It will be my final one until December as I prepare to take a three month sabbatical from the privileged position that is my current office.
From today until December 7 I will be taking Shared Parental Leave to take care of my almost nine month old daughter.
It is something I have been preparing to do since my wife and I received the joyous news that we were expecting a second little girl last Spring and yet, now that the hour has arrived, I can scarcely believe it is about to take place.
The practice of fathers taking Shared Parental Leave in this country is picking up but still remains very limited - and significantly behind other developed nations. Last year, only two per cent of couples took part in Shared Parental Leave.
The reasons for this are manifold and yet patterns can be clearly seen across the world.
The statutory pay for fathers taking Shared Parental Leave is abysmally low and prohibitive for many families. However, even in countries with higher rates of remuneration for fathers, the take up remains low.
For example Japan, offers dads up to 30 weeks of paid leave to look after their babies. However, only one in 20 actually avail themselves of the opportunity, despite a substantial public relations campaign being launched to encourage them to do so.
Given what the concept is up against it is perhaps unsurprising that take up remains so low.
For centuries it has been hardwired into our psychology that the raising of children is a discipline that must be largely carried out by women. We are dealing with thousands of years of societal constructs concerning the family.
However, in 2020 they are no longer relevant.
I have been very fortunate in that my employers, whether that be my direct line manager in the shape of YP editor James Mitchinson, the parent company JPI Media and everyone on my team has been nothing but wholly supportive in my decision to do this. Indeed the reaction has consisted of nothing but warm and heartfelt sentiments of support.
This has been hugely gratifying yet I know full well that many other organisations, businesses and employers would not be so supportive. I have written before of first hand experiences from my network of contacts of men who have been told such a move would be viewed with suspicion, treated with derision and be seen as a move which would limit one’s prospects for career advancement.
These experiences have been engendered in businesses in our region whose names are well-known. And they happened as recently as this year.
I will at this stage be perfectly frank and fully admit that I was part of this hypocrisy earlier in my life.
When my first daughter was born it never occurred to me to take shared parental leave. In fact, I did not even know, or attempt to discover, that it existed.
It was to my detriment. I missed the first steps, first words, first everything. Meanwhile a good friend of mine took three months shared parental. He loved every moment.
I vowed there and then that, were I lucky enough to have another child, I would not make the same mistake. And if there is one lesson we have learned from this year it is that there is nothing more important than family.
So that leads me to this column. Walking away from a job I love for three months will not be easy for me. In fact it will be an absolute wrench, although I must confess not having to deal with incessant and often banal emails for three months is most attractive.
I always wanted to work at The Yorkshire Post. I have been lucky enough to been a member of its staff since 2008. If you cut me the paper’s masthead runs in my veins.
But it is often all consuming and finding quality family time can often be very hard.
But I will be leaving it behind for a short while as I concentrate on the most important job I will ever have - my family.
My best wishes to you all, I will see you in December.
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