Welcome to the first in a series of blogs written by fathers on parental leave. They’ve agreed to share their hopes, fears, successes and struggles with us. The goal? To inspire other dads to take up the parental leave challenge. 

Meet Kokes, a new father living in Poland. He took two weeks of paternity leave in November 2018 and decided to take another eight weeks of parental leave from December to February.

This is his story.

Parental Leave Adventures in Poland

Hi! My name is Kokes! I am 34 and I am a senior defence analyst working in Poland for an international company. It’s been almost 10 months since my baby boy, Roch, was born. Given that he is my first child, I must admit it’s been tough time. But, at the same time, it’s been possibly the most gratifying time ever.

I was petrified when my mother-in-law and I went to pick up my wife and the baby from the hospital. No, sorry, I was paralysed with fear. Although I participated in childbirth classes beforehand, on that particular day I realised I didn’t know anything. What am I going to do when the baby starts crying? How do you actually change a diaper on a human being?

I must admit, although selfish as it sounds, I was happy that my wife spent almost a week with our son in the hospital (according to hospital rules, I could only visit them twice a day). So when she was discharged from the hospital she had some sort of idea what to do when these things happen. Realisation that she can step in anytime was quite comforting.

I always thought I didn't like kids. But when my son was born I realised it was nothing to do with liking or not liking them. Kids made me uncomfortable: in their clumsiness, in me not knowing what to do, what to say, how to care or play with them. I decided to change that.Click to Tweet

Before Roch was born I knew I’d take two weeks off to look after my wife and the baby. But I also wanted to spend more time with him to face my fears. It is easy to run away and succumb to one’s negative feelings. My childhood was not the greatest, to say the least, and I wanted to give Roch everything I didn’t receive as a child.

Ultimately, I realised that the most important thing is TIME. Time to get to know him better and appreciate the fact that he, despite his young age, also has preferences.

Creating Time

So when I wanted to do something new with Roch, I’d always ask myself a question: “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Quite often the answer was: “Ok, he might cry, and I think I can address whatever it is he is unhappy about”. I therefore started spending more and more time with him, we went on longer walks, started visiting shops and shopping malls, petrol stations, etc.

Essentially, I tried to take him with me wherever I go (as long as the weather allows). This could be troubling from logistics point of view,  but that was really the only issue. I took great enjoyment in showing him new things, taking him to new places.

My wife tended to ask me: Are you sure you want to do this? My answer was: “Not sure, but I want to try! What’s the worst that can happen?”

Finding a New Rhythm

I also shifted my work pattern. Before Roch’s birth I would typically do 8-4. However, given how tiring looking after an infant is, I decided to try to change it to 4am-12pm. This allowed my wife to sleep in the afternoon. Concurrently, I would spend more time with him “one-on-one”, but with my wife in the next room ready to step in if needed. This was comforting for both of us, as you can imagine.

Luckily for me, my line manager allowed me (thank you!!!) to make this change, which was only meant to be temporary for 2-4 weeks. Nine month later I am still doing 4-12 and I am not thinking of going back. I just appreciate spending a lot of time with Roch too much to let it go.

Also, my wife is the owner of a small business, so me taking over the baby in the afternoons let her get back to work sooner. She already started doing some work after a month since childbirth. After five months she was in full swing, which was great. I was very happy to see her come back to things she enjoys a lot.

So yes, I think I have come long way since late February. I have already been away on paternity leave twice (two times for two weeks) and after Christmas I am going on shared leave for 8 weeks. Again, I now it will be demanding time, especially because i want to be the primary caretaker. Cook, clean, look after the house and still have time for some personal pleasures such as hitting a gym.

More to come!

Editor’s Note: The Polish government offers two types of leave for fathers.

  1. Paternity Leave (urlop ojcowski): A two-week long period of job-protected leave at 100% salary. Fathers can use this leave during the first two years after a child’s birth. They can either take two weeks in one chunk, or divide it into two week-long periods.
  2. Parental Leave (urlop rodzicielski): Mothers in Poland are required to take 20 weeks of maternity leave, and can (but are not required to) take up to 32 weeks of parental leave. The leave is job-protected, paid at 60% of salary, and can be shared equally by both parents. For example, if the mother decides to go back to work after maternity leave, the father could take up to 32 weeks of parental leave. Parents can decide to take less than 32 weeks, but must use the parental leave in 8-week blocks (making possible either 8, 16, 24 or 32-week periods of leave).

You can read full details of Poland’s parental leave policies here.