asharedparentalleave

As April arrives, the question is how will shared parental leave work for families?

You may be entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if:

your baby is due on or after 5 April 2015

you adopt a child on or after 5 April 2015

Until 4 April 2015 fathers may get Additional Paternity Leave and Pay instead.

SPL and ShPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within 1 year of adoption).

You can start SPL if you’re eligible and you or your partner end maternity or adoption leave or pay (or Maternity Allowance) early. The remaining leave will be available as SPL. The remaining weeks of pay will be available as ShPP.

You can share the leave with your partner if they’re also eligible for SPL, and choose how much of the leave each of you will take. This means you can look at your contractual maternity and paternity rights and see what pattern of leave would be most advantageous to your financially.

SPL also lets you suggest a flexible pattern of leave to your employer. You have the right to take SPL in up to 3 separate blocks but your employer can agree to more. They can also let you split each block into several shorter periods of work and leave.

Check out your eligibility to leave and pay on having a chld.

What I like about the new regulations

There is an implication that fathers should be actively involved in the care of a child in its first year. I am one of those mums who believes that if a man has conceived a child he should be willing to step up and do nappy changes, night feeds and whatever the mum is expected to do.

I always like things that offer flexibility to individual circumstances. I wish more policies offered that as life is made up of individuals and changing situations.

I am pleased to see the regulations apply to employed, self-employed and agency workers.

When finances are tight, it may be best for the higher-earner to return to work quicker whichever parent that is. There may be projects at work that one of the parents particularly wants to be involved in at a given time.

I also like the idea that parents could be on leave together for a period building up that family unit.

Where it works best, parents will understand each other better and that could contribute to a lower risk of relationship breakdown in what is a wonderful but challenging year.

What are my concerns?

There may be a low-take up. That might be because it of no real interest to some families. It might be because some dads just don’t want to step up. It might be that some mums think it is only their role to be heavily involved in the child’s first year. It might be that people do not know about or understand the regulations.

There is also the key point that not all parents will be eligible and if one is and one is not I can see that leading to tension.

As with most family-friendly initiatives some employers will not like the idea and do things to prevent parents taking advantage of the regulations. Bad employers may use bullying tactics to put pressure on parents not to benefit from the regulations. It two employers are involved and both of them are not family-friendly, that could be a very troublesome situation at a time when a family needs all the help it can get.

My experiences

When my first son was born, his grandparents were very keen to do daily childcare to enable me to take up an exciting new job and for my husband to continue in his work.

When my daughter was born, my parents were not able to offer the same due to their age and infirmity. My husband worked and I stayed at home. I hated not having a work role and was blighted by post-natal depression.. My husband had a very long commute and I felt totally cut off from the world. He was so tired when he got in that he never saw how much I was struggling. Shared parental leave could have helped us so much on this one I think.

When my third child was born, my husband was redundant so he took care of my son while I took on a well-paid job.

This goes to show that circumstances can and do change rapidly as I all three of my children in less than five years.

Conclusion

It would be great if shared parental leave could work well and not just for a few families.

Lots needs to change for it to work at its best including our culture being less sexist when it comes to who should look after children and less discriminatory against men who do want to stay at home with the kids.

We need regulations to insist that employers are family-friendly. You cannot in all conscience say you back hard-working families if you do not put rules in place so that employers have to be family-friendly. Most people have children and a society should do all it can to ensure those children are well cared for and enabled to be great adults in due course.

How will shared parental leave work for families? I guess only time will tell.

64 years ago my Mum and Dad got married.

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They met two years previous to that when my Dad was on home on his last leave from the Royal Navy. Mum had reluctantly agreed to attend a New Year’s Eve party with her friend. She recalls trudging across farmer’s fields to get there. She was with her friend, another Irene, and they met my Dad and his best mate, Colin.

Dad always said he knew he would marry my Mum as soon as he met her. He nearly blew it altogether by standing her up on their first arranged date because his Mum disapproved of him going out with a Roman Catholic.

That hiccup got resolved when they met at a dance hall and they started courting. The other Irene and Colin were going out together two so it was quite the foursome. Colin and Irene married and I suppose it was inevitable that Mum and Dad would follow suit.

The photos of their wedding are lovely – two innocent young adults starting out on life together. They had a weekend in Blackpool prior to this happy day and both have reassured me and I believe them that they had single rooms and there was no what my son would refer to as funny business.

Mum did not choose a white dress and had her own individual style in a blue suit. Dad looks smart as he always did. Both were incredibly good-looking.

Like with most weddings, there was a little drama. Mum fell out with one of her sisters before the wedding so she did not attend. Most of my Dad’s family did not attend due to Mum being a Catholic. Mum used to recall walking into the church and seeing one side almost empty. They had to stay outside the altar rails and various other sanctions for being a mixed marriage.

Their honeymoon was in a borrowed caravan at Cayton Bay on the East coast. Mum said she knew she had made a good choice when Dad warmed her nightie for her before bedtime. That story has always touched me.

They started married life in a tiny house and were thrilled when they go a police house with Dad’s new job.

Almost 2 years after getting married, they had one son and another followed 14 months later.

Dad kept his faith and my mum hers for 10 years. Dad always attended Mass with her on Sundays and converted to the faith after a decade of learning all about it.

They were very involved in church and community work. Their social life revolved around the church hall and the Irish National Club with the occasional Police Ball where Mum tended to turn up looking like a film star.

Mum had a gall bladder operation which left her unable to have other children. She longed for a daughter and in 1969, they fostered me and the next year made it all official with my adoption.

What were the strong points of their marriage?

They loved each other.

They really did the bit about being there for each other in sickness in health, for richer for poorer and all that.

They both were rebels – I knew this about my Mum but it took me years to work out that Dad was rebellious too.

She was talkative and he was taciturn unless there was something worth saying. They were both great story-tellers.

She has a ribald sense of humour whereas he tended to be more strait-laced about things.

They put each other’s mental wellbeing. When Dad was being bullied in the police force, Mum told him to leave despite not having a back-up plan financially. When Mum was ill with her nerves, Dad for a period was Mum and Dad to me,

They cared for the other one’s family. Mum cared for Dad’s grandma and parents. Dad helped her when my Uncle attempted suicide and when my other uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer taking him into the family home.

They prepared for death by teaching each other the roles the other had carried in the marriage. So Dad learned how to cook and clean. Mum learned about finances and DIY or at least Dad tried to teach her but she soon lost interest.

Dad would do anything for Mum. If she wanted something, she got it. If she wanted to go anywhere, he would get her there. If she wanted to try something new, she would have his backing.

I did not really see how much Mum was totally behind Dad too until after she became ill with cancer. She was so concerned he would not manage without her. After she died, Dad told me how she forgave him for silly misdemeanours like leaving her at home with two young boys after work whilst he went to the pub with colleagues. He got a shop after leaving the police force and when he got a new job, she kept the shop running for 11 years with young sons around her legs. When the stress of a case he handled late in his insurance career got to him, she supported him when he took early retirement.

When I think about Mum and Dad I think about home and always feeling secure there. I think of great conversation and lots of laughter. I think of explorations and travel.

Sadly, they did not quite make their 60th wedding anniversary missing it by just over a year.

They are reunited now and doubtless saying “Isn’t it about time you got yourself to bed, lass?”

Kenneth and Irene, Irene and Kenneth – it just worked.

marv

Friday 13th – my original birthday and my birthday today.

Says it all you might think.

Original birthday – an unwanted baby already destined for children’s homes and “farming out” as a school peer once described my adoption.

Then lots of lovely birthdays with my adoptive Mum and Dad.  I was with them just in time for my 1st birthday and I imagine they went totally over the top because they saw me as very special.

An amazing 18th – a tape mixed by the DJ brother of a good friend.  Wish I could find her on social networks.  I would like to know that life treated her well.  A big pink teddy bear, a pub crawl and an Ode to Kate written by another friend’s sister.  Happy times.

A brilliant 21st in that wonderful place that is Trinity Hall, Cambridge University.  A place that wanted me and accepted me in all senses of the word.  Posh drinks party followed by a sweaty bop.  A sign on my door saying “Cambridge students head to the best party ever” from my lovely friend Chris.  I miss him.  Back to my room in the early hours.  Waking up the next day to find my dress dropped on the floor where I must have crashed at some point.  Midnight blue and encrusted with jewels and a bustle on the back.  Those were the days. My school friend H came along for it.  We don’t see each other any more.   A wok from the boy I adored which I kept for years and years.  Gold and silver balloons put up by my friend.  Pink champagne crate delivered to college from my brother.

The real 21st back home with my friend Rachel going round charity jobs and giggling in that way that you do when you are young and daft and life seems full of hope.

A joint birthday with my landlord in my early twenties drinking Castlemaine 4x and listening to Queen into the early hours of the morning.  Happy Birthday Ian wherever you are.

Waking up in my mid-twenties with my then boyfriend and him delivering one present after another from the drawer under the bed.  Seeing me as a woman – jewels and the like.  It turned out he was a cheat but he did romance well.

Birthdays in recent years with my Dad coming in and singing.  A present that would be just right because he would have actively found out what I would like best of all.  Miss you Dad – you knew how to love.

Today –  a wife and mother.  No cards or presents from my husband or children.  No singing, no cake, no nothing.  A tearful birthday.

I hope you can see from some of the former birthdays that I once did matter.

I wish I still did.

And yes, I know I should be a big brave girl and accept things more but right now I feel undervalued and mildly miffed (understatement)

Happy Birthday to Me!  It’s a dirty job but someone has to give me a nice day and it looks like that is down to me.

 

 

43 years ago today, Mum and Dad set out to meet their new daughter.

I blogged about our special day here.

I still want the day to be special – remember, remember 5th November.  I think at least one of my children thinks we say that purely because it is the anniversary of me coming to Mum and Dad.

I want the day to be special for the family in the longer term so that nobody forgets the great gift Mum and Dad gave me when they chose to adopt me.

When Mum and Dad were alive, there would be cards, cakes, presents, visits and phone calls.

Last year was my first special day without them both and it was so close to Dad’s death that I did not do much to record it.

This year and in future years, I want to come up with some sort of ceremony or ritual that can become a new family tradition so that my children and maybe theirs too know just how wonderful Irene and Kenneth were/are and what a wonderful adoption story was had by all with fireworks and everything.

But how?

 

Pink Pear Bear