John Buchelin

National Manager Content Settlements

"The opportunity to take primary carer leave worked perfectly for us."

I’m a dad and I’ve been lucky enough to take parental leave twice as the primary carer, when my two kids (Sophie and Harry) were born. Each time I took 10 weeks off. My wife was eager to return to her job as a speech therapist, so the opportunity to take primary carer leave worked perfectly for us.

Both times when I approached my manager about taking parental leave, I received nothing but help and support. I also experienced great support from senior leaders and especially my colleagues, who often had to take on extra work; I can’t thank them enough!

During my leave, I had the best time with the kids. There were lots of walks, trying out different playgrounds and coffee shops. One of the highlights was the interactive sessions put on by the local library; the kids loved the story time, craft activities and sing-a-longs.

At the time, we’d also just moved to the South Coast near Wollongong, so it was a good time to get to know our new neighbourhood, check out different suburbs and do some work on our new house.

There weren't any support groups specifically for dads in the community. Luckily, I had a bunch of mates who had kids at the same time so we set up our own ‘WhatsApp’ Dad’s group. We fired off questions and ideas to each other and had some good banter, not to mention some quality dad jokes.

I also set myself some new challenges. Learning to cook was at the top of my list and I’m pleased to report I can cook three reasonably good meals! It might not sound like much to some, but I was coming from a very low base.

Wellbeing is also important to me, so I made sure I exercised. I even learnt a five minute yoga routine and tried meditation. It isn’t often you have the time to stop and try these things, so I made sure I made the most of it.

Adjusting back to work after parental leave was tough; however I was in a fortunate position to access flexible work arrangements which made it much easier. My role involves working with Allianz Group in Munich, so I do some of my work at night and also work from home two to three days a week. This was during a time before COVID-19 moved everyone to working from home. So having the flexibility really helped me maintain some balance and allowed me to spend as much time with the kids as possible.

My advice to other dads is just do it! It’s one of the best things that you’ll ever do in your life. Initially, I was a bit worried but you work it out pretty quickly and learn from your mistakes. Also, take lots of photos and videos because the time flies by way too quickly!