As dads, we’re often our own worst enemy. To be fair, we have competing ideas in our heads about being a man and a father. On one side there is the old, head-of- the-house bread-winner role that we can’t seem to fully shake. On the other side, is the modern, caring, and involved ideal of fatherhood that we try to attain. The problem comes when our desire to be a better father gets held up by these more traditional notions. Josh knows all about this struggle, not only as a man, but as a police officer, a career path often associated with tradition, manliness, and little room for family life.
Two years ago, the veteran of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) broke the mold when he decided to take paternity leave to be with his new daughter – the first member to do so in recent EPS history. For him, this unprecedented move at work, wasn’t a difficult decision. “Right from a young child, I knew that I wanted to be an active and engaged father because my father wasn’t,” says Josh. “I wanted to be the exact opposite of what I grew up with.” And while he was breaking new ground in taking paternity leave, his employer couldn’t have been any better to deal with: a couple of forms and a quick meeting with human resources was all it took. After that, he says even dealing with Employment Insurance (EI) was surprisingly easy. Sure there were some good-natured jokes about starting a ‘daddy day care’, but Josh took them in stride. What affected him most about taking this time off, was how it would impact his team. “When I told the squad, everyone was very supportive and happy for me ... there were some looks of disappointment at the prospect of losing a senior member and potentially being short-handed for the next three months.” “But no one ever made me feel uncomfortable,” says Josh. “It almost seemed that every time I spoke to anybody about why I was taking time off, they were shocked but very happy and commended me on doing that and taking such an active role in my daughter’s life.”
Josh was able to split the year of parental leave with his wife, another EPS member, spending three months away from work in total. Was it worth it? “This was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had, spending that time with my daughter and really getting that bond. I wouldn’t do anything different, not in a million years. I loved every minute of it.” It was such a positive experience that, if the opportunity came up again, Josh says he would only want to spend more time on leave. He relates how he is so much closer to his daughter because of the time he spent taking care of her. A closeness that has continued even now that he is back at work. While many men worry that taking paternity leave could be a career limiting move, this was not Josh’s experience. In fact, EPS gave him the latitude and flexibility to apply for a different position while he was away. When he returned, Josh says they welcomed him with open arms and his example has even inspired at least one other member to take paternity leave of his own. Josh’s advice to other fathers thinking of approaching their employer about paternity leave? “What’s the worst a person can hear: ‘No, you can’t’?” Josh says. “It is so rewarding and you’re never going to get this time back.”