I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to take some extended time to meet and get to know my brand new baby girl and so I thought I’d write a little a bit about how amazing this was for me and how I hope in the future this becomes a much more common option for men.

I’m well aware that paid paternity leave doesn’t exist for a lot of men and a lot of jobs.  I’m extremely thankful to my current organization for providing this option for me and allowing me to take advantage of it even with some legal changes soon to take effect that will force our organization to change some of its policies, including this one.  I’m also very grateful to my coworkers in my office for supporting me when I was gone, allowing me to relax and focus on my family.

Let me start by saying that this was most definitely not a vacation.  For most of it I was quite sleep deprived and fighting feelings of grumpiness towards my son who enjoys waking up before 6am, being loud and wanting to play…all things that are quite normal toddler behavior, but aren’t necessarily conducive to other people in the house getting sleep, especially when considering that there are others in the house who were up every 2-3 hours during the night feeding and caring for the baby.  However, my son and I had lots of fun and learned to manage our grumpiness toward each other and help keep the others asleep.  We had lots of fun together and I was able to give him a lot of one-on-one attention that I’m usually only able to give on weekends and the hours before and after work.

I also was able to spend good chunks of time marveling at, holding and changing diapers for my new little girl.  I can’t tell you how important each of those things are to bonding with her.  If I hadn’t been home with her these first couple of weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to take those midday naps while holding her, the two of us sleeping and cuddling…I wouldn’t have been there to experience firsthand the ups and downs of worrying about getting your child back to their birth weight and worrying about jaundice, and I wouldn’t have been able to see my amazing toddler absolutely embrace and love becoming a big brother.  If I hadn’t had the opportunity to take paternity leave, I would have received all of this secondhand, in small doses, and with my thoughts split between trying to be fully present with my family and unwinding from the stress of the busy season at work as well.

I also would have missed out on witnessing my warrior wife continue to amaze me with her strength and perseverance.  New moms are completely wiped out after the birth process and get absolutely no time to rest as they have to constantly feed and worry about feeding, take care of themselves, and take care of this brand new little one while also still trying to be a good mom to their other children.  My wife worked really hard to give our daughter what she needs and still make time to cuddle, read and play with our son.  She is a terrific mom and continues to impress me with her endurance and resolve.

While it would seem like with two adults and two kids we would be evenly matched in reality that’s just not the case.  Thankfully my wife’s mom has been with us as well and has been a tremendous help, especially taking care of my wife and helping with the feeding and medicine schedules.  We are so grateful to her for coming and taking care of us and helping to take care of the kids while we all adjust to this new crazy life.

My paternity leave has been such a blessing and given me time with my daughter and family that I truly needed.  I’m so grateful that I was able to give everything to my family these last couple weeks and will cherish the time that I had.  I encourage every soon to be dad to look into their options and ask or request time off for paternity leave.  There is something special that happens in those first couple of weeks of adding a family member that you just cannot get back and don’t want to miss.  I sincerely hope our country’s businesses, organizations, government and health systems find a way to prioritize a standard paid policy for all fathers to spend time with their kids away from work at birth, because it has meant so much to me and I feel strongly that every dad should get the chance to experience it.

This is fatherhood…