to work is as much a team effort as raising a child is. You need to be able to work and communicate with your family and your employer effectively in order to make the process manageable. You'll figure it out, but don't be afraid to ask for help.
Benefits of taking paternity leave
There’s growing evidence that dads taking time off in the early weeks and months of their children’s lives has a significant positive impact on families.
People who take paternity leave tend to do more hands-on caring for their babies. One UK by the OECD study found that fathers who took formal leave were 25% more likely to change nappies and 19% more likely to feed their 8-12 month old babies and to get up to them at night.
Crucially, evidence suggests that this kind of paternal involvement, if established during the early weeks, can last through to toddlerhood and beyond.
Dan agrees in the benefits of paternity leave. "Having a child means managing lots of emotional pressure from your home life. If you don't take care of that balance, it will take its toll sooner or later down the line."
Sharing the hands-on care during paternity leave can improve your relationship as a couple. In Norway, following an increase in fathers’ leave-taking due to the introduction of a four-week ‘daddy quota’, researchers at the Fatherhood Institute identified an 11% lower level of conflict over household division of labour.
Taking paternity leave also affects the mothers’ health and wellbeing. A recent analysis of data on more than 4,000 women from an English National Maternity survey found that mums whose partners had taken no paternity leave were more likely to report feeling ill or unwell at three months, and mothers with more than one child whose partners took no leave also reported much higher rates of post-natal depression.
Finally, new dads themselves can benefit. Swedish fathers who took paternity leave in the late 1970s were found to have had an 18% lower risk of alcohol-related care and/or death than other fathers, and a 16% overall reduced risk of early death, reports the Fatherhood Institute.