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Parenting in the pandemic is really weird

Category: Aviva, Flexible Working, Parents, Parental Leave, Parenting, COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic, parenting initiative at aviva

Flexible Working

Over 600 Aviva colleagues took equal parental leave in 2020, showing its popularity in the pandemic. Some of our dads have been reflecting on life in lockdown as a new parent. 

 

Ben Beazley, DB Solutions Transition Manager, UK Savings and Retirement, Norwich, took parental leave from May-November 2020 for his first child. He’s worked for Aviva for nearly 10 years. 

 

Photo of Daniel Beazley and his son, Barnaby
Ben Beazley and his son, Barnaby

 

We were only a few weeks into the first lockdown when Barnaby was born. The hospital was fully locked down, which was peculiar. The halls were empty.  

For the birth, we were surrounded by compassionate people whose faces we couldn’t see because they were in full PPE. 

I could be there for Barnaby’s birth, but after that I had to leave the hospital, and could only see him and my partner Sara for four hours a day. That was tough.  

‘We haven’t spent a night away from Barnaby since he was born’ 

Parenting in the pandemic is really weird. With six months away from work, we had a lot of plans that went out the window. 

You sort of imagine spending time with family, grandparents and aunties and uncles. We were going to see friends round the country. 

My parents live locally so we've been able to meet them for walks, but Sara’s parents live in the West Midlands so we’ve only seen them once. 

As it’s turned out, we haven't spent a night away from Barnaby since he was born. If I hadn’t been able to spend these six months with my family, it could have had a huge impact on our wellbeing. 

Despite being in lockdown, these six months have been some of the best time of my life. We’ve been so limited in what we can do, that you learn to enjoy the small things, like a nice walk and a picnic. 

The quality time with Barnaby has been amazing, watching him change. One day a little light came on in his eyes and he started paying attention. Sitting up was good, now he's starting to crawl. 

The hardest bit has been managing the dog, a jealous 12-year-old terrier.  

I worked from home quite a lot before lockdown, so I was ready to come back remotely. Not being face to face with my colleagues after six months away has been a challenge, but a welcome one. I’ve had a lot of support from my manager and people around me. 

If you told me a decade ago I’d work in pensions for 10 years, I'd have said ‘don't be stupid’. But I really like Aviva, it's a big part of my life, a very good employer and important to Norwich.  

 

Daniel Clark-Bland, is based in York and took parental leave in 2019 to adopt his son Theo. He’s worked for Aviva since 2018. 

 

Photo of Daniel Clark-Bland and his husband
Daniel Clark-Bland and his husband

 

I returned from parental leave in April 2020, by which time we were in lockdown, so I haven’t been back to the office since July 2019. 

It was quite bumpy coming back to work. I had the usual post-paternity leave ‘bump’, but also a pandemic ‘bump’. 

Our childcare arrangements weren’t in place due to lockdown, so my husband and I had to adjust to working with Theo at home. It was a triple whammy. 

There’s an inherent guilt that parents don’t talk about – that you're being a bit rubbish both at work and at home. 

Aviva and my leader were exceptionally supportive, we arranged a working pattern that meant I could be a decent employee and dad. 

I worked mornings and my husband worked afternoons. Not many people I know outside of Aviva had the same beneficial setup. 

 

‘Be kind to yourself’ 

Routine is key for adopted children. By the time Theo was with us, we were his third family, after his birth family and foster family. You have to do so much to offer comfortable, predictable environments. 

Being creative and having a ‘catalogue’ of go-to ideas really helped us. I can’t recommend enough a good pair of walking shoes and a rear steer tricycle. 

But it’s so important to be kind to yourself, as a parent and a person. Some days, you just want to sit and listen to music while playing with toy cars on the floor.  

Becoming a parent made me feel immensely proud to work for Aviva. I am really grateful that my employer supported us through the many steps of adoption. 

There are months of meetings with social workers, a private medical appointment and two panel approvals, which all need to be made in person. 

Being able to attend these took a level of stress out of what is already a strenuous and emotional journey.  

I haven't spoken to a single other person who hasn't said 'wow, they let you take how much leave?' It’s so important as an adoptive family – we were two strangers who swept in and had to build a real bond and rapport. 

Would that have been there after two weeks of statutory leave? How would we have made the call on which dad took the much longer adoption leave, potentially bonding more with Theo? 

Thanks to equal parental leave, we never had to make this unspeakably cruel decision.  

 

Kenny Kerr works in our Digital Knowledge team in the UK business. He’s worked at Aviva for nearly ten years and took equal parental leave from December 2019 to June 2020.  

 

 

Zach is my first child, born in December. I remember popping back into the office in the new year so people could meet him and at that stage, folk were starting to talk about Covid. 

My wife Jane and I had taken him to a baby massage class and I remember saying to the other parents, you'll be able to go swimming in a few weeks. That didn't happen! 

Jane had gestation diabetes with Zach and after he was born, she needed an operation and had to stay in hospital for a fortnight. 

She recovered well and in that time, Zach was with me, and we bonded amazingly. 

I gained so much from being with him – I can't imagine what it would have been like if my paternity leave had only lasted two weeks. 

‘The pandemic gave me more time to focus’ 

When I first told people I was going back after six months, people did not believe me, sometimes started questioning me. It was frustrating, in a good way. 

And once I did come back, it wasn’t just ‘here you go, do your 35 hours a week’ – I came back gradually. I felt like I was back at full speed from about two months on. 

The pandemic gave me more time to focus, on where I wanted to go. I always knew having a child would motivate me to do more.  

I live about 35 miles from the office, so even before Covid, I would work a day a week at home. When I came back, my boss was absolutely fine with me working from home. 

I’ve since set up an office at my mum’s. I'm so much happier doing that, because I did struggle without a private space to work. It means I’ve got a commute too. 

It’s hard to find the words to say how grateful I am to Aviva. Giving me six months to spend with Zach, then getting all the setup so I could work from home after, like a desk, a screen, grateful is the only word. 

When people found out how much leave I could take, they always said ‘who do you work for?’ I rate it all so highly. The whole Aviva ‘thing’ just flows right through it. 

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