Real Talk: My Husband's Paternity Leave Showed Me What a Game-Changer It Could Be for Every Family

paternity leave good for everyoneWhen I had my first child, both my husband and my mom took a week off from work. While it was wonderful to have them both, it would've been better if they hadn't picked the same week. Still, one newborn and six hands seems like the perfection equation. But when those seven days came to an end and they both returned to work, I found myself tired, overwhelmed, and stressed.

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Fast-forward three and a half years, when I had my second child: My husband's company granted him a six-week paternity leave, and wow, what a difference that made -- for all of us. 

While my husband and I enjoyed the luxury of tag-teaming each other for middle-of-the-night feedings and explosive diapers, the person who really benefited the most from this was our 3½-year-old firstborn. Why? Because at any point in the day, he still had one parent who could offer him undivided attention. He never resented this new baby because for those first six weeks he didn't have to wait until his brother was changed, fed, burped, and changed again before he could go to the park, ride his bike, or go swimming.

When he returned from his outings he was elated to see this new baby. And by the time my husband went back to work, our son wanted to help out by fetching bottles and diapers. Plus, he now wanted to bring his little brother everywhere with him. The transition couldn't have been smoother, but I doubt it would've been like that if Daddy hadn't been home. 

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And you know how people tell you "Sleep when your baby sleeps!" and you think, "Yeah, that sounds great in theory but who's going to watch my other child, do the laundry, fix dinner, etc. etc."? Well, when you have another parent sharing in those responsibilities, you can nap -- and it's amazing!

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Each time I ran out of diapers, or the batteries in our bouncy seat died, I had the choice of either going alone (yes, alone!) or sending my husband to the store instead of dragging a preschooler and a newborn through a crowded supermarket -- and I thanked my lucky stars. Believe me, I realize how incredibly fortunate we were to have that time. But it also made me wish that all parents had the same opportunity.

Anytime you bring a new baby into the family, whether it's your first or your fifth, it's an adjustment -- for everyone! I would love to imagine a world in which every family had the benefit of enjoying an extended respite from work the way mine did, because I saw the positive impact it had on our whole family.


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