It's a fact, fathers hesitate to take paternity leave. But that may change as more companies offer it and more men see the value. Paternity coach Delaine Barr is a member of the Ernst & Young Americas Executive Coaching Team. She has been working with some of the men at the accounting firm who are eligible to take up to six weeks leave in total. I spoke with her to gain an idea of this valuable perk for new fathers.
A. We aren’t structured in our approach. When I’m working with a new parent, I let them drive the conversation. If they are getting ready or thinking of going on leave, I have them describe what a successful leave would look like for them at home and work.
Q. How many sessions are involved?
A. We offer up to eight sessions. They are done on a monthly basis. If someone has a lot of momentum around a specific topic, he or she may not want to wait another four weeks, so we touch base in two weeks. Some people might start their coaching sessions three months before they go on leave. Others in the program start when they are getting ready to come back from leave. Not everyone starts or stops coaching at the same point in their transition.
Q. Are your sessions by phone in person or on Skype?
A. Usually by phone. I have people I coach who are all over the United States and Canada
Q. What are issues that come up after someone returns from parental leave?
A. The biggest fear with any new parent is typically what happens to the work while I’m gone. How connected should I be, can I be and do I want to be while on leave? When they come back, I find a lot of discussion or concern with what kind of professional am I going to be now that I have these responsibilities at home. Most are high performers who are used to performing above average. They are worried that now they will be just an average performer and want to know how to shift.
Q. What advice do you offer them about that shift?
A. I get them thinking about everything they are involved in at home and work and help them get clear. I ask them what things they want to keep doing and what are some of those things someone else might be able to.
Q. Do you discuss the stigma with paternity leave?
A. It comes up. But in my experience in coaching new dads, I don’t hear about it as much as I used to. Some dads have been told, “I hope you have a great vacation,” when they actually will be busier at home caring for a baby than at work.
Q. How is paternity coaching different than maternity coaching?
A. There are so many similarities. I really find that both moms and dads are looking for ways to make things work, for ways to be better organized at home and at work. I found over a period of time that dads have become more vocal about saying they have responsibilities at home and making time for those.
Q. What comes up in your coaching sessions that most new parents hadn’t thought about?
A. Having one calendar for all events at home and work. Usually that means merging two calendars and using one and sending invites to your spouse or significant other when events are going on at home or work. It helps them to see their day, week and month and plan accordingly.
Q. What are issues men face as fathers in the workplace, particularly during transitions?
A. Making time for their family. Even when I’m coaching them on career transitions, I find men will talk about their opportunity, but in the back of their mind want to make sure it doesn’t take away from being there for their kids.
Q. What advice do you have for a new father?
A. Get clear on what things are most important, the nonnegotiable. The biggest benefit in working with a coach is you are going to explore those things that are most important to you and come up with an action plan tailored to your needs. You will have a coach asking about your progress, celebrating success, and where you are not making progress, they are going to ask about what’s going on.
Q. Do you have advice for someone who isn’t fortunate enough to have the benefit of a paternity or maternity coach?
A. If you are not working with a coach, I’m a big believer in finding a mentor mom or dad who you can talk to about specific situations to learn how they handled similar experiences.
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