Paternity Leave

When my second child was born in 2019 I took three months paternity leave. It was great to be able to lend a helping hand to my wife, spend time with the newborn, and to step away from the office. I went to various classes like baby massage and got to meet other Dads Moms. I’m not sure I met any other Dads who were on paternity leave, and most Moms were shocked by how much leave my employer offered, and the proportion of my salary they continued to pay. I’m lucky that I work for a large company that offers paternity leave far in excess of Government policy. Not all companies have the will and/or resources to do so. Paternity leave just doesn’t seem to be a thing in Ireland, and thats bad.

One reason I assume Dads don’t take leave or lobby the government for more generous leave is embarrassment. Dads work, they don’t coo over babies. And I admit, I felt a bit of this too. I only took three of the four months on offer, crumbling to the self-inflicted pressure of coming back to the office. I only know of one Dad in the company who has taken all four months. It’s one thing to offer paternity leave, quite another to change Dad culture.

Japan has one of the most generous paternity allowances in the world with 30.4 weeks of paid leave – yet only about 3% of new dads take it. According to a study by Kyushu University most Japanese Dads said they wanted to take their full paternity leave but didn’t feel that they could, because none of the other Dads did (I know how that feels). Those “other Dads” are also “most Dads” so they too actually want to take leave. Collectively, Dads are unwittingly propping up their work-comes-first culture.

In the UK, the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service discovered that embarrassment was one of the biggest obstacles to taking paternity leave. A third of new Dads were worried that their manager wouldn’t be understanding and a fifth were convinced that it would affect their chances of promotion. Did taking paternity leave impact my career, actually yes, a bit, but you come out of it believing that theres something more fundamental to chase than just a good career.

I’m not sure I’d have been that productive even if I had been in work. The chaos created by a newborn baby doesn’t exactly lend itself to a successful working life. Those first few months I wandered around in a sleep-deprived state.

I have zero regrets about taking paternity leave. Hanging out with baby, helping/watching baby experience the world, its really exciting and great fun. It’s great for kids too because time spent with their parents in the early stages of their lives benefits their emotional development and can have a positive impact on their mental health.

Dad taking leave is also a huge benefit to Mom. Having taken leave, it seems bizarre that Dads role could be, “right, well good luck with the baby, I’m off to work” – no wonder some women suffer post natal depression. They’re being asked to handle a life changing event largely by themselves. Also, because I was a stay at home Dad for three months, I know its much harder being at home than it is in the office (and I had help). It meant that when I was back at work, I didn’t come home expecting to relax after a hard days work, because I know which one of us actually had the harder day, hint, not me.

We need to take our lead from the Nordic countries, no surprise there. Sweden is a world leader when it comes to shared parental leave. Their allowance is 480 days with 90 days reserved for each partner, and for the majority of that time they receive 80% of their income, paid centrally through the government. In Finland, Moms maternity pay is linked to Dads leave, if he doesn’t take paternity leave, the maternity pay decreases.

If you’re lucky enough that you can take paternity leave, then do. I came out better for it, as did my family. As a society we’re not where we need to be, but it’s getting better all the time.

IMG_20190828_211609
These newborn days don’t last long, you have to maximise them
IMG_20191130_114719
The world is progressing. Mommy and Baby parking has been replaced by Parent and Lawnmower parking

 

My Disney Book

A book that I’ve been working on for some time has recently been published. This blog post is for the most part, a shameless plug of that book, but I will try to shoehorn this post into the general health and fitness theme of my blog.

The book in question is “The Story of Disneyland Paris”, and rather than dwell too much on what the book is obviously about, you can just click here to find it on Amazon.

I set myself the goal of writing a book, a goal that I imagine is on many a bucket list. In my head I envisioned myself being the next J.K Rowling or George R.R Martin and creating entire fictional universes. The problem is, I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I had no ideas. Then a simple thought, “write the book I’d like to read” – and thats where the history and continuing story of Disneyland Paris came from, it’s the book I’ve always wanted to read, since I first went looking for it in 2010 to help with my M.Sc thesis.

It took a year and half for me to write this book. I worked on it nearly every day. I did miss a few days, maybe Christmas Day, or if I was at a wedding, but for the most part, I worked on this project every single day, for a year and a half. Consistency is key. I didn’t necessarily work for hours everyday, sometimes it was as little as 15mins of either reading, writing, editing or researching, but the point was it was done, progressing word by word, not chapter by chapter.

Writing the book also proved an enjoyable past time, I wouldn’t describe it as work. “Working” on this book reminded me of this quote from James Michener:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure…..He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both”

I wouldn’t describe myself as a “master in the art of living”. People can usually tell if I’m working or playing, but its an admirable goal and to some extent writing the book fit the quote. “Are you working this evening?” my wife would ask when I opened my laptop in the evenings, “er, yes, no, I’m not sure, sort of.”

I did a small bit of research into publishing at the beginning but I ditched that pretty quickly, as getting published sounded impossible. I wanted to write the book so I’d write it, even if it was just for my own amusement for an audience of one. And during the process, I read a few books from a small independent publisher called Theme Park Press who I thought might be interested in what I’d written. They were interested and they published it, but they were never the goal, just a happy by-product of the process itself.

Now, to take what I’ve learned from the book writing experience and shoehorn it into my health and fitness blog, here are the key learnings:

Consistency

  • If you want to lose weight, add muscle, increase flexibility, write a book, whatever, it can only be achieved by consistency, there is no quick fix.
  • Commitment to your goal. If you get on a streak, like 10-20 days of consistent work, that creates a desire to keep the streak going, until eventually, it becomes habit.
  • Think about the things you’ve not been able to do and ask yourself if you’ve really tried. For example, I’ve always said I’m not flexible, but have I worked on flexibility every day for a year and half, nope. So theres your answer.

Concentrate on the journey, not the goal

Enjoy the process, the rewards will come by themselves.

Have a pastime

Pastimes are good for mental health. Exercise is my pastime. For a time so was the book. Pastimes that require a high level of concentration (so not TV) have therapeutic effects because they limit anxious self-reflection. Consciously living in the moment reduces stress.

You’ll not see me and my book on any bestsellers list, the book is not likely to appear in any bookstore (just Amazon), its a quick read and if you do read it, it will be clear this is my first rodeo, but its a major tick off my bucket list and has me wondering about what else I might be able to achieve if I give it enough attention. Now, get working on your own bucket list, and enjoy!

IMG_20190812_210833
The unboxing
cof
I’m at the height of coolness, a proper millennial working on my masterpiece in Starbucks
Screenshot 2019-08-06 at 15.10.25
And there she is

 

 

Disconnect to Reconnect

I’m a big fan of Vivobarefoot footwear and they are currently doing a minimalist challenge. Week one of the minimalist challenge was to enjoy a digital detox, to disconnect from our devices and reconnect with “the real world in all its sensory glory.”

I work at a computer screen all day which can’t be avoided so for this challenge I decided to stay away facebook, instagram, games on my tablet, no television or netflix, and I checked my personal email only once a day. I also tried limiting my Whatsapp use but that was a bit trickier, there is a fine line between disconnecting from your phone and being rude by not responding to people when they are trying to get in touch.

After one week of disconnecting this is what I’ve learned:

  • facebook, instagram, netflix, etc are all great tools. They entertain us, they inform us, they enable us to share and connect with one another. They all serve a purpose and I see that more now than I did before.
  • Somewhere along the road I turned all the above mentioned technologies from tools to entertain, inform, and connect, into just another chore. I had to stay up to date with my social feeds, I had to progress through my Netflix shows.

Staying away from my phone, TV, and tablet, even for just a week, removed these self-created chores from my life and I felt stress free without them, like a burden had been lifted. I had reclaimed spare moments in my life by switching off my devices. The week has passed and I’m back into the digital world again but less so than before. Now that I’ve had a samll self-revelation I only use facebook, instagram, netflix, etc when I want to, because I want to, and not in the near automatic way I was before. Its scary how much I instinctively reached for my phone before, to pass every moment of downtime. I also found it funny how facebook very quickly started sending me A LOT of emails about updates from my friends I was missing, clearly they were not happy that I stopped logging in. Three days post digital detox and the TV has been the biggest causality, I’ve yet to turn it on again, I will, just not sure when.

Healthy mind, healthy body and vice versa. Keep those minds healthy and enjoy a digital detox.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 20.48.33

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑