I started two-months of parental leave – or paternity leave – this week. Kurt has written some great stuff on how to get the most out of your paternity leave. This piece will focus on some of the things that have made the transition from full time work to full time parenting easy for me. From awesome pieces of advice to acknowledging my spectacular privilege that allows for this experience, here’s how to transition into paternity leave with confidence and enthusiasm.
You are lucky
“This is the only time in your life this will happen. So do it.”
I acknowledge my privilege to be able to take two months of parental leave. I’m lucky that I live in Canada and that this entitlement exists. I’m lucky to work for a very progressive organization in Vancity and that I’m not a paternity-leave-taking-trailblazer. I’m lucky to have great bosses because they made this experience really easy. I’m lucky that there is a lengthy overlap between when my leave begins and when my wife goes back to work so that we can spend a lot of time together as a family. And I acknowledge that all these things reflect my privilege and also reduce the stigma that many men feel about taking parental leave and has increased my confidence to do so.
One of my colleagues has eight children and a granddaughter. Suffice it to say that I respect her opinions and listen to her advice when it comes to advice about parenting. She was adamant that I take time off because I would never have another chance to do so. This advice was reinforced over and over again by moms and dads who have also taken parental leave. Dads who wished they’d done it in their career as well as dads who are in the same spot as me, but haven’t asked yet, expressed their regret, interest and enthusiasm for me. And a few moms who returned to work early in order to accept a promotion or move a big piece of work forward expressed regrets that they weren’t confident enough to push back and ask for the opportunity to be held until the leave concluded. Take this time and spend it with your family because it is a truly unique experience.
You are supported
“We got your back.”
“I got your back” is a motto among my colleagues. Sometimes we turn it into a hashtag. It’s a saying from the world of improv and it took on new meaning as I transitioned into paternity leave. I am leaving feeling supported and absolutely confident about all of the projects and priorities that our team is delivering while I’m away.
If the primary purpose of leaders is to grow other leaders then my going on parental leave presents great opportunities for folks to take on a new accountabilities as they back-fill my role or step up and lead work (instead of just doing it). For ambitious folks on your team – or maybe a soft-spoken newbie who has a lot of potential – taking on more while you’re away might be slightly terrifying, but, as Lottie O’Conor argues, could also be the best decision they ever make. This is why parental leave really is good for everyone.
Your perspective will shift
“You will be surprised by how quickly and easily you will let go of work.”
I love work and I was concerned that I would struggle to let go of it. What we do at Vancity is important and supporting people to make bigger, positive impacts in our communities is part of my identity. Needless to say, I’m going to miss it. So I was surprised by how some of my friends and colleagues responded when I asked how long it took them to genuinely let go of work and be a fully present parent. “Way less time than you think,” said one. “If you hired someone good then you should basically let go,” said another. And it’s true.
But it’s also no secret that I have the soul of a child. Some folks even comment that, at times, I even behave like a big kid (not because I pulled down their pants, made fart noises and ran away squealing with laughter). I’m writing this paragraph on the second day of my parental leave, which involved building post-modern Lego houses, supporting a rescue operation when the house caught fire, art class, snacks and lunches, a visit to a play café, wrangled some tired children, and various backyard shenanigans. Even I couldn’t have predicted how easy it has been to focus my energy and enthusiasm on the family and let workplace priorities fade into the background.