Paternity Leave is Effing Hard

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Going on a date with Baby Hava in 2011. #ThoseSideburns

As I write this, I’m in the midst of paternity leave after Baby Amzi’s arrival.

Taking time off after you have a baby is critical. I’m so grateful that I can take a full month off, due to the support of my company and my colleagues, combining parental leave and paid time off.

So many companies don’t offer ANY parental leave. I have so many friends, men and women, that had to rush back to work way too early after having a baby. Others have very progressive policies. My friend Julia Beck is leading the way in advocating for companies to do more than meet the bare minimum in dealing with new parents on leave and as they return to work.

I clearly believe more time with your expanding family is better, but understand the realities dads face in the United States. Not all of us are afforded the opportunity to take as much time off as we would like. And I won’t even begin to discuss parental leave in the United States vs. the rest of the world today.

Whether you take a little bit of time or a lot of time, there is one constant truth: paternity leave is effing hard!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s happy and wonderful and incredible, too. But it’s hard.

Let me count the ways:

  1. Sleep. As in, the thing you used to get, but don’t get any more. Even the BEST sleeping babies max out at 3-4 hour stretches of shut-eye.
  2. Stains. You have them on all your clothing. And on your bed. You aren’t sure what caused the stain, who it came out of, or how long it’s been there.
  3. Changing an explosive diaper at 4am…your idea of a good time? Not mine.
  4. The crying. Soon, you will learn the difference between your baby’s cries. There are different types of crying for hunger and tired and those blow-out diapers.
  5. Hosting. Everyone you know wants to visit the baby. This is a blessing! I’m in no way complaining about that. But I will say that preparing for a bris (Jewish circumcision ceremony) in our home eight days after having a baby, was akin to competing on American Ninja Warrior for a week straight. Remember, Momma Bear is devoted to the baby. Basically everything else is on you.
  6. Other Kids. Keeping our two older kids on somewhat of a normal schedule (eating, sleeping, daycare, bathing) when you haven’t slept, are covered in stains, etc., is a massive challenge. And if they have a school presentation or project? Heaven help you…
  7. Hunter and Gatherer. You, Big Poppa (and other non-birthing parent), are the one responsible for just about everything outside of the newborn. With our daughter, I spent most of my paternity leave running between the grocery store, Home Depot, and Target. Thankfully, advances in online shopping and delivery have reduced SOME of the back-and-forth, but not all of it. Keep in mind that Momma Bear and Baby Bear just went through perhaps the most physically traumatic natural event of all time. You have to take care of them.
  8. House Work. One of the benefits of being home all day for a period of time is the ability to cross house projects off your master to-do list. This is a perfect time to do these things, as it will definitely make Momma Bear happier when you go back to work, but there is definitely guilt. Every moment you spend away from the baby is not fun. Even if you are doing things to benefit your family.

Paternity leave is not a vacation. It’s work. A LOT of work. It should be work. You had a damn baby!

And you are the right man to handle the challenges. Just make sure you get enough baby snuggles.

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Dad Survival Kit: 3am Baby Feedings

IMG_6347Whether your baby is nursed or bottle-fed, your new addition will need to eat in the middle of the night. Likely more than once.

For breastfed babies, like ours, Dad’s role is a little more defined than babies taking formula.

But no matter how your baby gets his or her sustenance, it’s important to be prepared for what happens when the inevitable 1am, 3am, 5am feedings come.

The following is your Dad Survival Kit on how to handle these feedings:

  1. Just Change the Diaper. I’m calling on Dads to do at least one thing for every middle of the night feeding: change the effing diaper. It’s not fun, but did you push a 6-10 pound human out of your body? No. So let Mamma Bear rest an extra minute while you wipe your child’s rear. Related: For those early weeks, have a makeshift changing table in your bedroom. The baby is likely your third roommate during that time, so putting a table in the corner with a table lamp will make life so much easier.
  2. Load the DVR. When baby is up, at least one parent, and likely both, will be up, too. And you will want something entertaining to watch in the middle of the night. Don’t get too aggressive, though. You may think this is the time to binge-watch Law & Order: SVU reruns. And you would be totally wrong. Remember, this is 3am we’re talking about,man. I recommend short, funny shows that can keep you entertained without requiring too much (read: any) brain power. Our favorites right now include @Midnight, Robot Chicken, and Caribbean Life.
  3. Snack Up. This is where it gets tricky. You are awake in the middle of the night, which means STAYING awake in the middle of the night. Much like an anesthesiologist that tries to give you the minimum amount of medication required for the entire period of performance, you need something to keep you going, without making it difficult to go back to sleep. We keep boxes of cereal on our nightstands to help fuel us for as long as needed. CAUTION: mindless munching makes it hard to get quality sleep afterwards, so limit your intake.
  4. Keep It Short. Become a Navy SEAL of parenting. Wake up, do your job as efficiently as possible, go back to sleep. You are lucky if you can get three straight hours of sleep, so don’t waste a single second of potential sleep by doing anything other than sleep.
  5. Communicate Expectations. There is no one right way to divide your parenting. But there are right ways for you and your partner – and they all center around effective communication. Talk through how you want to handle the middle of the night feedings BEFORE it’s 3am and you resent each other for not reading minds. Just talk it through.

This period of time is not easy at all. It will test your willpower. It will push your relationship to new levels.

Above all else, though, it should be happy.

Use this survival kit to keep it that way.