Being able to see my daughter’s first smile
Mark is a LEGO® Retail Branded Store Center of Excellence Global Training Manager, he took parental leave in June 2021 and returned to work just after the new year.
Making parental leave decisions
After becoming pregnant, Mark’s wife, Juliana, found out her company would only pay six weeks of maternity leave at 60% of her salary. The couple therefore had to decide if it would be enough time off work, and if they could financially manage on the reduced amount, “When it came to taking parental leave to look after our new baby, we were worried that the six weeks off at a reduced pay would not only be too early to jump back into work, but if we could financially manage,” said Mark, “Juliana’s boss tried to help and offered an extra six weeks off, but those further six weeks were going to be unpaid.”
The LEGO Group’s parental leave policy entitles all employees – no matter where they work or what they do, to parental leave, 26 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers and 8 weeks for secondary caregivers also fully paid. The policy is available to all parents – including adoptive, fostering or other. Mark was therefore able to take 26 weeks paid leave as the primary caregiver.
“In the end, Juliana’s situation was a bit of a blessing in disguise,” Mark adds. “We went from being really worried about what we’d do, to realizing I could be the primary caregiver and take 26 weeks paid leave with the LEGO parental leave policy. So many places just assume that the father is the secondary caregiver and allow leave accordingly.”
“Let me tell you, taking that time off with our baby, Everly, was phenomenal. We formed a really strong bond that fathers don’t often get because they have to go back to work pretty quickly. I basically did everything but feed the baby. I took her for walks, got to see her face light up when I came into the room.”
Being able to form a bond
Juliana does have the benefit of being able to largely work from home, and had done so since before the pandemic. But as well as needing to be on calls, she does often travel for work, so Mark being able to take leave meant Everly had one of her parents with her at all times.
“When I told friends I was able to take six months paid leave, everyone was so shocked! Even if I were the secondary caregiver I’d have been able to take eight weeks paid leave, and that blew people’s minds.”
As well as being able to take the time to build a strong bond with Everly, Mark also found he was able to support Juliana with both her physical and mental recovery after giving birth: “It can be difficult to support your partner when you’re only allowed a week or so off. Being able to support my wife through her recovery was a huge benefit, both in the sense of helping her when physically healing, as well as with postpartum depression. I could be there 100% of the time – not just 50% of the time because I also had work. I don’t know what we would have done if I wasn’t there to support her.”
Being there for significant milestones
Mark is especially thankful for being able to be with his daughter as she reached a number of different milestones. He was able to watch her cognitive development, as well as being there for moments such as when she could first sit up, or learn to put toy shapes into the right holes. He especially treasures being there for her first laugh. As he remembers fondly: “One of the best memories is the first time she actually laughed, that was incredible. I was singing the theme tune to Winnie the Pooh whilst holding her and she just came out with this big belly laugh. That was absolutely the best feeling in the world. It still makes me smile when I think about it now.”
Don’t make assumptions
One piece of advice Mark wanted to give other parents is to not make assumptions on who the primary caregiver should be: “Dads generally seem hesitant to claim primary care, but that shouldn’t be the case. The bond I’ve created with my daughter and the support I’ve been able to give my wife at this time has been really important.”
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