Canadian Michael Cusden fought guilt and worry at the onset of his six-month parental leave.
Editor’s note: The United States is the only developed country that offers no paid parental leave. Men are less likely to use it anyway. Here’s one dad’s take.
As a dad currently on parental leave from my job in marketing, I have become very aware of the topic of dads staying home, while moms are going out and becoming the primary bread-winners. I am also becoming very aware of how the dads who do take leave from work are being treated in the business world.
The bottom line is, there is still a long way to go to even come close to how it is an accepted norm for moms.
Companies of all sizes need to better accept and welcome dads who want to do paternity leave. It is as simple as that.
I hear tales from other dads and read articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal – Why Dads Don’t Take Paternity Leave.
Companies are certainly starting to do more, but it almost feels like they are doing it to meet some HR requirement and to make themselves feel good.
Men still don’t feel like it is okay to take advantage of these offerings because they feel it will dramatically hurt their career and they will be seen as less of a man or coworker.
I have now experienced the process once and I will say there was a lot of guilt and worry in the beginning. I do feel fortunate for two things however. I live in Canada, where we are lucky enough to be able to take several months of leave at 55% of the current salary and having a job to go back to no questions asked.
My fellow dads in the USA, are stuck with a few weeks in most cases.
Secondly, I work for a company that really tries to appreciate family which made the process fairly stress free.
So what were my worries in the beginning?
Well, first, just like the article mentioned, would it hurt my standing at the company? I am part of the management team and if I vanish for six months, would I get bumped, passed over or forgotten? After thinking about this, I realized what is going to happen, will happen. If I am valued and am good at my job, everything will work out how it should.
I felt guilty because the company is small and each person took care of a lot. So it was like I was leaving at a time that they needed me the most with big things on the horizon.
I had to just take a step back to keep reminding myself why I was doing parental leave in the first place. My company would understand right?
First, because I wanted the chance to spend some serious time with my son that I did not get to with our first son.
Second, the way our family dynamic is set up, my wife makes more money than I. So financially, it made more sense for her to go back to work. I am not even sure how we would have done it if I was supporting us the whole first year.
After reminding myself of those two things, I stopped caring how I would be seen at work and by those in the industry. I was doing it for my family and that was all that really mattered
I even heard some very kind words from those higher up than me, saying how they were impressed and even jealous that I was doing it. Now, if only those comments were more of the norm and more public. Maybe them other dads would not feel the fear, guilt and stress of simply wanting to spend time with their baby.
Men should be allowed to feel proud they are doing it for their family and they want to become a more involved parent.
They should not have to worry for their job or their career. A child’s early years only happen once. A job is important, but compared to family, it is just a job.
When I made it open at my work that I would be taking paternity leave, it was seen as a positive thing. Sure there were those that were new to the concept. But overall I felt support and little judgement. Not everyone is that lucky I suspect.
I personally know a few friends who have done parental leave and I have yet to hear a bad story about how it hurt their jobs.
Looking at this topic from the parenting side of the fence now that I am two months in, I have to say, it is the best choice I could have made.
My job will still be there. Other jobs will still be there. With my skills, I will always find work somewhere.
But I doubt I will ever get the chance to spend over 30 weeks with my wonderful little boy like I am now.
We are joined at the hip. My wife is currently feeling the pain of not getting to spend enough time with our son. That was me the first time around. I get it. It sucks. You come home tired, your baby is tired and you have little quality time before they go to bed. Everything feels so rushed.
While, being home all day, you get to see them at their best. You get to see their smiling face after a nap. You get to see them do a lot of firsts. You get to become a much better parent because you are the only one there to take care of business.
Dads, you are missing out. Stop worrying about what your office thinks. Throw caution to the wind and take as much time with your baby as you can. Those moments are not going to happen again.
Now I will say I am not totally off the work grid. I still read emails, keep up to date with work and what is going on at the company. I have also made myself available if needed for something that needs my particular skills.
Many men who take leave wind up having to work from home. Emails and calls keep rolling in as co-workers and bosses expect new dads to be on call—and dads themselves fear missing out on important projects.
But to be honest, I have only been asked a few times to do something. They are in good hands at work. They respect that I am over here trying to not break a child.
I do feel like I am out of the loop but I am taking that as a positive. I am seeing our company from the outside now, which is giving me a new appreciation of what they do and what I can do when I go back.
I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. I have a job that accepts my choice and I have a wife that was willing to give me a crack at being in the game.
In Canada, it is not automatically just for the mom to stay home, although I know a lot of moms will never give up that year away from work.
But if you are on kid number two or higher, I think it is great to share the challenge. We are both better parents for it and even though they don’t know it yet, I am sure our kids appreciate having two very involved parents.
The example I always come back to is the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron. He took parental leave. So I’m like, that guy runs a country and he felt it was okay to do. I think I can leave work for a few months and still be okay.
So far, I have been 100% right.
—first appeared on Like a Dad