Tag Archives: active parenting

Shared Parental Leave: Worthwhile?

So as i mentioned in my last post, i am back to work and am looking at a bit of retrospection on three months of time off on Shared Parental Leave. Was it worth it? Did it make a difference to our relationship? Would i do it again?

I’ll be looking at it in two minds: from a climbing point of view (being as this is indeed a climbing website) and from the view of parenting in general. Throughout i’ve been trying very hard to champion the idea that you can still get out and stay active and debunk the myth that children kill your interests so it’ll be interesting to see how well i’ve succeeded.

First, What Is Shared Parental Leave?

It’s not a daft question as Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is something that nowhere near enough people in the UK know about. Typically, the mother of a newborn will get a year off work, on varying levels of pay. Fathers meanwhile generally get a fortnight.

To even things up slightly, SPL allows parents to, in a nutshell, move the mothers leave onto the father. There are various caveats and conditions to this but in essence, since my daughter was born, i’ve found it easiest to explain it to people by saying i’ve stolen some maternity leave. It’s not 100% accurate but people understand.

In our particular case, we decided that Emily, my partner, would take the first six months off work and then i would take over and take three months before we looked for childcare. The final three months on offer were unpaid so originally we opted not to take them but then, once i was off, we decided to go for it and so Em took the last three months, meaning i got a bit in the middle.

There are many different ways you can arrange the time off to suit your circumstances and it is possible even for the self employed. This has been one of my missions over the course of Rosie’s first year: to raise awareness of this as an option. For more information, there is a dedicated government website on Shared Parental Leave that i emplore you to read.

The Plan At Six Months

As we reached the Great Work Switch mid-way through SPL, i started to get some ideas of what i wanted to do with my daughter on our time off and what i wanted to achieve. For me as a climber, and even more so as a boulderer, and with Rosie not crawling yet, i had the #babyatthecrag circling around my mind: baby play mat for her to lie on and play while i dabble on boulder problems nearby, stopping often to check on her.

The timing was good too, with the release of the highly anticipated North Wales Bouldering guidebook at roughly the same time that we swapped over. Ideal! So much more to go searching for! Still, with so many variables and not much certainty this was going to go well, i opted to stick with places i knew well that would fit what i was looking for.

Company would’ve been great but hard to come by a lot of the time so i figured i’d need to be self sufficient. Sessions would need to be short too, or at least planned to be. An hour or two might be all we could muster between us!

When we couldn’t climb, i was still keen to get out and make the most of being off work with my little one. I was very determined not to spend three months sat in the house, staring out the window, pining to be out and moping as a consequence. So for those wet days, scouting missions to new crags would be the next objective. For this, we could go almost anywhere, within reason.

Did It Work?

Yes, no and kinda.

I’d figured out i needed somewhere with a relatively short walk in, due to the excessive amount of kit i’d need to be carting in there, and somewhere with a decent flat area to leave Rosie while i was on the wall. With me happy to repeat old lines again, our first three targets were Caseg Ffraith, the Braichmelyn and the RAC boulders. All three would be dog friendly crags too.

They all worked a treat, with a steep learning curve. That first session at Caseg Ffraith and i’d opted to leave the baby bag in the car; a mistake i did not repeat! Even so, i had a good climb, got some awesome photos and Rosie had fun being out in the mountains. Tess had a whale of a time too, as she always does when we go bouldering together.

The Braichmelyn was similar although better planned and better executed. Conditions weren’t great for climbing but i couldn’t ask any more from the structure of the session and the whole day was exactly what i wanted.

The RAC was similarly a great little session and a long one at that! Still, Rosie did catch the sun a bit and i learned another important lesson about parenting!

View this post on Instagram

The imposing figure of the RAC boulders – imposing to those that don't know the #climbs they hold. This is #northwales premier beginner venue, with a plethora of low grade lines ideal for those just finding their feet in this #sport – now with all documented on 27crags.com For those of us with more experience, these days, there are a handful of harder lines to be searched out or, thanks to my No Retro Ticks rule and the challenge of repeating everything in the area, a chance to get some mileage in. Despite not doing anything over 6b+ today, 29 problems actually worked as reasonable training on another glorious day in #snowdonia. #babyleave is rapidly becoming #bouldering leave… #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #Bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram @27cragsofficial

A post shared by Chez de la Bloc (@edwards.pete) on

But then the rain came and it honestly hasn’t really gone away enough since for me to have any success taking her out. Where alone you can risk it on those iffy days and bail if the weather turns, i couldn’t take that chance with a baby and all the associated crap in tow – it just isn’t possible to run away in a hurry and keep the offspring safe. I might be determined but i’m not that mad.

It started to get to me a little after a month of outdoor inactivity, culminating in a moan on the blog and a mid-point retrospection following a Facebook debate with an old friend.

I never really recovered, as neither did the weather. From then on, it became solo missions on the occasional baby free day or indoor sessions – for which i can’t thank the Indy wall enough. Without that, i probably would’ve been substantially more surly.

Then came a rash of non-climbing interruptions that were far more important. In short, we moved house and climbing took very much a back seat, albeit for a very good reason. Sadly, #babyatthecrag lasted about a month, although not for lack of trying. And in that time, we honestly made the best of a damp situation.

We snagged one final day out, in great company with Dan Webb and Pete Fagan, at Upper Tier Tremadog which gave the whole time off and out some closure. All told, considering the stories i’d been fed before we started, we’d done bloody well.

What About Time Off With Rosie In General?

I have said before and reiterate now, having this time off with my daughter has developed our relationship so much. I don’t know, obviously, but i imagine it would’ve taken years to get to this point without this dedicated time together.

It’s given me some perspective as to what Em had to do while she was off the first time around and given me empathy as to what she’s doing now. Now i walk through the door after a long day at work with a totally different mindset and i’m happy to grab Rosie straight away and catch up immediately, where before i often just wanted to sit down for a few minutes.

Mostly though, and this may sound bad but hopefully makes sense, i think i love her more now than i would do otherwise. I’ve seen her grow every day into a wonderful little human, as she develops more personality, more emotion and she learns about the world around her.

I’m so glad that, climbing aside, i’ve been able to show her more of the world than the four walls inside the house and i desperately emplore any new parents to do likewise. Please get out with your kids, take them and show them the world as it’s been a wonderful experience that i wouldn’t change for the world.

I’m glad to be back at work now and have some normality back in my life – i don’t think being a stay-at-home dad would suit me that well. But if you took me back to that point at the start of the summer again and asked if i would do the same, there is not a second i would change. Now we can take this experience and grow even more and i can’t wait for the rest of our lives.

Advertisements

Some Reflections on the Last Month or so

My last post prompted a very good and very old (yeah, Dan, you’re old!) friend to call me on some of the gripes i’ve been having lately and it got me thinking: have i been ungrateful while i’ve been off with Rosie?

His original reply:

To be fair pete, and I don’t want to sound like a dick. You’ve got a sweet deal. You’re lucky to spend so much time with your daughter and go climbing when weather allows is a bonus at this stage in the game. Stop moaning. It’ll stop raining soon.

That, in turn, led to a rather lengthy public Facebook conversation between us about me, my attitude and the things i could be doing rather than staring at the rain fall outside and wishing my life away.

And it led to me reflecting on the time i’ve had so far. As with my ideas on New Years, it’s probably wise to look back periodically and if i do this now, it should allow me to make even more of the rest of the time we have before i go back to work. It might even come to affect our relationship after i have gone back!

Our Daily Routine

To start with, here’s some of our daily routines.

Em works one of two shifts on any given day: a morning shift until 2pm or an evening shift that normally starts early afternoon and finishes at 9pm. Personally, i prefer when she’s working mornings and we’ve developed a standard routine on these occasions.

With Rosie being tantamount to the perfect child, we normally get up around 9am, have a bottle and a cup of tea and then wash up from the night before, including her bottles. Then she has a nap while i write, or do house move admin or hopefully get everything ready for heading out later, making a plan based on the weather. Around 1pm, she normally wakes up and it’s lunchtime, with some shmush, finger food and another bottle. Then we’re out.

With me being so easy to please, usually just wanting tea and climbing, the default is always to try and get out to a crag but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we do and it certainly doesn’t mean if it’s not possible, we don’t do anything at all. I’ll talk more later about what we have actually achieved so far.

If Em is on a morning shift, normally i wait until she gets home and we normally then do something as a family. Yesterday, for example, was swimming which was awesome and something we all love to do. Walking around North Wales is also a popular option, especially as it keeps Tess, our resident canine, happy too. Sometimes, it ends up being something more necessary than fun-focused, like a trip to Tesco or the other popular one is to socialise with grandparents – we are lucky that both have accommodation of sorts around here and we see them often.

When Em is working and outdoor climbing not an option, there is still a bit of a hierarchy of activities i like to opt for. Both local walls are very accommodating and i have a great relationship with both so an indoor session often works well, and there is another climbing wall on site at work at Plas y Brenin; the latter having the advantage that we get to see Rosie’s mum briefly and our colleagues love seeing the baby.

The next option is normally to go boulder scouting. I’ve found that no level of knowledge of a crag pre-baby can actually tell you whether it’s a suitable venue to take a little one and it’s always best to check with fresh eyes now you know what you’re looking for. And of course, it’s just a walk in the hills really –  a win for everyone.

What about typical baby activities?

As for things like baby club or baby massage, that’s more my problem than anything else. I just don’t feel like i’d be that welcome and don’t actually know when and where most of these things take place.

Granted that’s mostly my responsibility to find out but i’m just not entirely convinced these things are as much for dads as they are for mums. That and why would i do that when i can take everyone climbing, keeping me and Tess that bit happier?

There is a bit of a network of local outdoorsy mums that i kinda know but haven’t really socialised with properly yet. In the interests of some peer social time for Rosie, it is something i know i should pursue but for now, what we’re doing is working and keeping us pretty happy.

Have i neglected the dog?

Erm, yeah probably. Fitting Tess and Rosie into life has proved the biggest challenge for me and sadly, the dog often loses out.

I am conscious of this, hence the hierarchy of activities; it keeps her happier and healthier. At the least, i try and get a walk around the village every day for Tess, so she doesn’t go stir crazy. And of course any baby free time is normally tailored to give my loyal pooch some activity too.

Rosie and Tess have certainly gelled perfectly and have a great relationship, even at this very young stage. Play time with the baby at home often engages the dog too which certainly helps. In a short while, i’m sure they’ll be exhausting each other while i’m washing up.

Has It Worked?

That depends on how you look at it but in the greater scheme of things, yes it has, spectacularly so.

Part of the problem is that i want to be out, every single day. If i can’t for around a week, i get itchy feet and start to think we’re not getting out enough.

Another part of the problem is that my memory is shite and i often plain forget that we got out climbing five times last week and it’s only this week we haven’t done as much. That’s what happened with my last post.

Here’s some figures to go with it: my 27crags ticklist shows 58 new boulder problems since i started Shared Parental Leave – and that doesn’t include a lot of climbs i’ve repeated, that’s just things that weren’t already on the list .

A quick count shows that Rosie herself has been to at least ten venues in North Wales since she was born, either while we were climbing or on a scouting mission. That doesn’t take into account the days i’ve been out without her in that time and that’s just North Wales, so you can add a week in Glendalough into that as well.

On the Facebook debate that prompted this post, Dan said,

For all the support I get from my partner, I can still only climb on average once at weekends, and two or three evenings a month. I tend to get rained off 25% of my days. I climbed a handful of times during my first year as a dad.

That is indeed a bit of perspective! especially as his partner is absolutely awesome. How i’ve done this, i’m not entirely sure but i certainly shouldn’t be taking it for granted.

The Big Important Point

The big huge, neon signed, slap people in the face point i’ve been trying to labour is that you too can get out. If i can do it, you can do it. I’m a barely organised, often unfed and unkept, mess of a human being. People have often said to me before, “i don’t know how you’re still alive” due to my chaotic nature and lack of basic ability to look after myself to others standards. [For the record, i look after my daughter infinitely better and she is perfectly happy and healthy.] If i can get myself sorted to get out climbing, anyone can.

I honesty think that a lot of people – and i don’t mean Dan or anyone else in particular – act the way they think they should when it comes to looking after babies. You’re faced with the fact it’s really hard right from the moment you announce you’re expecting and it really doesn’t fill you with confidence. My dad was the worst for it, telling me i’d never be able to leave the house with a baby; although that may have been a blessing in disguise, as i normally try and prove him wrong with anything he says. So thanks dad, you inadvertently helped.

Get organised, get out. Learn your babies routine and manipulate it to help you. Don’t fall into the habit of being A Parent above everything else – still be you and be a parent as well. Now i’ve looked back, i’ve suddenly realised what the levels of success you can have can be.