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Today marks the 18th week of my parental leave out of 18. While I grew up in Switzerland (which happens to provide very poor accommodation for new parents), today I’m fortunate enough to live in Montreal, Quebec. Here, parents get roughly a year’s worth of time to split between the 2 parents of a newborn. (It’s a bit more complicated than this, but no need to cover it here.)
I took 18 weeks, my wife took 27, and we had a 3-week overlap in the middle. (I know … 18 + 27 doesn’t equal 52. Told you it was complicated.)
So, 18 weeks ago, I packed my things at work as if I had been fired, to make room for my replacement. I had everything planned. While I would get to spend great moments with my daughter, I also wanted to catch on my pile of books queued for reading, I wanted to play 2-year-old video games I hadn’t had time to play yet, I wanted to start a side project of refurbished skateboards, I wanted to shorten the list of home improvements we were going to do tomorrow, and so on …
If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for a while, you probably already know how this turned out! (If you haven’t figured it out: I barely scratched the surface of what I had planned, and the reward was infinitely greater.)
Do what you think is best for your child, your partner, and lastly yourself.
The “funny” thing is, even though parents can share the leave as they please, it’s still pretty uncommon for fathers to take more than the legal minimum of 5 weeks. And when fathers (from new ones to “on the verge of becoming grand fathers”) would hear about what I was doing, what we decided as a couple of parents, I heard just about every reaction possible. They were curious about my situation, and so was I about theirs.
Because, for me, it was inconceivable that one wouldn’t ask for his fair share of time to spend with his baby.
Just for kicks, let me list a few questions or reactions they had (pretty sure you already guessed some):
- How can you successfully manage a baby for days, 5 days a week, for such a long time?
- How did your employer let you do this? Theirs would have them on the next staff compression when they’d come back.
- How did your wife trap you into doing this? And its opposite:
- How did you convince your wife to give you more weeks than the minimum? Theirs wouldn’t let them have any crumbs.
- Your wife must have a more important job than you do.
- Why would you do that?
- Aren’t you bored?
Without going over my detailed opinion, parenthood obviously means something different for each and every one of us, and I won’t pretend that my version is better that anyone’s. Do what you think is best for your child, your partner, and lastly yourself. But I’ll say this:
Fathers-to-be, I know that this unknown waiting for you is scary. But I beg of you, get implicated as much as you can with your kids. Sure, changing diapers, cleaning thrown up milk or puree splatter might not sound that exciting. Believe me, it’s a full-time job taking care of a baby.
While I would get to spend great moments with my daughter, I also wanted to catch on my pile of books queued for reading.
But the time you’ll spend doing this, you’ll also be getting to know your child like you never would otherwise. If you think that you’ll have to wait for your kid to be 3, 4 or 5 to finally get interesting and bond, please reconsider! Watching her/him grow and evolve, even at such a young age…if you ever felt proud before, prepare for a next level type of pride.
Mothers-to-be, it’s most likely that, although he may look pretty confident and present, the father of your child is flipping the f–k out inside, because fatherhood usually means that the adulthood he’s been dodging for all these years is now inevitable. So help him embrace his new self. Be patient, let him make mistakes handling your child, give them the room and time they need to bond, let them develop their way of doing things (even though you know that there are far simpler ways to change a diaper, let him do it and come up with his routine, like you probably had to).
Today marks the 18th week of my parental leave, and this means that she’s spending her first week at daycare while I stay home on standby if the acclimatization gets too hard for her. While I finally get to catch up on the list of activities I had planned, I’ll first need some time to process all the emotions that I’m feeling, from grateful to proud, sad to scared, heartbroken to loved.
Thank you T. for letting me do this. (as it seems not every mother is ready to share this time with their partner.)
Mac Caveng is a Web Marketing Specialist and Mixology Enthusiast.