The moment I found out I was going to be a new dad, I wasn’t thinking about the time I was going to take to spend with my new family. I was focused on just about everything but that. You name the list of things to do before becoming a new parent, we were going through it: nursery, appointments, classes, in my case learning how to change a diaper, and the sheer emotion that comes when you are about to welcome a new baby into this world.
Not Much Time To Think About It
I more attune to the changes and what my wife was going through rather than seeing what my options were when it came to taking paternity leave. We were young and strapped for cash, but we knew that we were wanting to provide for our child in the best way that we could, which meant that I was considering going back to work after 3 days.
What I didn’t realize was that I was working for a company that was thinking ahead and offered new dads 2 weeks of paid paternity leave. Having heard how important it is to take that time, whether it is paid or unpaid, I took it. Working in broadcast news, our baby was due right smack dab in the middle of November. For those not familiar, that is a sweeps period in which TV stations try to grab as many viewers as they can so they can boost their ratings, and in turn ask for more when it comes to selling ad spots on their channel.
I felt guilty: like many dads who take paternity leave, even if it isn’t during a busy time of the year. My boss though told me to utilize it. He was a dad and remembered how important it was for him to have that time with his new family. I took it and ran without thinking at that point.
I Was Lucky To Have Paternity Leave
With an understanding of how important it was for me to have that time, I was armed and ready to find out my options when we found out we were about to have our second child. I walked into HR with the expectation that this family-centered company would have some sort of paternity (even a maternity leave) policy.
“If you want to take two weeks, you will have to use your vacations days that you have built up over the last two years.”
Rewind… wait what?
I was going to have to take the days that I have been building up, and essentially already using during this time to spend afternoons with my wife at the doctor’s office. I sat there in shock, I didn’t try and argue the policy. But I told HR and my boss that I was going to take two weeks because it was vital for me to spend the time with my new family.
I look back on the two weeks of paternity leave that I took with both of my kids without regret. Whether it hurt me in my professional career, the time that I was able to spend with my wife and the new baby was a time that I was not going to be able to get back, even if my boss was going to think less of me for choosing family over career.
“I’ll spend time with them later.”
The unfortunate reality is that the mindset of many new dads is that they chose career over their new family and sometimes choose to go back to work after 3 days when their wife comes home from the hospital without taking paternity leave. Whether it comes out of necessity or choice, they are losing out on precious bonding time with their new baby and their wife. Many have a mindset that they will spend time with their kid when they are older or when they retire. What they forget is that they are losing out on the moments of their new baby’s life that will help make those moments spent with their kids later on in their life that much more special.
Having been both part of (and not) the 15% of companies that offer a paid paternity leave policy the importance of those two weeks that I took, shaped who I am as a father today. It shaped me into the dad who is coaching in the dugout, while holding a 2-year-old back from going onto the field to be just like his big brother, the dad who even after a long day of work will play a game of driveway basketball with all of the neighbor kids, and the husband who is there to talk to support my wife after a bad day at work.
Whether you take 2 weeks or 2 months, the important thing is that you are spending time with your new family. You are going to look back and see that your kids grow up so fast and that you won’t want to miss a minute of it all.
I am excited to be part of the Dove Men+Care Paternity Leave Campaign (full disclosure: I am not being paid to say this either). If you haven’t already done so, be sure to sign the Dove Men+Care Paternity Leave Pledge.