September 24, 2019 - We arrived at the hospital around 5pm to induce my wife for our second child. Eight hours later, our daughter was born into the world. I’m a new parent - yay! Now what?
Obviously the “now what?” question surfaces well before the day of birth for new parents. New parents are considering a lot: finances, support, logistics, time off at work, the list goes on. For our second child, the stress of these concerns was significantly less than the first. Why? Because my employer offered 6 weeks of fully paid paternity leave.
If you’re a parent reading this, you know all too well the first 6 weeks of your child’s life go by far too fast. If there are no complications, you will spend 2-3 days in the hospital post delivery. Then comes a wellness check at a week old. Diapers, feeding, naps, repeat. Oh, by the way, your spouse just went through a physically and emotionally traumatic event bringing life into the world - she needs support too. Sleep? I forgot to sleep! Then, the first month is gone!
There’s so much happening behind the scenes. What people don’t see: Alexus, my wife, was going to school full-time to become a registered nurse. Because giving birth is physically taxing, she reduced her credit hours for the 4th quarter of school in 2019 so she wouldn’t miss classes. As a result, she had to increase her school workload in Q1 2020. The great part? I was able to take my paid paternity leave intermittently, so I took 1.5 weeks off when Scarlett was born and then remaining 3.5 weeks in January so Alexus could return to school full time. This flexibility allowed us to delay having to find suitable childcare for Scarlett, which is almost impossible to find, especially for a newborn. In fact, many families get on a waiting list as soon as they find out they’re expecting!
All of it is worth it, but why do people question fathers wanting paid paternity leave? Are we not supposed to be joyful about the human we helped create? For me having that time off was so impactful. I bonded with my newborn, supported my spouse and coped with the changing landscape of life. Was it easy? No, parenthood is rarely “easy.” But having the freedom to have 6 weeks to work through the adjustment of our new “normal” was so critical. It also was a critical component of me deciding to change jobs in 2019, after we found out that we were expecting.
If you’re a father, a spouse or a partner reading this and are asking yourself “Where do I find paid leave?”, you’re not alone. In fact, 25% of all first time dads are now becoming stay at home parents - double the rate of prior generations. Our generation is changing the stigma of “gender roles” and it’s being seen and felt in the workplace.
Change is happening today and we will see it continue to happen. If you want access to paid paternity leave, demand it from your employer. If your employer refuses to provide you with it, consider finding an employer that will. From father to father: you will not regret it.