Sam and Chloe
Names and jobs:
Sam, IT consultant; Chloe, lawyer
Sebastian, 3 and Max, 17 months.
Chloe took six months’ maternity leave, from one-and-a-half months before Max’s birth to four-and-a-half months afterwards. Sam took the following six months as shared parental leave.
Pay during leave:
Enhanced throughout leave.
Both Max and Sebastian go to nursery four days a week, with Chloe doing most of the pick-ups and drop-offs, and Sam staying home to look after them on one day a week.
Sam, an IT consultant, and Chloe, a lawyer, each took six months’ leave to look after their son Max during his first year.
This was not the couple’s first experience of leave-sharing; Chloe took nine months’ maternity leave and Sam three months’ unpaid leave to look after Max’s older brother, Sebastian, in 2013.
The couple had planned to do the same second time around, but in the end they decided on a 50/50 split, with Sam taking over from Chloe as lead caregiver when Max reached four and a half months old.
“Sam was travelling quite a bit for work, into London, and we weren’t seeing an awful lot of each other, and so our family life was suffering as a result,” says Chloe. “And I just said to him one day, “What about swapping? I think it might be time to swap.” And he said, “Yeah, totally up for that”.”
Sam describes taking SPL to look after Max as a ‘no brainer’ for the family – especially since his employer paid him during the leave. And both he and Chloe are evangelical about the benefits of their decision.
Sharing the responsibility of parenting has, they say, helped their relationship, by ensuring they both understand the joys and challenges of looking after two small children.
In terms of their careers, Chloe was able to return to work earlier and thus minimise the risk of falling behind or being viewed as uncommitted; and Sam feels that ‘coming out’ as an involved dad might prove beneficial for his career.
“It illustrates to your colleagues and your employers that you know what you want to do, you know the principles that you want to live your life by, and you go out there and do it. I think sometimes, being bold and doing something a bit different might actually help set you apart.”
Sam also feels he is a much better, more involved father as a result of sharing the leave: “I feel more confident looking after them…I’ve got a closer bond with them, and I’m sure that will carry forward.”
As for advice to other couples considering sharing the leave, both Chloe and Sam would advocate thinking seriously about it – even if financially it might be a struggle for some.
“For many families it won’t make sense from a financial perspective,” admits Sam. “But I do think it’s worth at least looking at what’s available – even if it was only a very short period of time, just a couple of weeks, because I’m sure even that has benefits.”