Not long after moving into the new Lobster HQ building, we sent out a survey to decide how best to use one of the free rooms. “Would you rather have a gym or a space for childcare?” At the time, the overwhelming majority of Lobsteranians voted for the fitness room. Fair enough. But how do couples who don’t have access to corporate childcare make it work? And are the men of today more present in the home? We asked three young fathers at Lobster about their experiences and how they’ve adjusted to their new role.
Andreas (35) Software Developer at Lobster PRO – Father to a two-year-old
“Taking two months of parental leave was the right decision for me. We had the most magical time after the birth and we got to enjoy it together as a family.
After the first four weeks, my partner stayed at home for an additional 12 months and is now back to working 60%. I took a month of parental leave right after our child was born, and then another month half a year later. I wanted to support her, but was also keen to build a closer relationship with our little one. I also read up as much as possible on early childhood development, so I know what to expect and I don’t take new behaviour patterns personally. Being part of everyday routines was also important to me. Right from the off. Now, if our child falls over, it’ll also cry out for Dad, for example. Even if people nearby think it’s funny, because they’re not used to seeing toddlers crying out for their fathers. I also enjoyed going to the local toddler group, even if I was often the only guy there. The mums didn’t think it was strange. On the contrary, they liked being able to talk about different topics in a mixed setting, not just with other women. Or for me, not just with other men.
If we had another kid, I would love to take more parental leave, or possibly swap roles with my partner. Although the practicalities would probably make it impossible. Software development is such a fast-moving industry that even six months away would leave me with a mountain of work to catch up on. I’m also one of only two main developers at Lobster PRO, so any absence would be difficult for my colleague. That’s obviously also a consideration.
In my eyes, there’s no ideal solution. Childcare isn’t something you can split fairly – along the lines of “I’ll take this one, you take the next one”. But it would be great if employers took a more proactive approach to supporting parental leave. Maybe by saying: “We’ll give you an additional x days of holiday for every child you have.” Or introduce more generous WFH policies. We live out in the countryside, for example, and the local nursery is only open until midday. Plus, small children are often ill, so you have to keep them at home. Being in the office three days a week at Lobster simply wouldn’t be possible for us right now – even if we asked for our parents to help.”
Jonas (40) Sales Rep for Lobster DATA – Father to a 16-month-old
“My partner and I were and still are working full-time, which is why we opted for a year of parental leave split 50/50. We both stayed at home for the first four weeks, then my partner took another 5 months off. I was home for the last 5 months with one month overlap. Our daughter now goes to nursery and we alternate picking her up in the afternoon. Although we do have help from her grandparents.
Choosing to take five months off, lets me step in and be responsible for our child. Wanting to grow closer as a family was, of course, also a factor. Because things change when you have a child. There’s this phase where you have to get to know each other again as a couple.
Looking back, I would transition back to working full-time more slowly. I would take two or three weeks to ease back in, rather than suddenly diving in at the deep end. You’ve been away for half a year. The world has moved on, your colleagues have been getting on with it – and suddenly you’re sat back at your desk. That takes some adjusting. How do people perceive you now that you’re back from parental leave? How did projects go in your absence? If colleagues took on some of your workload while you were gone, they may have done things differently than you would have. All of this needs navigating when you come back. My team organised a post-parental leave onboarding and update session for me, which I really appreciated. But going back to work simply wasn’t as straightforward as I had expected.
There’s this stigma that longer periods of parental leave come from a lack of drive and ambition at work. I completely disagree. For me, family is what drives me. Because your home life has to function as well. Taking care of your family doesn’t mean you’re not bothered about working. On the contrary – being ambitious in your professional life is, in turn, helpful for family life because you need money to pay for it. And not being bothered impacts your job prospects.
I would take parental leave again if and when we had a second child. There’s no question. But I wouldn’t take more time off. I might even take less time off. Overall, parental leave was really important to us. Of course, we’ll never know of it actually helped build a strong parent-child relationship, but it definitely felt like the right thing to do.”
Max (34) Business Development Manager Lobster Group – Father to a 10-month-old
“Our little one was born two months before I started at Lobster. I took four weeks of parental leave in the first month and will now be taking another four weeks in June. My wife is currently a stay-at-home mum and receives maternity pay.
I’ve had various conversations with colleagues and friends about how to financially plan for family life and child care. It always strikes me that there isn’t a “right” answer because it’s such a personal decision with so many factors that differ for every family. How do the parents want to raise their kids? Would one partner prefer to stay at home? Are grandparents in the picture? Does one partner earn significantly more than the other? Is there a mortgage or a loan that needs paying for? Is a longer period of parental leave even financially viable? How difficult would it be to go back to work? I work in IT Business Development, for example, and things change rapidly. You risk missing out on key changes while you’re away so you can’t just come back and pick up where you left off. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s definitely something to consider ahead of time. It also depends what both partners want from their career. Are you wanting to climb the corporate ladder or are you happy to maintain your current position? If either partner wants to focus on their career and get ahead, then – personally – I don’t think they can afford to be away from work for too long.
The question whether or not to take parental leave also depends on whether it’s your first child or whether you’ve already been around the block before. Children really turn your whole world upside down. Before our little one came along, I was so wary of all the unknowns. I think women develop a really strong physical bond with their children during pregnancy, but for men that doesn’t start until the child is born. There’s suddenly this little person in your life and you have to learn how to connect with them. And the dynamic of your relationship changes as well.
If we were to have a second child, and if finances weren’t a factor, then – based on my experiences to date – I would take significantly more parental leave. I could also see myself going part-time, working three days a week, for example. I personally don’t know any fathers in leadership positions who took longer periods off to raise their children. I think many families would consider it, but only if finances weren’t an issue. And if society’s expectations of what makes a man a man and how he should act weren’t so conservative. Even if times are changing: in my experience, men are expected to keep delivering at work, even if their home life has gone through this massive shift that can also be physically and emotionally draining. But when all is said and done, your partner and child will always be the priority when balancing home and working life.”