For fathers, the situation regarding paternity leave is far more positive now than it ever was in years gone by. Family and how we work as a society, generally, have changed immeasurably over the last few decades. The notion of the mother/housewife who stays at home and looks after the house while the father/breadwinner goes out to earn the wages is now almost a relic from the past.
Although the situation in the workplace is still far from perfect, there is much more gender equality these days too. Society has changed and people want different things. Now we see ‘house husbands’, and men who want to be more of a visible father to their children, instead of being out of the house working for 18 hours a day.
There is more flexibility in the workplace in the 21st century and, with the advent of remote working, it’s become easier for parents to ‘share the load’. Similarly, legislation around maternity and paternity leave has evolved to reflect the way the times and the needs of parents have changed.
Shared parental leave, does exactly what it says on the tin, and literally allows mothers and fathers to share the leave they have with a new-born child. This is a big step forward for fathers, who until recently were only able to take time off to attend medical appointments and then have one or two weeks of leave (usually immediately after a child is born).
But evidence shows that the take-up of Shared Parental Leave nationally, and across all sectors, is low. And this is certainly the case in the teaching profession too.
How can new fathers keep a work-life balance?
So, how can fathers keep a healthy work-life balance after returning to school following paternity leave? Well, first things first, it’s never going to be easy. After all, the workload that teachers face day-to-day is always going to make a work-life balance a real challenge to achieve – whether you are a father or not.
Crucially, as a father and a teacher you need to re-evaluate your priorities.
Establish priorities and work to meet those alone
As new parents, mother and father, something simply has to give. Life changes forever when you bring a child into the world. Because of this you cannot expect to carry on doing things you were doing before. Your priorities have to change.
This is the first step on the long journey of maintaining a work-life balance. It doesn’t really matter what those priorities are. For example, you might still be very driven and career-minded and want to focus as much of your energy as possible on achieving your goals. Alternatively, you might want to pull back from teaching and concentrate more on fatherhood – going part-time is an option.
Don’t feel compelled to just do things the same as before
Fathers should not feel compelled to just do things the same as they always were before the baby was born – or compelled to adhere to societal conventions. or norms. Yes, it has typically been the mother who often returns to work part-time following maternity leave. But there is no obligation for this. There is no reason why a father can’t choose a similar path.
It might raise a few eyebrows in the staffroom, but so what? There is no expectation that dads should see their work as the ultimate priority.
This is the only way that fathers can keep a work-life balance after paternity leave; setting priorities and steadfastly sticking to steps that enable those priorities to be achieved.