This Father's Day, as I spend time with my family, I'll fondly remember a rather disastrous plane trip in Brazil two years ago, when my eldest daughter spent the entire journey vomiting onto me until I had no available clean clothes left! It's a good lesson for any parent - no matter how prepared you think you are, your kids will always keep you on your toes.
Back in 2015, I took the opportunity to be kept on my toes by them more than ever, being fortunate enough to take Shared Parental Leave and spend eight months raising my two daughters with my wife, Vanessa.
The memories I have from that period will stay with me forever. Children grow up so fast, and I had the chance to play a hands-on role at a pivotal point in their early years, after the birth of my second daughter.
But it wasn't an easy decision. There's still a cultural taboo around men spending more time at home, and I was at an important moment in my career. I knew I was close to promotion and I thought that taking an extended period of leave could impact my progression. My wife is also a part time Pilates and Physiotherapy practitioner, so we were worried we might not even be eligible to take up the policy.
At first glance, the whole process of Shared Parental Leave can seem overwhelming and daunting, and I know friends of mine have found it hard to navigate. Accenture, the company I work for, supported us throughout, so we understood the package and our options. We were very fortunate that Accenture's decision to equalise Shared Parental Leave and maternity leave packages meant that we had more flexibility.
I was guided through the decision by my dedicated Career Counsellor, who was behind me the whole way. He admitted he wished the policy had been introduced years before, so he could have spent more time with his own children when they were young. Senior people in the company were also supportive of me choosing to spend more time with my family.
Some people might think that taking a period off work could hinder their career, but for me it actually turned out to be a huge part of my professional development. I was promoted just two months after returning to the office and I know I'm a better colleague thanks to my experience. I came back more resilient, with more patience and a much better sense of perspective. In fact, I'm now one of around 180 people at my company who have decided to take Shared Parental Leave in the last two years.
Now I have had the opportunity to share more responsibilities as a parent and see first-hand how physically and emotionally draining it can be, I also have a much greater respect for full-time parents. I remember coming back to the office and some of my colleagues jokingly asking, "How was your holiday?", but Shared Parental Leave has given me a completely different perspective - being in the office is a holiday! There's not much chance to enjoy a peaceful cup of tea when you're juggling two little ones.
If you're reading this and thinking about taking Shared Parental Leave, be brave. It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you're so focused on climbing the career ladder. However, taking time out accelerated my career in the long run and I know that the experience has made me a better colleague, husband and father.