Why Daddies Need Paternity Leave
I’ve been obnoxiously bragging (sorry/not sorry) about the fact that Hubs had the incredible benefit of paternity leave for this round of baby. His company graciously started providing six weeks about a year ago and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when we found out.
Now that we’ve shared our time home with sweet LM3, I’m still thinking about just how lucky we were to experience the first few weeks of her life together with our whole family.
I experienced really bad postpartum depression with LM1. It lasted for months. It took a long time for me to rebound. I didn’t feel like myself, I was despondent, I didn’t want to do the things I normally liked to do. Everything felt incredibly difficult, and I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps. In retrospect, I feel I missed much of my precious time with the baby. I complained a lot and didn’t focus on the sweet stuff. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and just sort of wading through my feelings for months.
I didn’t enjoy being a first-time mom like I could have, and I wish I could have that time back.
With LM2, things were definitely different and much better. I rebounded faster. I felt like I could pull myself out of it, and I did. Hubs helped tremendously, offering support and encouragement that was a lifeline like no other. We talked through a lot more and found ways to tackle the stressors of a new baby together.
We built a routine and a new norm for our life, and then, POOF! I was myself again– though stronger and more confident than ever. Being a mom felt more like that special heart-warming thing everyone else had been talking about.
Welcoming baby 3 felt a little overwhelming as we approached our due date. I was so excited to meet our baby, so happy to add to our family, but I was terrified to become the mom I had been with LM1. I didn’t want to miss out on little smiles and giggles because I was crying over things I couldn’t understand I was crying over. I’m hard on myself! I wanted everything to go differently for LM3.
LM3 was born and with Hubs at my side, I experienced a world of difference. Night nursing and restless days do not feel terrible at all. We are tired and depleted some of the time, but this round of baby experiences feels so different. I attribute some of that to our knowledge and experience with the other babies. But at the same time, I feel very firmly that having Hubs home with us for six whole weeks has been like some kind of magic elixir.
Hubs has not only learned the routine at home; he has helped to establish it. He knows and anticipates the needs in our home because he helped to experience everything from a new beginning. We have been such a team. We have worked together to give one another rest. We have both witnessed LM1 and LM2 display new behaviors and test the waters with a new baby sister in the house. I have not had to tackle a zillion things completely on my own, but have had a supportive foundation and a shoulder to lean on, 24/7.
It’s the most incredible gift we’ve ever received. The gift of time. I can’t help but wish everyone else had this, too. I know men who saw their wives have a baby on a Friday and then returned to work on Monday. That seems so incredibly stressful and counter-productive in a time when babies need as many loving arms as possible.
Having a new baby, outside of being exhausting, is incredibly isolating. It’s hours on end of tending to baby: changing, feeding, clothing, bathing, burping, rocking, swaying, bouncing, napping. It is an endless cycle for months in which 100% of your attention goes to this perfect little being who needs you.
To embrace this newborn in a 50-50 shared experience with the human who helped to create this baby was incredible.
In this country, maternity leave is not always provided as a job benefit, and although FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, I don’t know enough people who can survive on 12 full weeks of unpaid leave to make this law feel exceptionally beneficial. Further, paternity leave is not very common, and if it is, I haven’t often heard of companies offering more than one week’s time. I’m sure there are all kinds of things happening out there: I’m only speaking to my own experience, and I haven’t heard much bubbling for the hubbies out there.
For me, Hubs’ leave time gave me more than just a set of hands to hold our baby when I had to pee. We were given the opportunity to get to know our child together. We learned to operate as more of a team than ever before because it was truly two of us on deck all the time, 24-7 for multiple weeks on end. He has seen and felt the good, the bad, and the ugly of our newborn experience. He understands certain things because he saw so much more. Since we are nursing, he also got to sneak in extra bonding time he usually misses out on because I am the primary feeder/burper/rocker.
Hubs’ leave time also let me spend time with the man I love. I got to see him rear our kiddos for extended hours, well beyond the dinnertime to bedtime exposure he normally gets.
Perhaps these seem like flowery benefits, but I’ll tell you what: these feel to me like the inner-workings of a family productively operating and functioning together. Spending time together and having Hubs walk in my shoes for a bit makes me feel stronger, makes our family feel stronger, and that makes our marriage feel stronger.
I can’t help but wonder when our nation will step it up and offer the kinds of benefits people actually need– the kinds that really benefit them. I think women could use more paid time and their spouses could use the same. There seems to be something to the gift of time and the good vibes that come out of it.
But who knows if or when things will change.
There’s plenty of changes to come in our little family as LM3 grows and as the boys adjust to their school year. To quote Sheryl Crow, “Every day is a winding road,” and I’m grateful for that. It keeps things exciting. But it sure does help to have been handed a roadmap this time around.
#crushinit #paternityleaverocks #sixweekolds #newbornlife #lifewiththreebabes #partyof5
This content was originally published here.