#dadlife: a Croydon dad gets back to work


By - Tuesday 29th May, 2018

In his latest #dadlife column, Martin Leay returns to the office with a new parental perspective


Photo author’s own.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a #dadlife column. It turns out that my ability to write about fatherhood is constrained by the actual realities of fatherhood. Crazy, I know!

My three months of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) went by in a flash. We might not have managed the weekend away on the Eurostar or the road trip visiting family and friends that we planned. We did, however, have some very special days out together as a family. Locally, we enjoyed walks around Park Hill Park and buggy runs through the Rotary Field in Purley were priceless for getting the little one to sleep. We spent time with both sets of grandparents and it was lovely to see our daughter bond with them.

When I first applied for SPL, I thought that it would be a nice sabbatical – a career break in which I could write my debut novel in between bottle feeds and the odd a cappella lullaby. Now that my return to work has come around, it feels like I’m back on Easy Street!

I missed the office, but it was worth it to hear my daughter say her first ever ‘dada’

I’m joking, of course. I knew that being a new dad would be challenging but I never dared dream how magical it could be. I was there when our daughter rolled over for the first time and I was there when she learned to roll the other way. Sure, I missed my colleagues and using my brain for more than fixing dirty nappies. However, I would rather do without all of that for a bit than miss my daughter babble her first ever ‘dada’.

Being a new dad in Croydon has certainly made me think differently about our borough. I now have to consider things like baby-changing facilities and access to lifts before even thinking about leaving home. Matthews Yard has proven to be a great hangout place for us after running the pram around town. It is spacious and it has a decent baby-change toilet.

Visiting pubs with a baby is a whole new experience and the best pubs realise that parents with babies still want a social life and therefore cater for their needs. It makes perfect business sense, as it’s a thriving market. I took my daughter out on my own quite a bit and after getting her to sleep, I would sometimes treat myself to a swift half in my local, the Pear Tree in Purley.

Halfway through my time off, there was a lot of media interest in working dads. New statistics showed that take-up of SPL remains shockingly low – at around 2% of new fathers – and a House of Commons Select Committee published a report concluding that fathers are being failed by current workplace policies.

More needs to be done to help working dads care for their kids

I am fortunate that my employer has been so flexible and I loved every minute of the time that I spent looking after my baby girl. I would recommend SPL to anyone. However, I do agree with the Women and Equalities Select Committee that more needs to be done to make it easier for working dads to care for their kids. Dads want to be more involved, but it’s not always easy. Better policies around paternity pay, parental leave and flexible working would help.

Now that I have returned to work, my boss allows me to go in early and leave early so that I can get home for bath time. It’s great to have the option of working flexibly. My first morning back in the office was dramatic, though. My wife phoned me at 10:30am to tell me that our daughter had been in an ambulance after a severe allergic reaction to some porridge. Thankfully she was fine, but we now know that she has a cows’ milk allergy.

It has made weaning more difficult but we are rolling with the punches and keeping our eyes peeled for vegan and dairy-free options around Croydon. All recommendations are welcome, and I’ll report back on what we find in future columns.

Martin Leay

Martin Leay

Martin has lived in Purley since 2014 and is passionate about the borough of Croydon. From 2015-2017 he presented and produced ‘Happy Sundays’ – an Indie, Rock and Pop show on Croydon Radio. His day job is in politics, carrying out research for Labour MPs. Martin recently became a Dad and is very proud that his daughter was born in Croydon.

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  • Anne Giles

    I use goat’s cheese, sunflower spread, soya ice cream and soya yoghurts. Goat’s milk should be OK.