I am lucky to live in a state with decent paternity leave. It is so important to get that time to integrate this new member into the family and just figure out how to do basic stuff together. People who claim that it is just a vacation have no idea the amount of work that goes into taking care of a new human plus trying to keep up with everything else you have going on in your life.
This is my second time around so taking care of a new born and a toddler. The second kid is strange because it feels easier but is a lot more work. The first time around was this huge shift of getting used to parenthood and having much less free time. Parenthood also comes with a slew of soft skills that you need to learn how to do which we were confident in our ability to do that with our second.
Parental leave has a very specific value that I don’t think is well enough recognized. Having a new person to bring home is a big change to your basic routine. To state this even more plainly having a child is a foundational change to your basic daily routines. This means that suddenly everything is harder, basic stuff that you do everyday feels like a much bigger lift try and work in with the care of this new person. This time is essential to allow for a transitory period where you can experiment with doing family outing with your +1 (or however many you have if you had more, God rest your soul).
The transitory period allows you time to get out of survival mode and be able to operate at full capacity with your new family unit. This reduces the stress levels significantly allowing for a fully functional family unit much sooner. Giving this time for parents to gain an understanding of what life is going to look like and prepare for the transition back to work has so much value for everyone. This is something that everybody should have access to and should become federal policy across the whole US.
It is key that both members of the relationship pull weight during this period. With our first baby I handled diaper duty pretty much the whole time I was on leave since my wife had to feed and was recovering from birth. For our second I have been the main one on toddler duty which is a tough job honestly. But I know reflecting back this time will be one of my favorite times of my life. We are utterly exhausted by the end of the day but are feeling a better everyday and I just feel thankful to have all of this time with my wife, daughter and son.
I believe that these little tasks that we do for our kids really help to form that bond that is so precious. Being there for your significant other while they recover from birth or you can just tell they need a break is also just a good feeling. The exhaustion wont last forever and one day soon you will be back at work with less time to just hangout with your kids than you had before, so enjoy it to the best of your ability.
Let me know how valuable parental leave was for your kids (or how valuable it would have been). Follow my blog for an email when a new post goes live!