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Disagreement over Maternity Leave vs. Extended Paternity Leave

(224 Posts)
SybilRamkin Tue 11-Mar-14 13:16:51

A friend of mine, let's call him A, is having a disagreement with his DW, and I offered to canvas opinions for him on AIBU. Please be gentle with him, he's a sensitive soul!

Before the birth of their first DC, A and his DW had planned for DW to return to work after 9 months and for A to take 3 months' EPL to allow him to have some lovely bonding time with their DC. However, last week, 7 months into ML, DW announced that she would not be returning to work at 9 months after all, and that she intended to take the full 12 months herself before returning to work. A was very upset, as he'd already arranged with his work to take the time off, and was really looking forward to having 3 months as primary carer to his PFB. He attempted to reason with his DW, but she refused to agree to him taking any EPL at all - her view is that she gave birth to their DC, and so she should be allowed as much time as she wants to spend at home.

Pertinent information:

1. A and his DW earn roughly the same salary give or take c.£20 a month, and DW is intending to return to work FT.

2. A cannot afford to take 3 months of unpaid parental leave in addition to the 3 months of unpaid ML his DW plans to take. They had only budgeted for one of them not to be earning.

3. DW is not breastfeeding (hasn't since DC was 3 months old).

So MNers - does A have a moral right to be the primary carer for his DC for a few months' bonding time or is his DW right that since she gave birth to their DC her claim trumps his? And, perhaps more importantly, what should A do about this (if anything)?

Ratbagcatbag Tue 11-Mar-14 13:19:50

Tough one, I think dw is being unfair, but suddenly realising this is her one chance before she goes back for good. A is understandably upset and I can see why, a previously held agreement is being gone back on.

I don't think there is anything A can do, but I would've questioning my relationship seriously if the decision had been made without further discussion or consultation.

eurochick Tue 11-Mar-14 13:21:15

I think the wife is being unfair and should stick to the arrangement that was made.

CoffeeTea103 Tue 11-Mar-14 13:22:42

The wife is being extremely unfair and selfish even. She does not have exclusive rights to the child to call the shots.

SybilRamkin Tue 11-Mar-14 13:23:03

Thanks Ratbag, that's pretty much how A feels - he's gutted that his DW is going back on the agreement, and although she's happy to discuss it she's refusing to change what she sees as 'her' decision. sad

TheGirlFromIpanema Tue 11-Mar-14 13:23:24

She's fundamentally changed an agreement they had and is very bad form on her part. It would change how I felt about my partner for them to make unilateral decisions like this and I feel its more than just a 'change of heart' type thing. Probably neither of them will have this opportunity again (for this DC).

Can he persuade her otherwise? She is being hugely unfair imo but I know others might disagree.

Katz Tue 11-Mar-14 13:24:46

the wife is being very unfair. Is there a compromise to be had, could they both do part-time for those 3 months, each getting time at home but also bringing in a wage too

TalkieToaster Tue 11-Mar-14 13:25:15

It's not 'her' decision to make. Fair enough, she's changed her mind and wants to be off for longer, but they made a decision as a couple and she's being completely unfair.

blouseenthusiast Tue 11-Mar-14 13:25:38

to be fair to the wife, though, 9 months is a hard time to leave a baby, both from the baby's point of view but also from hers. I found that babies that age are just getting lots more fun. She may feel she has done the hard bits...

Andcake Tue 11-Mar-14 13:25:54

A tricky one - I can see both sides. A must be gutted but DW leaving the baby is a wrench (BF doesn't come into it). I am sure many mums on thinking about going back to work (including myself - and most monday mornings) want to be with dc.

To be fair i think this mixing up of maternity and paternity allowance is going to lead to rows between people in the future.

blouseenthusiast Tue 11-Mar-14 13:27:13

Yes, I think the problem has been created by the fact that what one parent gains, the other has to sacrifice

TheGreatHunt Tue 11-Mar-14 13:28:04

Can she take 12 months and he a career break instead? I think the DW should come on aibu....

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Tue 11-Mar-14 13:28:40

I would not be too tough on the DW. Leaving your baby for the first time to return to work is tough and a very emotional time for a lot of women. I think in this case a woman wanting to have longer on maternity leave for the baby she's carried should take precedence over a man's desire to take paternity leave.

jacks365 Tue 11-Mar-14 13:28:48

While I can sympathise with the wife's position it is not right to change something that had been previously agreed on without discussion and a new agreement being made.

blouseenthusiast Tue 11-Mar-14 13:29:19

It also shows that you cannot really make very firm plans before the child is born and you know how you will feel

chattychattyboomba Tue 11-Mar-14 13:30:05

I think the wife needs to stick to the decision she made to start with- BUT I do sympathise as even 12 months didn't feel like enough time for me (and it wasn't so I'm still at home 3 years later) but we have a more traditional arrangement and DH earns way more than me... Plus he admits he would find it harder at home than at the office.
I really feel for the DW as it really is like ripping out your heart being away from your pfb before you are ready. On a positive note, she has a DH who is hands on! Who wants to take an active role and why shouldn't he be given that same opportunity? She may have given birth, but it's his baby too. As for leverage from the whole 'I gave birth' thing... Well that's what push presents are for winkshock

MajorGrinch Tue 11-Mar-14 13:31:00

Will she go back to work after 12 months, or will that go out of the window too?

I think they need to sit down & have a discussion about both the 9 & 12 month points.

DesiderataDisciple Tue 11-Mar-14 13:31:42

I think she is being totally selfish.

They agreed a plan of how to share the ML/PL and she wants more ML time for herself but incredibly wants to achieve this by taking away all of his PL time.

She is also not thinking ahead. She will be returning to work full-time. It would be far better to do this in 2 stages - firstly with pfb being cared for by dad so less worries emotionally about pfb settling into childcare and no stress over having to drop everything and take days off when inevitably pfb is ill and unable to be in childcare. - secondly pfb being in childcare when they are both back at work. The 3 months PL will have given pfb time to bond well with dad as a carer in addition to mum plus given dad an appreciation of what is involved being a SAHP.

Finally, unless they do not intend to have any more children she will get further ML to do the SAHM thing again with both her dc if she wants to. (Although as a working mum I'd recommend not pulling dc1 out of childcare altogether whilst on a subsequent maternity leave)

Does the wife have form for being self-centred ?

SybilRamkin Tue 11-Mar-14 13:32:33

After much negotiation A offered to reduce his 'share' to 2 months instead of 3, but his DW is adamant that she's having the full 12.

I agree it's probably hard to leave a baby, but A has to do this every working day.

KatAndKit Tue 11-Mar-14 13:34:39

I can see that it will be hard for her to go back to work and leave her baby but I do think she is being unfair. Their original agreement seems to be a reasonable one and if she wants him to be an equal parent I think she ought to stick to it. If she goes back at 12 months it will still be hard on her. Can she use some of the annual leave she has accrued so they could have a few weeks all at home together? That way someone is still being paid and she can have a bit longer off. Or use annual leave to get a part time return, something like three days a week for the first month or so?

CurlyBlueberry Tue 11-Mar-14 13:35:22

I think she's being highly unfair. We would have loved to do this but for various reasons I went back p/t and we could not have managed it financially, plus I was breastfeeding too. I wouldn't have gone back on the arrangement like that from what you've written is the situation.

Sorry, but he had to leave his precious baby too, at 2 weeks or whenever his pat leave ended. It's her turn to leave her baby. I've just gone back to work myself so I do understand but she is not being fair. It's not just HER baby.

blouseenthusiast Tue 11-Mar-14 13:35:46

Yes, but A has not just spent 9 months devoting himself to the baby. I am not saying the wife is not being unreasonable in her approach, ie making a unilateral decision, but the wrench for her in leaving the baby will be far greater than A just carrying on going in to work every day as he has been doing. Could they not try and afford for him to have a three month career break when she has gone back to work?

SybilRamkin Tue 11-Mar-14 13:38:38

DW isn't generally self-centred (at least I don't think she is - I'm not married to her!).

The original plan for returning to work is that DGPs will care for DC 2 days per week, and childcare for the other 3 days, with a staggered start for childcare over the last month of EPL. I assume this will still happen.

I don't think there's any risk that DW will refuse to return to work full stop - aside from having to repay the generous 6 months' full pay she received on ML, they can't afford to have a SAHP without completely changing their lifestyle, which neither of them wanted to do prior to DC and I doubt very much they'd want to do now.

DoYonisHangLow Tue 11-Mar-14 13:40:17

I would investigate the career break option a bit more closely. Parental leave is something that means parents can take X number of unpaid months off (3?6?) before their child turns 5yrs old and tbh if his work are happy for him to take 3 months now, chances are they'll be happy for him to push it back for 3 months also which would be win win.

DitaVonCreamTeas Tue 11-Mar-14 13:41:15

Interesting, DH and I plan to do the same thing; my maternity leave has just started (PFB due any day now) I'll take the time off until the start of January then DH will then take the final 2 months. I know he's really excited and looking forward to that time and views it as something very precious; if I changed my mind and said I wanted the whole 12 months he'd be really upset.

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