Shared parenting

A coaching company is offering work-based workshops for new and expectant dads. Workingmums finds out more.

This month has brought the introduction of new legislation giving dads the right to additional paternity leave, allowing them to share up to 26 weeks of baby care.

In the lead-up to the new legislation, many organisations have been looking at ways to support dads at work. One organisation that is looking at innovative solutions is The Executive Coaching Consultancy, which has recently started offering work-based paternity programmes for new and expectant dads in partnership with Employees Matter. The workshops are voluntary and tend to be offered through a company’s parenting networks or diversity channels.

They draw on Employees Matter’s long experience of running seminars and the coaching consultancy’s own experience of offering maternity coaching workshops over the past five years.

The programme involves two workshops – one for expectant dads and one for new dads. Both are run by fatherhood expert, Tom Beardshaw, who has spent the last ten years lobbying on paternity issues and being involved in helping change government attitudes towards fathers and the new paternity leave legislation.

The aim is to allow fathers the opportunity to discuss openly issues around pregnancy, birth and parenting. They also provide fathers with information and advice to help them explore how becoming a parent will affect their working lives.

Expectant dads
The workshop for expectant dads addresses issues such as gender stereotyping, expectations for the birth, dealing with the transition to parenthood, employer’s paternity policies, additional paternity leave, work/life balance and work patterns.

Executive coach Emma Spitz says men don’t get the same nine months preparation for parenthood that women get and it can hit them very suddenly when the baby arrives that their life is changing for good. Often, she says, it doesn’t hit them until their partner goes back to work.

Other issues include how they plan their work around the early days of parenthood. “We get dads to think they can leave things in an ok state at work so they can be off for their paternity. There is no other absence where you aren’t sure when exactly you are going to be off except sickness leave,” says Emma. “It’s about combining their vision of fatherhood with their work priorities.”

Another issue men face is defining their role as a father in the early days. “They often feel they are just a spectator in the early days and wonder what their role is,” she says.

The Managing Work and Fatherhood [during your child’s first year] workshop covers early experiences of fathering, understanding personal stress points, work/home integration, coordinating childcare and work with your partner, alternative work patterns, career development and the impact of fatherhood and setting goals for work, career, parenting and being a partner.

Career moves
Emma says that men often become dads just at the time their career is taking off and they have to combine the challenge of being the partner and father they want to be with what employers are expecting of them. They may feel pressure to be the main breadwinner. “They face pressure at work and at home,” she says.

The Executive Coaching Consultancy were exploring setting up workshops for dads before the additional parenting leave came in, but adds that the legislation has “acted as a catalyst”. Employers were in any event, she says, realising that they should not just support mothers and needed to provide for secondary carers generally. Women on the Executive Coaching Consultancy’s maternity workshops were talking about issues such as shared parenting.

Emma says: “The workshops give men an opportunity to be open about issues around fatherhood. Women have a range of different forums to share their views. Men find it harder to express their concerns and needs.”





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