New language and understanding needed to support new fathers following parental leave.
Increasing numbers of men are suffering from mental illness after the first few months of having a child. According to Virginia Harrison’s article on BBC News: ‘No-one asks new dads how they’re feeling at work’. Do employers even know how to give support to returning fathers after a period of parental leave?
There are compounding factors of extra financial responsibility, sleep deprivation and thinking about the wellbeing of your partner and child. All of which can impact your ability to perform at work.
Personally I felt this after my first child Noah; sitting at my desk knowing what I had to do but unable to wrestle my concentration away from my wife and child. I felt agitated and was unable to concentrate.
In the UK the support structures for mothers, although by no means perfect, exist. And people are able to discuss them and offer encouragement. For men, there is an expectation of them simply getting back on the horse. Men are expected to have the same energy levels at work, not let performance dip and spend more time in their new families lives – this simply does not add up.
We have not yet developed a forum or language to help men back into work. There should be conversations around how they return to work in a way might be useful, but not have to be so full-on from day 1 after parental leave. Parental leave is not a holiday!
Larger businesses might be able to cope with the added support needed. There is a bigger issue for smaller businesses that rely on key individuals. A conversation needs to start.
Simple recognition in the workplace would help. In the same way as a new mother would be asked if they are OK; so should new Dads. The Dad needs to be OK in many respects to look after themselves so that they can share the responsibility with the mother and be supportive in the first years of their new child.