Daniel Clark-Bland took extended parental leave when he adopted and employers Aviva were there for him again when the pandemic hit.
With parents unable to get help from their own folks or friends, many reported it was invaluable to have a significant chunk of time at home to get hands on with parenthood.
Aviva offer all new parents a year of leave. Six months of it is fully paid. On average dads took 24 weeks off in 2020.
Daniel Clark-Bland was one such dad. He was on extended paternity leave when the pandemic struck. He and his husband having adopted son Theo in summer 2019. That made returning to work all the more complex. But he says Aviva were there to support him even after parental leave ended with flexible working solutions.
He told us his story:
I returned from parental leave in April 2020, by which time we were in lockdown, so I haven’t been back to the office since July 2019.
It was quite bumpy coming back to work. I had the usual post-paternity leave ‘bump’, but also a pandemic ‘bump’.
Our childcare arrangements weren’t in place due to lockdown, so my husband and I had to adjust to working with Theo at home. It was a triple whammy.
There’s an inherent guilt that parents don’t talk about – that you’re being a bit rubbish both at work and at home.
Aviva and my leader were exceptionally supportive, we arranged a working pattern that meant I could be a decent employee and dad. I worked mornings and my husband worked afternoons. Not many people I know outside of Aviva had the same beneficial setup.
Routine is key for adopted children. By the time Theo was with us, we were his third family, after his birth family and foster family. You have to do so much to offer comfortable, predictable environments.
Being creative and having a ‘catalogue’ of go-to ideas really helped us. I can’t recommend enough a good pair of walking shoes and a rear steer tricycle.
But it’s so important to be kind to yourself, as a parent and a person. Some days, you just want to sit and listen to music while playing with toy cars on the floor.
Becoming a parent made me feel immensely proud to work for Aviva. I am really grateful that my employer supported us through the many steps of adoption. There are months of meetings with social workers, a private medical appointment and two panel approvals, which all need to be made in person. Being able to attend these took a level of stress out of what is already a strenuous and emotional journey.
I haven’t spoken to a single other person who hasn’t said ‘wow, they let you take how much leave?’ It’s so important as an adoptive family – we were two strangers who swept in and had to build a real bond and rapport.
Would that have been there after two weeks of statutory leave? How would we have made the call on which dad took the much longer adoption leave, potentially bonding more with Theo? Thanks to equal parental leave, we never had to make this unspeakably cruel decision.