It's Working Project

“Most of my peers in their mid-30's that I speak to WANT to take on a larger role at home in terms of child rearing.”

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former, pre-child(ren) self?

Don’t try and get 20 things done every day.  Pick the few free time activities that you enjoy the most, and spend your time doing those.  Constantly ask yourself, “What makes me happy?”  The answer to that is how you should be spending your time.

How long did you take for paternity leave before heading back to work? How close was your back-to-work plan with the back-to-work reality?

I was at a previous job.  I didn’t get any paternity so my wife and I made a plan for me to accumulate as many vacation and sick days as I possibly could.  My son was born on a Wednesday and I took Thursday, Friday and the following Monday off.  Then, once my wife was back at work after maternity leave, I took four or five more days when he was roughly four months old, which was nice because we really hadn’t had much mama-free time those first few months.

What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby?

I was fortunate in that my previous position was largely a 9 to 5 job, and I wasn’t ever responsible (with very rare exceptions) for being on call at night or on weekends.  Certainly my direct supervisor was very understanding — he has three (grown) children himself and was accommodating for the doctors’ appointments and other unexpected time commitments that inevitably arose.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work?

My wife.  She knew it was tough for me to be away from them all day, and she made a point to send me fun photos and give me updates throughout the day on how they were doing.  That made it much easier for me to feel connected to them, even if I wasn’t able to be present during the days as much as I would have wanted.

What was your biggest back-to-work, post-baby challenge?

Not being there.  I would have been very content if my previous company had given 2, 4, 8, 12 weeks paid paternity leave, to stay at home and just be there for my wife and son when he was so little.  It does seem to me quite generational — most of my peers in their mid-30’s that I speak to WANT to take on a larger role at home in terms of child rearing.  It is a much more delicate balance if you try to share the child care role with your partner, as opposed to saying, “I’ll focus on my career, you focus on the baby.”  You can do it, and for me that’s the only possible way I’d ever want it, but I recognize that it will take more work and more give and take with your partner than the alternative.

As a working parent…

I never expected balancing the two roles would be so hard and giving up many of the personal interests I never thought I could live without (but had to in the interest of living a more balanced life) would be so much easier!