Four years ago, when our twins were born, I was able to take the full six weeks of parental leave offered by my company to get to bond with them and share a great part of their childhood together. Now, with our nearly five month old, I’m starting six weeks of parental leave again with the hope of spending more time together with him that I’ve had a chance so far and getting to know him a bit better. Rather than feel guilty about missing work, I’m relishing the opportunity to spend the time with him and wish it was longer.
I think it’s incredibly important for everyone to get the opportunity to spend bonding time with their children, especially early on. While it’s a huge shame that the rest of the country doesn’t have paid time off, I’m lucky to live in one of the best states for raising a child and one of the few with a formal parental leave law. I also have a great employer who provides additional benefits, allowing me to take six weeks time off to solely focus on raising my child, bonding with him, and being a more supportive spouse and father all around. For these reasons, I think everyone should maximize the time they can get on leave, and am trying to provide a good example at work that family comes first.
With the twins, the six weeks of time flew by and were mostly about surviving. With double the feedings, tantrums, and changing, I spent most of my time just catering to their needs. With our baby now still nursing and especially having my wife working from home during COVID, I’ll have a bit more time to actually focus on bonding with him and taking care of things around the house, being a better husband and father in the process. During my wife’s leave, though I was home, I was working pretty hard. My days were consumed with meetings and work, so it barely felt like I was actually home at all to help out. The load of taking care of everyone and the house fell pretty hard on her. I’m hoping to repay that debt now and shoulder more of the burden around the house to set a positive example for all of the boys.
I know that setting this example matters from everything I had read before the twins were even born. Families where the dad does an equal share of housework, the cleaning, and cooking result in children that exhibit the same partnership when older and tend to have fewer behavioral problems. I also want to model the behavior I want to see from them as young men, being an equal partner and advocate for women in all facets of their lives. Even though they will largely be at daycare while I’m on leave, I want them to see a different part of me than working daddy.
For myself, it’s also a good opportunity to disconnect and reset from work a bit. Since the start of the pandemic, I’d been working fairly hard with hours blending into family time more than they had before. Without the physical disconnection between the office and my home, it was easy to work later, often resulting in time still on the computer or calls when the boys were home. They’ve already told me that they don’t like me working and I don’t want it to get worse before they get older and realize it even more. Having this time away from work resets things for me a bit but also allows me to solely focus on life at home and give all of my attention to them and family time. Rather than my wife doing the school run, I get to take them in the morning and get them at night, hearing their stories from their days, making me feel much more of a connection.
I also really look forward to just spending time with the baby. Back when the twins were babies, I split my time between them and while I loved it, never got to give all of my attention to just one of them. With the baby, all of my time and attention can go to him. I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to get to know him yet since during the pandemic I’ve mostly taken on parenting tasks for the twins while my wife has spent time with him. Giving me the chance to spend more of my time with him means we can read together, play some games, and just get dedicated time together.
Plus, taking my full leave now means that my wife can go back to work and focus entirely on that herself. Not every family will have two working parents, and that’s fine. But for those that do, giving fathers the opportunity to take leave so that mothers can come back to work without having to carry all the load is a necessity. Mothers should be just as able to pick their jobs right back up and focus on their careers the same way fathers have always been able to. For me, it’s this more than anything else that makes paternity leave an essential option for parents.
I get how lucky I am to even have the option to take any leave as a new parent in this country. However, if I have the option, I’m going to take it all. It’s not a vacation and it’s not just for me. It’s a benefit for my whole family and I owe it to them to make full use of it. I know the whole thing will fly by again this time, so I’m determined to make the most of it. That’s exactly why I’m using the whole thing and why I think everyone who can should too.