My Daydream on Paternity Leave

I spoke to a great friend from high school on the phone today.  She had just given birth to a baby girl last weekend and was texting me some common questions I get now that people know I’m a postpartum doula.  This was her second child and we were going through the typical convo.  I asked her how her older daughter was adjusting to the baby and how was she feeling now that she had two kids.

She mentioned that the older one was in love with her new baby sister and that it was hard to get much done while taking care of the baby and the toddler.  I asked her what she was doing for help and as I saw those three little dots appear on my phone showing me that she was typing – I started crafting my next text to her about how important it is for her to have help.

When my second child was born I was very ambitious when it came to getting out of the house and doing these.  It was summer time and I didn’t want my older child to suffer so I took both kids everywhere.  I had taken the kids to a local lake by my parent’s house because I knew my mom, my sister, my best friends and her two sisters would be there.  I literally had a Calvary of people around me to help me adjust to this extremely overwhelming time.  It actually made me nervous seeing how much help I needed to take care of these two little lives and I started to think, I must be failing. 

“Why do I need all this help?” I asked my friend’s sister whose kids were all grown up now. 

“Because at this stage, with two kids, you need as many hands as you can get” she answered.  It made me feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one completely overwhelmed by my children.

So know when woman call me and tell me they’re preparing for their second child, I make sure to tell them that they need LOTS of help.  Even more help than you needed the first time.  This is sometimes a shock to woman as they think it might be a little easier now that they know what they’re doing.  Which is true with some things, but what I found with the second was that I wasn’t worried about the new baby as much, I was worried about my older one, the one running around, the one who just had the rug pulled out from under his feet.

So, I thought of all of this as I waited for her reply.  I wanted to make sure she knew it was ok to ask for help.  But what she said when she finally responded completely knocked me off my feet.  She wrote something back like “its cool, my husbands here.  He has three months paid paternity leave and could even take three more months if he wanted at 70% of his salary.”  I was totally floored.

I began to picture what that would look like.  In my life, my older son ADDORS my husband, there is no one he would rather be with than daddy.  My husband is truly my other half and he and I split all the duties that have to do with the kids.  Not to mention he loves to cook, is great at cleaning, knows where everything is in our house and lives and breaths our routine (he’s quite a catch if I do say so myself). 

This is how it is with most families these days.  There are true partnerships within most households because so many households are dual income and each parent needs to be fully involved so that they call all stay afloat. 

If my husband would have been able to take three months off – and was encouraged to do so, things would have been MUCH different.  I wouldn’t have needed the Calvary at the lake that day.  I just needed him.  It would have also helped my older son immensely because he wouldn’t have had just half a mom who was always pinned to the couch by a milk sucking newborn.  His adjustment and my adjustment and our adjustment as a family would have been completely different.

Instead what actually happen, and usually does when a woman stays home alone on maternity leave (especially with her second), I fell into the role of the Stay At Home Mother and the partnership I had formed with my husband began to change – a lot.

As I finished the conversation with my friend I began to think, it doesn’t HAVE to take a village.  It could just take two people who know how to run their family and agree on what they want to do together, without having to run back to work a week after the baby is born.

Jen Mayer