Tag Archives: dad

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!

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

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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.

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Daddy’s Downfall

After eleven weeks of fatherhood, the tiredness finally caught up with me.

I’d been told this plenty of course but having what many would call the perfect child – she sleeps from midnight until around 8am every night, for example – has meant that the effects of having a newborn in my life snuck up on me.

So many people try and tell you, especially in the lead up to the baby’s arrival “oh, your life is totally different, you’ll give up climbing, it’s all about sleepless nights and you’ll swap chalk bags for nappy bags” and to an extent, no matter how much you try and fight it, they are right. Your mindset will change, your priorities are different now, your life as it was is no more. But does that mean you need to give it all up? Well, that may just depend on the passion you held for your previous life.

For me, since long before even the prospect of having a child came about, i’ve been determined not to let parenthood stop me doing what i want to do; merely adjusting what i do and when to suit my new change in lifestyle. I’m a climber, that is part of who i am and i really don’t want to lose that.

One recent Friday, my weekly coaching session was followed by the usual quick bouldering blast and suddenly, despite my recent successes and outdoor sessions, i found myself struggling on 6s. Even when i did succeed on a 7a or thereabouts, i returned to the mat in a heap, absolutely wiped out. Parenting, it turns out, is actually exhausting.

I’ve done pretty well to date. I’ve managed weekly coaching sessions since she was born, my ticklist includes seven outdoor problems, two of which are first ascents, at an average grade of 6c+. Not too shabby really. One of them was a 7b in a session (detailed in my last post).

The flip side of the coin includes a slight shoulder injury, actually on both arms but more on my left. After a while, i realised that it was from holding the baby…

There are the demands of the family as a whole, as well. I’ve been very lucky to date that Em has been more than happy for me to go out climbing and often, the whole family attacks the crag and chums about at a local boulder. Nevertheless, after a day of tending to a small sqiurmy thing, my other half needs a break occasionally and the prospect of me going straight from work to climb and finally get home 14 hours after leaving just isn’t fair to her.

And let’s not forget one crucial element: i want to spend time with my daughter. While i can – and will, be sure of it – combine daddy-daughter-time with climbing time, if it comes to a choice between the two, she’s gonna win every time. Well, 9 times out of 10 at least. I guess that’s the balance i need to now find.

It is an odd feeling now that it is actually happening to me. The nice thing about being a parent is that generally, you have many months to prepare yourself before their arrival and set your mindset as to how you want to handle things. As a climber, this, for me, includes things like combining these two huge aspects of my life.

What i’m learning now is how difficult that can be. You have to take into account the constant needs of a baby on you – something i’ve neglected to do up to now. They do indeed need your constant attention, your partner needs your help all the time you can spare and it grinds you down, even if, like me, you don’t even realise it.

Girls ♡ #home #walk #mountains #landscape #northwales #slatequarry #dog

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None of this is a complaint in any way. I love having a daughter, Em is fantastic and i am, contrary to what i was told before Rosie’s birth, getting to go climbing every now and again. The reason for this post is more as advice for those in or about to be in a similar position.

Can i go climbing? Yes, it’s possible, nay easy, to get out and do so regularly. Can you do it in the same way you did before? Not a chance, you’d be a fool to try.

Am i going to get up 7c+ any time soon? Not unless i’m really lucky and get the right one on the right day at exactly the right time. But that doesn’t mean i can’t keep getting out.

This period just after the baby’s arrival is a massive shock to your system and you’ll need to be ready. Understand that it’s about small adjustments, not wholesale changes. Bouldering is hugely beneficial in this respect but even then, you will be more tired when you rock up at the crag than you would’ve been under the same circumstances 9 months ago.

But don’t let that stop you, please. And i mean please sincerely. If you still have a passion for climbing, or indeed anything, having a baby doesn’t stop you in your tracks. Trust me, i’m living proof.

So what does change? I don’t know if i’ve mentioned it already but you will, no matter how good your offspring and other half are, be more tired than before. Parenting simply is not easy. It’s totally worth it. It’s almost in the same way as a hard climb that takes time and work. It’ll exhaust you but the rewards are greater for it.

Even if you take the baby with you, unless you’re just going to ignore them and negate the point of having them there, they will interrupt your session. You simply cannot dedicate your time and energy to climbing as intensely as before. This is fine, as long as you take it into account.

Your time will be restricted. It just will. There is no question here, babies are time intensive, it’s as simple as that. So be tactically astute with the time you’ve got. You can’t magic more time from nowhere but if you use it wisely, you can get the best from it. This is the big key. Be organised or be frustrated.

Your energy levels are going to be lower than they were so the idea of pushing your limits starts to change. Grade chasers beware: even for dads, the chances are your top grade will be lower than it was. So embrace it, set new goals, lower your standards slightly and take things from there.

The effect of a newborn on fathers is often underrated (in my experience). Em is off work, at home with Rosie, i’m at work, back to the usual routine i had prenatal. I honestly didn’t notice the baby having any effect on me physically – Em takes care of things and i help when and where i can. I’m not actually involved, my nipples are not in action, why should i be tired?

Well, dads, you will be. Know it and you can work with it. Neglect it and suffer. Know it is possible to carry on your life from before. And for all of you, it’s important for you to do just that. Manage it and you have my utmost respect.

A #throwback to days gone by today: to days pre-baby when my time was only my own and I was free to go and do things like this, #rockattrocity at #parisellascave, whenever it suited me. Those days are gone. Now, I have dependants, I have a family, I have loved ones in my life who have their own demands on my time. The big question is: would I give up this life for the one I had then? Not for all the ascents in the world. Not to climb burden of dreams. I love my daughter and my better half so much, they do and always will mean more to me than anything. Does this mean I'm giving up #climbing then? No chance! What it does mean is a slight adjustment as to how I go about things now. My love for my family doesn't mean any less love for #bouldering It's the subject of my latest blog post (link in bio) and something oft neglected; the effect of a newborn on dads. That balance is coming and when it does, I'm certain things will be better than they have ever been. #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #activedad

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