Michael became a primary carer
Michael Hsu – Architect in Melbourne – took a total of six months’ parental leave, which he calls a “precious opportunity for his family”. While Michael was at home with his daughter, Amelia, his wife returned to her role as a successful Architect and continued to pursue her career.
“The best thing,” says Michael, “were the challenges and joys a primary carer experiences each day.” This boosted Michael’s parenting confidence and tested his resilience. He gained a newfound endurance and patience that he now applies to his professional life. Michael thoroughly enjoyed his one-on-one time with Amelia, developing a stronger bond and foundation to build on for the rest of their lives.
The leave afforded Michael the opportunity to travel with his family to their native New Zealand to give Amelia time with her grandparents and an introduction to the nature and culture. As a result, her first nursery rhyme was Tēnā koe, the Maori ‘Hello’ song.
Sarah feels grateful
The first few months as a new mother have been, in certain ways, exactly what other mothers had told Sarah Couper, Content Writer and Editor in Adelaide, to expect.
“Sleep is precious; household tasks and life administration pile up; the pendulum of my emotions swings haphazardly between anxiety and joy.” But in other ways, motherhood has been full of the simplest surprises. “Our happiest days are quiet and slow, spent watching our girl’s world expanding, little by little, as new revelations and understandings take place, and her gentle character emerges.”
Sarah feels incredibly lucky to have this time with her daughter. “The generous policy, and the knowledge that I will be welcomed back into an encouraging and flexible workplace, have allowed me the security I need to cherish this time.”
Hugh finessed the work-life balance
In January 2021, after four months of parental leave, Hugh Veale – a Senior Team Member in Melbourne – returned four days a week. His balance of working two days in the studio and two days from home is working well. He is engaged with his work but can also collect his daughter from day care, which is “his favourite time of the day”. On his day off, Hugh takes 15-month-old Abby to swimming lessons, which he cherishes. The break from day care also gives her a chance to catch up on sleep. The flexible work arrangement has allowed Hugh and his family to adjust as he transitioned into life as a working father.
Jennifer balances parenting and full-time work
Jennifer Husman, a Senior Associate in Sydney, returned to the studio after six months on parental leave. Having missed the robust design discussions with her colleagues, she was excited to return to her role and advocates for new mothers who want to return to their careers full time. Having choices and a supportive environment is an important part of what Architectus wants to foster. Her 18-month-old son delights his grandparents, who have a great time caring for him a couple of days a week.
On her return, Jennifer had no idea what to expect but has a great support network and understanding colleagues. Being from the United States, she finds the Australian approach to parental leave “very empowering”. To maintain her job while having the life-changing experience of raising her son made her feel “even more loyal” to Architectus.
Ruth Wilson remembers thinking in 2018 that change was needed, for our team members and the industry. “At the time, there was a reasonably even split of males and females below the Associate level, however there were noticeably fewer females progressing to more senior roles, largely because women stepped away from their careers as they become mothers.” Ruth, a mother herself to a son, has observed over her 20-year career with Architectus. “Without a paid parental scheme, it was far more challenging for parents – particularly women – to balance the responsibilities of their family and work at a large design practice.”
Three years into the policy, we are glad to see that our parental leave benefits have encouraged a holistic work culture. Parenting and working can coexist and parents are afforded the time to start and nurture their family. A career is a marathon not a sprint, and we want to be part of the team that gets people to their finish line, whatever that looks like.
The senior leadership team are now turning their eye to what they can do to build on this great foundation and continue to support parents to have fulfilling careers and a family life balance at all levels.