Not many fathers have the opportunity to take Paternity Leave so I want to share with you about my experience. Thankfully, the United Methodist Church which I work for is progressive in this area and fathers can take up to 8 weeks paid time off with their newborn. I was not licensed yet when my daughter was born so I did not qualify for that so I took two weeks of my vacation time to be with her (one week was spent in the NICU). For our newborn son Soren, I am taking 6 weeks paid off (it is a busy season so I chose not to take the full 8 weeks). I am very fortunate because many fathers do not have this opportunity, but I want to encourage you that if Paternity Leave is available for you then take it!
Paternity Leave seems to be this weird anomaly to people that they are not quite sure what to make of it. When you tell someone you are taking Paternity Leave (especially 6 weeks) you get some funny looks and many odd or even rude statements at times. So if you are a father contemplating taking Paternity leave be prepared for these questions or statements…
“Enjoy your vacation“-Which is quite hilarious and ridiculous!
“So, you’re taking time off when the baby comes (asked confusedly)? So, are you planning on using that time to study for work?”– While I have had to use some of my time to prepare documents and get ready for my DCOM interview this Thursday this is a minority of where my time is spent.
“Why do you need to take time off?”- This question can be upsetting, but I also realize it tends to come many times from the viewpoint of someone who saw the Father’s role as the person who “goes to work” and the Mother’s role was to keep the house clean and take care of the children …this is not my or many people’s reality today.
Those are just a few of the questions that you will be asked if you choose to take Paternity Leave, but maybe you are wondering what does a dad do on Paternity Leave? In my first couple of weeks of leave, this is what I have been doing…
1. Changing diapers…lots of them
Dads your wife for most of the day is going to have a newborn latched to them if they are breastfeeding, so you can get up and change the diapers. Don’t give me this nonsense about not being able to do it right or you can’t stand the smell. If your stereo system or your car was broken you would figure out how to fix it, so take the time to figure out how to change a diaper. If you are saying it is the smell that keeps you from doing it go get some of those nose plugs swimmers use and get in there and change it. I share a public restroom with you all and you can definitely handle disgusting smells.
2. Cook the meals
I am not some kind of chef or cooking genius, but I have been the primary person to either cook the meals or go pick something up to eat. Your wife’s body is recovering from a major event you can cook some meals. Use google and find some easy meals to make you don’t have to be Bobby Flay.
3. Keep my 3 1/2-year-old occupied
Wow is it different having two kids instead of one! A 3 1/2-year-old will keep you on your toes on a regular day, let alone when you just brought home a newborn. Our daughter loves to help and she has been very sweet to her new brother but she still requires a lot of attention and help and as a father I can help out in this way.
Fellas, whether you have a dishwasher or not you can step up to the plate in this way. It is not rocket science to load the dishwasher, put in the soap, close the door, and start the machine. If you can figure out the TV remote you can figure out the dishwasher. Oh…and when they are done put them away.
While your newborn will be going through diapers like Joey Chestnutt goes through hotdogs at the hotdog eating contest your dirty clothes will still be piling up. Put a load in the washer, then the dryer, and then put them away. I will fully admit I am not the greatest about putting them away, but hey at least they are clean and in a basket.
6. Yard Work
Probably a lot of you do this already, but if not this could be a big help to your spouse. I was pretty proud of myself yesterday because I just finished mowing before the rain came pouring down…yes I did have to jog with the mower the last 5 minutes but it got finished. Mowing Win!
7. Get up
Sleep is a precious treasure when you have a newborn so you can help your spouse out when your newborn wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night. I can’t breastfeed my child, but I can get up and change him. This usually gives my spouse the time needed to do the things she needs to do and is much appreciated. I hear many guys use the excuse, “I am just too sound of a sleeper so I just can’t wake up.” Stop…just stop it. I am a sound sleeper as well, but even if I don’t wake up initially when my child wakes up and my wife taps me then I get up. I do not stay up the whole time she breastfeeds, but I do wake up and ask what I can do to help, I do it, then I lay back down.
8. Take the baby
Last, but certainly not least is take the baby and let your spouse have a break. My wife does the majority of holding our son, but I know she greatly appreciates it when I can take him so she can have a minute to herself. Guys, use this time you have to bond with your child. I like to get things accomplished so the above-mentioned things are easier for me to do than this last one, but this one is incredibly important. It is ok to just sit and hold your child and look at that beautiful face.
So, what does a Father do on Paternity leave? Alot! So, if you can take leave do it! It is important for your whole family!