Holly: So Hayley, aged 33 and living in Gloucestershire, is a new mum to Frankie. Congratulations to you Hayley. Frankie is just divine. So tell me about your job.
I work at Cotswold Select Vehicles in Witney, Oxfordshire. I’m a sales executive. The business is owned by my brother. I have worked there for 18 months. Previous to this I was a prison officer for seven years.
Holly: So Hayley tell me about how you felt when you found out your wife was pregnant?
Worried. We had been pregnant in early 2015 and suffered a miscarriage. After a lot of stressful visits to a fertility clinic, hundreds of tests and months of treatment, finding out Clare was pregnant was exciting. However the worry of ‘what if something goes wrong’ was overwhelming and meant I did not enjoy the experience of her being pregnant and refused to prepare for it for a long time. In terms of work, I was instantly worried. Being a small business with just the two of us here means that when one of us is not in, the work for the other person is doubled. I was very worried that me needing time off would frustrate my brother, and I even worried he would tell me he no longer wanted me to work there as he could get someone else who didn’t need the time off!
Holly: Gosh I am so sorry to hear about your previous miscarriage, that sounds terrible, but so pleased you have been able to bring the gorgeous Frankie into the world now. Sounds like work was a serious worry to you then, did you feel nervous about telling your brother about your news?
Very nervous. I couldn’t really avoid telling my brother straight away as he was aware that we were having fertility treatment as I had needed time off work for that. This meant that the ‘two week wait’ time was no secret to him and so he knew when to ask if we were pregnant. It meant we were unable to keep it a secret. When we told him it was obvious that he was happy for us, but also that he was a bit annoyed as it would mean a change in my working hours/structure. For a long time he refused to discuss my paternity leave with me, and in fact it was not until six weeks before Clare gave birth, that we talked about me having time off. It was left at ‘when you go in to labour just let me know you’re coming in’ which seemed a bit ‘odd’. I am used to having a lot more official structure in my work and working in this business means I am having to accept that it is a bit more ‘laid back’. This is not necessarily a good thing.
Holly: So did you ever feel apologetic about your fantastic news then?
The first thing I said when he found out we were pregnant was ‘Sorry’ – an odd thing to do, apologise for such an event. But I honestly felt like the whole thing was an inconvenience and so all I could say was sorry. The time off did come at a bad time. Being summer holidays for schools means an increase in car sales across the whole used car market. I was extremely concerned that taking time off would have a negative effect on my personal relationship with my brother because of the impact me being off would have on him and the business needs. My brother is constantly stressed out with how busy he is and how he is unable to take proper time away from the business, so asking for time off and increasing his workload further was a huge issue for me.
Holly: I know exactly what you mean. I too said ‘sorry’ and I just have no idea why. Like you said apologising for such a wonderful thing feels ridiculous. So how has your partner Clare dealt with her maternity leave?
Letting go of her work has been extremely hard for Clare. She is close with her boss and they are friends outside of work. The disadvantage of this (in my opinion) is that Clare gets an insight into what is going on at her work even when she isn’t there. They have lost two maternity covers already because they couldn’t cope, so Clare is worried about her workload, and the mess she feels she will be going back to. I do worry that she will decide to go back to work early because of this.
Holly: And I know you have gone back to work now after your paternity leave. How was that?
Going back is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Leading up to the return I was upset about it. I do feel like I am missing out, and I am a little jealous of Clare who gets to spend all her time with the baby. I am worried I will miss out on milestones and that the baby will not love me as much because I am not around. So far, work has been very busy on my return as I have had a lot of paperwork to catch up on. This has helped as I get distracted for a short time. However, I find myself clock watching a lot more now, as I am eager to pack up and go home ASAP. I worry that this may cause me to make silly mistakes at work, but it is hard switch off. I am also constantly contacting home to ‘check up’ on things. Something I know is not useful to Clare as she is also struggling to get used to being on her own with a baby!
Holly: I can imagine this is tough. I think I have always thought about it from my perspective and just reading the above has made me question how James, my husband will deal with it when he has to go back. It’s probably not something many people give a lot of thought to which is a shame. It just goes to show that both sides of the couple can struggle with maternity and paternity leave. This gives me even more of a drive to discuss this topic in detail on the blog, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. Good luck with the gorgeous Frankie and thanks for taking part in this week’s Q&A.