When my daughter was born, it was a roller coaster of emotion – joy, excitement and awe… It was also incredibly overwhelming for me, particularly once my paternity leave had ended and I went back to work.

My wife and I looked into the options of shared leave or taking extended paternity leave, but it just wasn’t financially viable for us. Luckily I had been miserly enough with my annual leave up to that point and had enough days left over for me to take every Friday off work for about three months as holiday.

Not every man has that option however, and while mothers often take on the greatest burden in caring for newborns in their early weeks, the lack of flexibility available to men from their employers contribute significantly to the stress we experience during this life change.

Incomes Data Research (IDR) conducted its Maternity and Paternity Pay 2018 survey between February and April 2018 and found that only 9% of employers improve on the two-week statutory paternity leave entitlement for new dads. It also found that less than 40% of organisations provide full pay for both weeks of paternity leave and only 4% improve on the statutory paternal leave entitlement.

The reality is becoming a new parent can be just as overwhelming for dads too and without the support, it’s easy for us to default to a protector/provider role instead of a nurturer/caregiver one – sometimes at the expense of bonding with our newborns.

In our conversation on this episode, we hear from Courtney Hoilett and Maurice Reid.

Courtney has been married 27 years and is a dad of three. Maurice has no children yet, but is thinking about what it means to take on that role eventually in the future. We explore our roles in the lives our significant others, we talk about sex and conception, and we talk about becoming parents.

I hope you find this conversation insightful. If you have any questions about the issues raised here or just want to give us some feedback, use the contact form at the bottom of the homepage.

In the meantime, click the button above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

Her dad is usually the first man a woman ever learns to love. At least that’s the theory anyway. My daughter however, doesn’t give her affections to anyone easily, and 7 months in I’m still working hard for her love. After a marathon 54-hour labour, largely without any pain relief, my wife gave birth to our little girl Afia, via emergency caesarean section. The exhaustion and trauma of the whole thing meant that she was effectively bed-bound for the first few days postpartum, and housebound for the next 5-6 weeks thereafter. I happily assumed ownership of all the less glorious tasks of caring for a newborn (e.g. nappy changes and night feeds) and maintenance of the household so my wife could focus on her recovery and bonding with our new baby. We also restricted the number of visitors in those first few weeks and requested they either brought a meal with them or donned a pair rubber gloves to scrub the bathroom when they did eventually come to visit.
Aunty A cleaning our bathroom
For me, those early days, especially my two weeks of paid paternity combined with a few annual leave days I had saved up from work were beautiful, but it was over far too quickly. Getting to know my daughter, figuring our her different cries and watching her learn about the world around her was an amazing experience. Going back to work obviously meant we had much less bonding time together, and at 6 weeks old when she rejected the bottle completely, any role I could play in supporting her feeds came to an abrupt end. We then effectively only had about 2 hours of awake time together during the week – the period between when I got home from work and when we put her to bed time. I took ownership of the bath and bedtime routine so we could have some exclusive daddy-daughter time together, but at some point, I really did start to feel as though she was rejecting me too as she did with the bottle before. It’s natural for baby to be more attached to their primary caregiver, but I think I just started to become a vaguely familiar figure to her. When I was home on the weekends, Afia would start to warm up to me by the end of the Sunday, but then pretend like she didn’t know me by the Tuesday. Fast forward to the present and I think she has definitely developed more of an attachment to me over the past month or so. I’d like to think that my steadily growing repertoire of stupid faces and dad dancing has in some way contributed to making me somewhat memorable during my day-time absences. I tweeted the other day that for the first time, Afia giggled, almost jumped out of mummy’s arms and practically flung herself at me when I came home from work. Mummy is still her favourite of course, but operation ‘Daddy’s Girl’ is now well under way! I read yesterday that O2 have announced an extension to their paid paternity leave to 14 weeks, and think it’s an amazing and positive step towards encouraging more of a balance for parental leave options. I also wonder how much more of a bond Afia and I might have built if I had the opportunity to stay at home for longer after she was born. Who knows, maybe if we do have another child, extended leave policies for dads will be far more commonplace. In the meantime however, dad dancing will have to do!