Andrew is a new father living in the United States who is sharing his experiences during his 3-month parental leave.
I’m a first-time Canadian dad living in the United States. My wife and I recently moved from sunny California to snowy Massachusetts in pursuit of a life closer to family, and with a more affordable cost of living.
I’m fortunate enough to work for an American company that has a very progressive policy regarding paternity leave. My company is based in Silicon Valley, where many companies are leading the charge in America around more comprehensive and generous leave for new parents.
My wife and I both received three months parental leave, fully paid. Our plan was to spend the first month after our son was born together. Then, I would return to work while my wife cared for the baby on her own, and when her leave was used up, I would go back on leave for the remainder of my time. This would give us half a year of at least one of us being home with him full time. It sounded good on paper, and we communicated this plan to our respective employers.
Plan vs. Reality
In reality, we ended up facing a lot more challenges leading up to the birth than we anticipated. Before our move to Massachusetts, my wife had an issue with her placenta that caused a nerve-wracking trip to the emergency room. Everyone was fine in the end, but my wife was placed on bed rest and our travel plans were delayed by a month, which added a huge amount of complexity to our lives. When we finally made the move, we had the added stress of living in a new state, unpacking everything in the new house, all while my wife was very, very pregnant.
When our son Owen was born, the labour lasted almost two full days. My wife’s recovery was physically draining, and in the first few weeks our son wasn’t a great sleeper, which only compounded our exhaustion. By the end of the first month of leave, when I was supposed to return to work, we were both completely running on empty.
To our credit, we tried to stick to the plan. I returned to work as expected, while my wife cared for Owen. We lasted about three weeks. It just wasn’t working for us.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t really prepared for this scenario with my team. I’m a product manager, so my job is to define our team’s roadmap, ultimately informing what everyone works on. In my optimism, I had every intention of being back to work within a month, so while I had a good high level plan, we had some new features coming up that I hadn’t fully defined yet.
I was very anxious about this, because when we decided that I was going to go back on leave, I knew that my team was going to feel at least some pain in my absence. When it came time to announce my leave, I was dreading the meeting, and what the reaction of my coworkers would be.
My Coworkers Are Nice People
Unsurprisingly, everyone was completely supportive and understanding. What I realized is that, despite my worries, everyone saw the situation in very simple terms: their coworker needed to be there for his family. It’s exactly how I would react if I was faced with similar news.
And so, I’m now taking the rest of my paternity leave together with my wife. I have a clear conscience and have been enjoying every minute of it. It feels good to be at peace with my choices, having realized that much of what I was afraid of at work was a figment of my imagination.
I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences on this blog!
Editor’s Note: The United States does not have any federal laws for maternity, paternity or parental leave. However: