How do other families do it? Parental leave that is. One may assume there's only one way to do it and that is to just take what you can get - be that from the Government or an employer. But in fact there are so many ways you can take parental leave these days. So, what are they? Here is one example. George Thompson – Head of Daily Banking, ING – shares with us his unique experience of taking parental leave over an extended period.
Can you share with us your experience of taking parental leave whilst working at ING?
“After my second child, Julian, was born I chose to stretch out my 14 weeks paid parental leave to meet the needs of my family. I initially used 3 weeks paid leave to welcome our newest family member and to help us all adjust to becoming a family of four. With the remaining 10 weeks I take every other Friday off work to care for my two boys so my wife can grow her photography business.”
What do you feel were some of the benefits and some of the challenges (if any) for you as a dad in taking parental leave?
“In my experience, the benefits have definitely outweighed any challenges.
The jump from one child to two is big and no matter what books you read or what professional advice you seek you really do need time to navigate your own way through parenting.
“Stretching out my parental leave has meant I have been able to determine what kind of father I want to be while bonding with my sons and being there as they grow. It’s also meant my wife is able to focus her time building her business.”
Being in a well-respected role as Head of Daily Banking at ING, did your decision to take parental leave have an effect on your team and the wider culture, and if so how?
“I took on the role of Head of Daily Banking just weeks before Julian’s birth. This flexible work arrangement has helped me to settle into the new role while still being able to meet my family obligations. I’m happy at home and at work which I believe makes me a better dad and employee.
“If anything I think my paid parental leave experience has had a positive impact on our team’s culture. By taking time to care for the boys I’m letting others know that I understand how critical life outside of work is and the importance of getting the balance right.
“Since my leave there have been several others that have also taken parental leave and used ING’s policy in a way that works best for them and their family.”
Do you still feel there is a stigma around men taking parental leave and did this have any impact or influence on your own experience?
“Perhaps there is but I think times are definitely changing. Ultimately as a dad you need to prioritise based on your own unique family situation. What really matters is what’s right for you and your family.”
What advice would you offer to other men who might be considering taking parental leave?
“Do it! 100%. You’ll never get this time back and you’ll never regret spending precious time with your family.”
For more information about how ING support their working parents and carers visit the Family Friendly Workplaces website.