Coming clean on the paternity leave gremlins: an internal email from our CEO
Chris Slater, Sanctus CEO, is soon to be taking paternity leave. Below is the all-company email that he wrote explaining his leave plan, as well as the conflicting emotions he feels between being a father and a CEO.
He shared the email as a way of leading from the front; showing every future Sanctus parent the importance of taking time for themselves during what will be a special and beautiful moment of their lives.
We’ve published it here to show some of the challenges and emotions that men, father’s, employees and leaders face as they approach this new stage of their lives.
I’m sharing this note with the entire team here at Sanctus as I believe it’s important to share my plans for impending paternity from both a practical perspective (“who is in charge whilst Chris is away? Who do I go to with questions?”) but I also wanted to share my thoughts from an emotional perspective and highlight the challenges we face as a society in supporting parents through one of the most important and challenging periods of our lives.
Taking a step back, it’s safe to say I feel very uncomfortable taking any ‘time off’ at the moment. I’m excited by the momentum we’ve built through the start of this year and am enjoying being part of that drive. I can see the progress we have made as a team through a period of huge change and want to stay connected to the continued change. I feel a huge amount of guilt as I know that if I’m not working, other people who are already under huge workload strain will have another number of tasks they will need to take on if I’m not around. All this plays to my inner controlling behaviours I have battled to let go of through my working career and whilst I know things will be fine, (in fact I know the business is in very safe hands and have briefed James so he can lead in my absence) I also have a strong perfectionist streak and these gremlins are all talking to me as I’ve been contemplating what I do when number 3 arrives.
Alongside these feelings I am also watching Hels go through the painful last stages of pregnancy. Experiencing, second-hand, the daily fears, the worries and exhaustion she is going through and seeing the changes in the boys as they also sense this impending, eternal change in our collective family life. They know something is coming. That life as a four will no longer be. And that time with mummy and daddy (and especially mummy in those first 3-6 months) will be restricted.
And so I am battling with the conflicting demands on me. What I want to do. What is expected of me by myself, by work and the people I feel responsible for and also what society expects. I know the impending exhaustion. I know the stress levels are going to go into red for some period of time. That the relationship with Hels will be tested to its very extremes. And yet I feel guilty that we are also in a fortunate place in terms of living conditions, support and the fact that Hels can dedicate her life to this beautiful new life.
I’ve been through it all before (twice) so blindly I’ve been considering all the above and falling down on the side of history. I’ll just take the 2 weeks paternity and get right back into work as if nothing has changed.
I’ll just paddle faster, box off the challenges that I’ll be facing day & night at home and just deal with it. Man up. Put on a brave face and joke about it at work. Knowing that at times I’ll be on the edge of my resources. Knowing that we will do different by every other parent at Sanctus but for me, as CEO, I’m different. I just need to tough it out.
But it doesn’t have to be like that does it? Prompted by some great questions by James and Kelly I’ve reflected and decided this is exactly the time when you do need to lead by example. That things do need to be different. That if we are creating something different here at Sanctus that I need to lead from the front and show every future parent that at this life changing moment in our life we can support you to transition back into work without having to compromise on supporting at home.
So. I have decided to put in place a flexible return to work plan where I will take the 2 weeks paternity leave but then for the next 4-6 weeks return to work on a 4 days a week basis, taking a couple of mornings off a week to help out at home. Whilst I am off James will hold the reins and lead on the various meetings that need to be chaired as well as checking in on a number of projects I am now keeping him updated on so he’s able to support us with our continued hiring, product and planning work.
This may not feel much but for me this plan works and I think that’s the important part of us putting in place policies that work both for us as employees, for our teams and also the business. Kelly will be sharing more in due course but I want us to lead the way where we can on our maternity and paternity policies so every parent feels supported at this beautiful moment in their lives.
Even writing this down and sharing it I feel a sense of relief. Whilst the guilt may still be there, and my worries still held lightly, I feel a new sense of excitement about the next few months and now believe I can fulfill the many roles of husband, parent, CEO and friend as best as I can over the coming months and welcome the support of others to help me through this transition.