“Don’t think of yourself as Mr. Mom; you’re not.”

One dad’s story of transitioning back to work after taking leave.

 

Back to work transitions can be tough for dads, too. For Peter Slutsky, a business development executive for a technology company, heading back to work after taking time off to care for his newborn daughter Zoey was more complicated than he expected.

“It was so hard,” Peter said, describing the end of his paternity leave and Zoey’s transition to daycare. “The first day I took her, I went and sat at a coffee shop three doors down from the daycare, just so I could be close by. I felt so worried and anxious having her there by herself.”

Those ambivalent feelings continued, even after Peter returned to work full time. “It was nice to have my time back, but it took a while to feel okay about the fact that I was separated, and to get back into the mode of being a professional me during the day, and this new role as a parent during these other times.”

Peter works at a technology company with a very family friendly, flexible, leave policy. But even liberal leave policies are not always enough for new dads, many of whom are reluctant to take time off from competitive jobs, either for fear of retribution or a lack of confidence about stepping in as the primary caregiver. Before Zoey was born, Peter spoke to two men in his company who had taken paternity leave and both encouraged him to take advantage of what the company offered. But not everyone took that route.

“In the last couple months, two other colleagues had babies and went right back to work after a week or two. I felt this kind of guilt about [taking leave],” Peter said. “Having a baby is a really good time to ask yourself important questions and rethink your priorities. You want to feel like you can do it all, but the truth is that you have to work in an environment that values that same thing you do.”

And the confidence he’s gained from being Zoey’s primary caretaker in those early weeks has stayed with him as she has gotten older. Peter encourages other men, both peers and coworkers, to take leave and stresses that it does not negate masculinity or imply a lack of workplace dedication.

“Don’t think of yourself as Mr. Mom. you’re not,” said Peter. “You’re a father and playing a really crucial role in the baby’s life. It’s so important to be able to see it in person.”

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