Last month I wrote a guest post on Canadian Dad. I received a bunch of positive response from this post and I’m really glad I was able to highlight what’s it like to be on leave. Below is the original version of my post.
“So you’re going to be off for five month eh? You’ll have plenty of time to catch up on Netflix!”
“Five months? You’re going to be playing so much COD (Call of Duty)!”
“That’s a long time, won’t you get bored?”
Before going on my parental leave, that was the typical response I received when I told family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers that I was taking close to half a year off for the birth of our daughter.
I began to think that being a dad for the first time was going to be a sweet vacation. I mean, I won’t have to be with the baby all the time, right?
I can binge watch a little, work on that photography project that I wanted to do for years, or play videogames like I did when I was a teenager.
This is going to be an awesome, awesome vacation!
Then on Christmas night- as cliché as it can be – our 7lbs 14oz bundle of joy arrived.
And in an instant, all of those silly thoughts disappeared.
I’m sure many of you parents can agree: the first month is a write-off. Your mind, body, and soul belongs to your new little blob. You can also agree that, though the first month is difficult for dad, it is 100 times more difficult for the new mom.
For my wife and I, we made use of the fact that I was going to be off for five months by ensuring that I would be as involved as possible.
We made sure that I was earning every single moment of this vacation.
The truth is, though my job and Employment Insurance (Go Canada!) allowed me to take more time than most others, we are still taking a hit financially to make it work. Not all families have this option, and I can understand the raised eyebrows when people learn how much time I’m taking off.
Of course, there are those who go a little further and undermine the decision that I’ve made, as they are perhaps even little jealous of my situation. Through their eyes, they see me as some lucky dude who has the luxury of taking five months off as a vacation.
They don’t understand that when you’re off on parental leave, it’s not a vacation and that you also become more involved and accountable for your growing family unit. They don’t see the side where you are immediately available to take your wife and baby to the Emergency Room; or where you are able to call an ambulance in the middle of the night without having to tell your boss you won’t be in; or where you don’t have to ask a co-worker to cover for you after speaking to a tele-health nurse about your daughter’s fever.
They don’t see those things, and I suppose it may be my fault for only showing the good side. To them they only see the fruits of the work I put in – you know, those silly photos, status updates that I post on social media. The thing is this was not me bragging about my situation, this was just me relishing the hard earned vacation I was having.
I love (and am loving) every minute of it. If we have another kid and if it were financially feasible, I will no doubt choose to take the same or more time off.
You see, there’s also an added benefit to being there from the get-go: I am damn confident in my dad abilities.
She needs a changing after front and back poop… in the dark? Boom. Done.
She’s wearing button-on shirt today, with jeans and socks? Boom. Done.
She won’t burp? Burp. Done.
Mom needs to go out all day to help a friend? Done, and I’ll have dinner ready by six.
There’s no better feeling than to feel confident and competent as a father and husband. I sincerely feel that had I taken only a few weeks off, I don’t think I would feel the way that I feel right now.
Every day I am rewarded with something new from my daughter. Whether it was her first smile, first laugh, or most recently her first babbling conversation: I’m here to witness it.
And there’s no better thing in the world, and it was simply the best decision I ever made.
Now with two months left to go on my parental leave, it truly does feel like a vacation. Instead of binge-watching Netflix, I binge-watch my daughter figuring out the world. Instead of playing videogames at night, I play how do we get her to sleep through the night.
I truly do not want it to end, as it really has become an awesome, awesome vacation.