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.
And so the fun begins! I get to spend the next three months accompanied by these very different ladies thanks to @emks93 going back to work and #sharedparentalleave This is actually day two but it's been a busy one: an evening planned with Rosie at the climbing wall meant a nice long walk for Tess before we left. Thankfully, we've got so much right here in the village of #Llanberis so we wandered to the other side of #llynpadarn to look back on our house and take in where we live. Well, I did at least, the other two are only interested in sticks and trees… #worldclasswales #northwales
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.
Okay so it's not climbing but it's real and it's current! It's from yesterday in the #beautiful #Llanfairfechan just before the storm hit (which we were very much spared here in Llanberis). #gorgeous #blueskies and really lovely and warm, it was a great walk on a great morning. Really looking forward to going back to check it out again #worldclasswales #northwales #daughter #girlfriend #sharedparentalleave #daddydaughtertime
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.
We wandered up into #glendalough again yesterday and what a valley! Along the upper lake to begin with before this #vista comes into view. The #bouldering sits just as the path becomes not-pushchair-friendly and before you start to climb. #awesome #climbing in a stunning setting. #irelandbouldering #Ireland #wicklowbouldering #wicklow #wicklowmountains #pushchair #babyatthecrag
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.
Yes! It actually happened! #northwalesbouldering and it was yesterday! It was dry! And gorgeous out in the #ogwenvalley up at #clogwynytarw. A few hours out to play and while I was super rusty, and The Rocker needed far more protection than I had with me, Here Comes Cadi 7a and this line, Soul Boy 6c did both go quickly, as did the starting moves to The Punk 7c. Most of all, it was so good to be out moving on rock again! #worldclasswales #snowdonia #snowdonianationalpark #northwales #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram
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.
In a much better mood today at the #superboulder, chilling and letting me #climb in peace while still being playful and friendly when I come over. It's the perfect day with the perfect #baby Got a 7a I've been trying for years as well – braichmelyn Arete sds! And we're still here, more sends to come hopefully! #worldclasswales #snowdonia #bethesda #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #babiesofinstagram #outdoors #woodland
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.
Loving having a spectator on our day at #casegfraith yesterday! We left in a bit of a hurry after someone decided she was getting a bit fed up but that doesn't matter, it's such a great feeling to have #babyatthecrag! Some retro ticks for the new guidebook and hopefully a great experience for my #daughter as she's learning at an incredible rate right now This is me on Skunk X 7a/+ taken with a timer #snowdonia #worldclasswales #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #baby #babiesofinstagram #getout
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!
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
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.
Happy birthday to @emks93! To celebrate, we took a wet walk around #Beddgelertforest today with little Rosie in her #babycarrier for the first time. She took to it – as with everything in her short life so far – like a total pro, unbothered and happy as anything. Given the horrendous conditions here in #northwales today, turned out really well. The tea and food in #Beddgelert afterwards probably helped… #forest #woods #woodland #babiesofinstagram #daughter
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.
Awesome crag session today at #pantifan #tremadog #uppertier and possibly the last #daddydaughtertime out in the hills before I go back to work. Sadly, Rosie just wasn't having it – she's going through a super clingy phase where she'll only be held by me or her mum – but @thenaturalscholar and Pete were awesome, patient and most importantly, cranking hard! All three of us left with at least one decent tick on a glorious day in #worldclasswales #snowdonia #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram
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.
Double session with a double objective yesterday: go #climbing and let Rosie free on what must be the biggest play pen she could imagine! The wall at #plasybrenin is often overlooked, even by some of the @plasybreninstaff sometimes which is a shame as it's a really good little wall and has not long had a full reset. As a consequence, it's nice and quiet and gave Rosie a chance to have start to master this whole #crawling skill! She's certainly getting there! #sharedparentalleave #daddydaughtertime Photo credit to @emks93 while I dangled off the walls behind her…
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.
Finally got #babyatthecrag today with a stunning view over #Tryfan! Got 8 repeats of old problems done before someone who shall remain a baby got fussy and someone who shall remain a dickhead realised he'd not brought any of the baby related things he should have… Still, #awesome to get out! #snowdonia #worldclasswales #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #daughter #baby #babygirl #babiesofinstagram #meclimbing