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Dear Dory author Tom Kreffer took four months of Shared Parental Leave
When Tom Kreffer found out he was going to be a dad he turned to journaling to make sense of his emotions. One thing led to another. Now he’s working on a third book about his journey through fatherhood! The first volume, Dear Dory, has just been published.
Said Tom, “I was blown away emotionally when I found out we were going to be parents. I decided to keep some notes, I didn’t know I’d written a book!”
The book is addressed to his unborn child. Unborn till the last few pages at least. Despite the intended audience of one it’s accessible and unvarnished nature has struck a chord with other dads. “I’ve had lots of good feedback. Some from dads, some from mums who have bought it for their partner. I felt like there was a void there, a gap for a different type of storytelling.”
But perhaps the most important reader was partner Charlene. Tom’s account of the ups and downs in their relationship, and the physical changes to her body, are no-holds barred. “She’s read it, and she’s read the sequel,” smiled Tom. “And she still wants to be by my side. We must be made for each other.”
Dear Dory takes the couple through to the point at which their baby is born. The name derives from the couple’s love of Disney films and the Finding Nemo character’s mantra to ‘just keep swimming’ which informed their attitude to getting through the pregnancy. The sequel (revealing its name will give away one of the big reveals at the end of Dear Dory!) will cover their baby’s first year.
Tom took four months of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) from his job in finance during that time. “My bosses were great, there might have been a raised eyebrow but they were supportive. And my team is mainly women, lots of them are mums so they really understood how important it was that I take the time.”
But managing the SPL process was tricky due to a lack of role models. “I work for a big company that employs thousands of people but I struggled to find someone who had been through the Shared Parental Leave process.”
That points to the barriers dads face when taking extra paternity leave. Other companies and line managers can be obstructive which probably explains why more dads don’t do it despite being keen to. “I’ve friends who saw what I did and liked the idea but none pursued it,” said Tom.
Economically it can be tricky if the dad is the higher earner. “We were able to make it work financially,” explains Tom. And some dads face penalties and dispiriting banter upon their return to work. No such concerns for Tom. He was only back at work for a week before lockdown sent everyone home.
Tom’s keen other dads do look into using Shared Parental Leave and he recognises the benefits it brought him. “I got to the end of the first two weeks and realised lots of other dads would be going back to work at that point. After two weeks we were still having visitors, I was still coming to terms with my new identity as a dad. Even when I went back after my four months of Shared Parental Leave it was a struggle leaving Charlene and the baby.”
Tom’s time on SPL will be covered in his second book. For now he’s promoting Dear Dory while starting on a third volume that’ll cover his child’s time as a toddler.
In a nice step Tom’s made Dear Dory available free to midwives. He says the idea came to him during Charlene’s marathon labour as a way of saying thank you. “Just yesterday I had about 10 emails from random midwives, including one in Europe and one in the USA. Initially I made the decision just to do something nice, then I realised it’s quite a good marketing strategy but most importantly was the message I got from one midwife who said that after reading Dear Dory she’ll be thinking much more about dads in her work.”