I’m blessed with the ability to take a lot of time off for paternity leave in my current work. Because of this, after the birth of each of my children I took full advantage of the family friendly policy. I took three months off each for my first two children and am currently in the midst of a five month paternity leave for our third child. While this last paternity leave comes with a small financial burden, taking almost a year off of work total (across the three kids) is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There are a lot of reasons to take paternity leave and a lot of reasons to take as much as you possibly can.
If you’re thinking about taking paternity leave or trying to figure out how much should you take, here are the reasons why I feel you should take as much paternity leave as possible.
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You get involved early which helps you stay involved
While we’ve made a lot of progress as a society, moms still take on a lot of the child related duties. This works for lots of families! But, what I’ve noticed is that if the dad doesn’t get involved early, it gets more difficult to get involved later. There is a lot of trust that has to be built up between parents when raising children together. To borrow a sports term, you need to take lots of reps to earn the trust of your partner. Paternity leave gives you the chance to do this.
The alternative, which has definitely happened in our family, is this cyclical effect. For a rudimentary example, say you don’t change diapers often. Then, the one time you change it, you do a bad job and there’s a blowout. Then you get chastised for bad diaper technique. Next time, either you don’t want to do it again or you’re not allowed to. Before you know it, you never change anymore diapers. While this may be great for the cleanliness of your hands, it can often cause stress with your partner. Paternity leave ensures you’re in a situation where you must be involved, which helps you stay involved as your kids grow.
Best of all, as a traveling dad, the familiarity and being involved with your kids early opens up opportunities to travel later (Related: If your kid doesn’t remember the trip…so what?). Having confidence at home gives me confidence to go on the road with the kids alone.
You start bonding with your child early and often
When you get extended time alone with your child, you get to bond and connect in ways that just aren’t possible when you’re limited to the short time after work and weekends. I loved having ventral to ventral time with all my kids when they were babies and truly believe that helped us bond.
Now, granted, we have some pretty easy kids, but I also feel the bonds my kids and I formed when they were babies helped us avoid things like the baby crying when they have to go with daddy. While my kids probably still prefer mom by a hair, I never feel like I’m coming in second. We bonded early and that bond has remained strong.
You build unique traditions and habits with your kids
The fact of the matter is, parents do the same job differently when they’re alone. When you get to spend time alone with your kid, you get the chance to figure out your own way of doing things. This benefits your relationship with your child and your relationship with your spouse as you build trust together as a family.
I’ve found in my experience that my kids respond differently to me than they do to my wife. My daughter and I have a certain flow together (for lack of a better term), while she and my wife have their own flow. And both work great! I firmly believe that this happened in part because I spent those three months bonding with her when I was on paternity leave, which lead to me being more comfortable with her as she got older, which helped us establish our own thing separate from mom quickly and happily.
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It’s why I was fully confident to take my first solo trip with her even when she was only two (and supposedly terrible) and why I still love taking trips alone with her to this day.
You gain a greater appreciation for your partner
Finally, on this third paternity leave, I think I can fully appreciate all the stuff my wife does to keep this family running. This time around I’ve finally been entrusted with almost all of the household duties, by necessity. That means I know almost everything that’s in the fridge, where every single kid’s important items are, who has which appointment on what date, and I almost know which drawer each article of clothing belongs in. (Still pretty bad at cleaning and household organization though).
Bottom line, I’m blown away by all the things my wife handles on a day to day and week to week basis. Paternity leave has given me the ability to truly appreciate how difficult the work of managing a household is. For my wife, she normally does all that on top of working a full time job. Paternity leave has taught me to appreciate my wife and all moms more – they do amazing work and don’t get nearly enough credit for it.
It’s a lot of fun!
Did I mention paternity leave is a lot of fun? I loved coming up with daily routines for each of my children and figuring out what makes them happy and what makes them tick. Playing with a baby all day is way more fun than going to work.
My paternity leaves have also given me the chance to meet up with other stay at home parents, grab lunch with friends I haven’t seen in a long time, and even get some free time when I’m lucky!
But most of all, it’s just a blast to spend time with my kids and watch them hit their milestones. Pure joy.
They’re only this small once
My final reason is a sentimental one. For some reason, people seem to be scared of babies and in a rush for their kids to get to a more “manageable” age. While not dealing with diapers is wonderful, there’s something special about how small and precious babies are. Sure, I can forget that when they are screaming their heads off, but nothing tops gazing at your beautiful, sleeping baby.
The reality, as all parents know, is kids grow up fast. Before you know it they’re playing soccer, taking music lessons, and in the blink of an eye they’re adults. Your children are only small, innocent, and helpless babies for a fraction of their time on this planet.
In the end, it’s that reason that I’ve really prioritized taking paternity leave. I can work a few extra years when I’m older, but I’d never have been able to replicate this time with them when they were babies. I cherish every moment, and hope some of you dads out there will get the chance to as well.
Have you taken paternity leave and did you find it valuable? Let us know in the comments!