As I enter the fifth month of my paternity leave, I wanted to answer a question that is pretty common when I tell people I chose to stay home with our baby boy.
The question, Why did you want to take paternity leave in the first place?
When I am asked this question, it always has this amazed and surprised tone to it. As if I was tricked into staying home with the baby.
Did I lose a bet? Did I draw the short straw? Or did my wife just really want to get the hell out of the house and back to work?
None of these were true.
The reason why I wanted to take paternity leave was simple. I really wanted to experience it and spend the added time with my son.
For our first son, almost four years ago, everything was truly new to us. We were learning how to be parents and trying not to mess up our kid.
So it was no surprise that my wife (mom) was the lead on the project known as don’t break the baby, year 1.
She stayed home for the full year, which is the standard in Canada.
She put her career on hold to feed, change diapers and try to find 10 minutes to sleep.
I went to work every day while she experienced all the firsts. I would hear about them of course, but it was for the most part, always second-hand. That happens. I understood. But I would go to work and then come home without truly understanding why my wife was 3:10 to Yuma and ready to run for the hills.
As soon as I got in the door, I was handed the baby and told it was my turn.
What could possibly be so bad that you want to drop the baby and run when it was only 6pm in the evening.
Sick as it may sound, I wanted to know that feeling.
It was during the first child that I told my wife that if we ever have a second, I wanted in on the available leave. Now, it did not take a lot of convincing so I was lucky. She said, sure thing and we decided on a 50/50 split.
All that was to happen was a second kid.
In our circle of friends, a few of the dads took the time home with their kids and I was jealous. It was something totally new to many.
The dad staying home? Does that really happen by choice?
Once our second child was born last year, we revisited the idea. I mean it is easy to say you want to share when you don’t really have to yet right?
My wife was still on board for sharing the parental leave. I would take the last 6 months and stay home with Charlie.
A follow-up question is usually about my wife really wanting to give up the time and go back to work. From what I hear, a lot of woman don’t want to give up any of the time. Which there is nothing wrong with.
I am thankful my wife wanted to share. She has a career path that she wants to stay on and going back to work was important to her.
Besides, as she will say, she did the 12 months once, there was no reason to do it again. That is a long time to not talk to adults.
For the time leading up to my paternity leave, I was pretty excited.
Not for leaving work and not for getting to stay home every day.
I was excited to spend the dedicated time with our son. To get dirty in the trenches and truly experience what a stay-at-home parent feels and lives.
Is it as hard as they all say? Well I can’t comment on their situation. For me, it has never been hard. I mean digging ditches is hard.
Paternity leave is tiring. It is mentally and physically demanding because it reality, the baby is the boss. You can say you are, but it is not true.
Paternity leave is what you make it to be. If you make it fun and enjoyable, you wake up every day for more.
If you complain and moan about everything, you probably won’t enjoy it and that will only get passed on to your baby.
I think if the opportunity comes and can be logistically done, I think more dads should try it out.
You will have new-found respect for your wife. You will truly know what it is like to run the house and raise a kid. You will be a better parent.
I can say I have found all three of those things to be true.
Yes, I chose to take paternity leave. I wanted to do it. I can’t be more happy with the decision.
And…….I still have a smile on my face after 5 months.