Paternity leave: reflections

Paternity leave: reflections 19 April 2018

When K      was still at the theory stage, S      and I spent inordinate amounts of time discussing how we wanted to organise things once she arrived. One of the few things we spent almost no time discussing was what to do about parental leave. It just seemed obvious that we'd split it 50/50, and each take 6 months.It didn't occur to us we were doing anything unusual. If we thought about it at all, I guess it just seemed fair to give each of us an equal share of time with K      , and also to tryto share any career impact it might have.

Once I started my six months leave, I didn't need to look up the statistics to quickly realise how few men were taking any parental leave at all. It was a rare baby singing, music, swimming or soft-play class where I wasn't the only man present. I never found that an issue. To their credit, all the mothers I met made me feel as accepted and welcome as any other parent of a young baby, and I made some really good friends. There's honour among thieves…and solidarity amongst sleep-deprived parents of any gender!

So how do I feel about it having done it? Two things struck me particularly forcefully over the six months.

Dear Diane

Dear Diane 27 January 2017

[Letter sent to my local MP, Diane Abbott. Do the same! Keep up the pressure on MPs to represent your views.]

Dear Diane,

When I first moved to Hackney, I was proud to tell people I had you as my MP. As one of the few voices on the Labour backbenches consistently voting according to conscience, defying the party whip when it was at odds with your principles and your constituents' interests, you stood out from the crowd of political apparatchiks toting the party line. On issues ranging from the Iraq war, to defending the NHS from privatisation, to resisting the incoming tide of government mass surveillance, your voting record aligned even more closely with my views than the overall Labour party line. Though I've been a lifelong Labour voter, I was even happier to be a Diane Abbot voter.

You campaigned for remaining in the EU. Your constituents voted overwhelmingly remain, the joint-second highest remain vote (with Lambeth) after Gibraltar. You know that opposing a hard Brexit and fighting to keep the UK in the common market is in the best interests of your constituents, not just economically but also socially. You know that, for 40 years, the strongest bulwark against dismantling of social protections, civil liberties, and workers' rights in the UK has been European legislation. You know that fighting to retain as much of that as possible is fighting to prevent Theresa May's race to the very bottom in pandering to Trump, legitimising corporate tax evasion, liberating corporations to exploit employees, and dismantling and privatising the services that provide a safety net to so many in the UK.

Paternity leave: statistics

Lies, damn lies, and…

A couple of months ago, the statistic that only 1% of men had taken up shared parental leave was splashed all over the British media. (Shared Parental Leave was introduced in the UK in 2015, and essentially allows parents to share 12 months of leave however they like. Taking it consecutively, simultaneously, alternating blocks of leave between both parents, or a mixture of the above are all permitted.)

My Family Care, the company that carried out the survey on which this statistic was based, apparetly asked Human Resources directors at 200 businesses what percentage of men in their company had taken shared parental leave in the year since it was introduced. But, as Radio's 4's excellent More or Less programme pointed out, they forgot to ask what percentage of those men were actually elligible for parental leave in the first place! Most of them won't have had children at all in the last year. Some of them won't even have any children!! Ooops.

Paternity leave: reactions

Paternity leave: reactions 27 May 2016 I've been on paternity leave since January, taking care of K      full time. The reactions I've had from people when they discover I'm on paternity leave for half a year have been entirely positive. But some of the comments I've had in response have been interesting. I've collected the ones that stuck in my mind, together with my thoughts on them.

(If you know me personally, and think you recognise something you've said, you don't! These aren't direct quotes. I've paraphrased things that have been said to me multiple times by many different people.)

Toby 'qubit' Cubitt

Who am I? (a brief Curriculum Vitae)

I'm a nationality-confused European, born and raised in Luxembourg but technically British.

I went to the European school in Luxembourg, graduating with the European Baccalaureate in 1998. From there, I hopped across the Channel to Churchill College, Cambridge, studying physics under the Natural Sciences Tripos at the University of Cambridge.

After graduating in 2002, I decided to see what the other end of Europe was like, and moved to the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics just outside Munich, Germany to do a PhD in quantum information theory under the wonderful Ignacio Cirac.