6 Sep 2019

Kiwi Dads: photo exhibition encourages men to take paid parental leave

From Nine To Noon, 9:36 am on 6 September 2019

Around 30,000 Kiwi women took paid parental leave in 2017.The figure for men? About 300.

Kiwi Dads is a new photographic exhibition promoting men and women as equal carers who deserve equal access to paid parental leave.

Dave Gascoigne, Pete Peilua, Mark Paul.

Dave Gascoigne, Pete Peilua, Mark Paul. Photo: Sarah Weber Photography

The exhibition features 13 Kiwi fathers at home with their kids, including Mark Paul, Tupa'i 'Pete' Peilua and Dave Gascoigne.

After the birth of his first daughter, Pete Peilua took two weeks annual leave. In his first year of fatherhood, he travelled a lot for work which strained his marriage.

With their next daughter, Pete and his wife took a different approach.

"The second time around we decided to see if we could change things up so my wife could get back into her career and I had the opportunity to share experiences with both girls."

Pete has no regrets about taking leave to look after his kids and says there have been many rewards.

"[My wife and I] kind of get to put each others shoes on and experience parenting from the other side, from the other person's perspective."

Mark Paul regrets not taking parental leave when his first two children were babies.

Now they're at school and he's taken a career break to look after his two daughters and their little brother.

"[My son is] always with me, we've got a good bond now. He used to always cry for his mummy but that's completely changed now. I'm the parent he calls for, he follows me, he always wants his daddy and that's such a lovely change ... It's been so nice … it's been fantastic."

Mark says a lot of guys have told him they'd like to do something similar but are nervous.

"Hopefully I have inspired some in my own little network to consider it."

Dave Gascoigne didn't take parental leave for his first two kids but when his third child was due, he and his wife decided to split their son's first year and look after him for six months each.

"I just wanted to get amongst the family rhythm and understand how it all works, and just get closer to the kids."

The hardest part of Dave's parental leave was probably filling out the IRD paperwork, he says.

"Dads and fathers aren't even mentioned in any of the forms."

It would be easier for fathers to take paid parental leave if there was an option of taking it later, Dave says.

"There should be an [allowance] that within that first 12 or 24 months, the paid parental policy can be used at any point. That frees up the conversation around who might take that or who might make the most of that."

Dave works for ANZ who have an "amazing" parenting leave policy, he says.

"As more corporates understand the benefits that come … that will start to move dads towards thinking about spending time at home, as well."

Kiwi Dads was co-created by Global Women and Parents At Work. It's partly inspired by the iconic Swedish Dads photo exhibition and part of a global initiative to advance parental leave equality.