My husband had six weeks of paternity leave after Ezra was born… six uninterrupted weeks of family time, something we may never get again. It was amazing. And I’m sad that most new parents don’t get this time.
First, I want to acknowledge the fact that even maternity leave is pretty weak in this country. I’ve heard of moms recently who are going back to work at six weeks or sooner. I’m very aware of this challenge and am not denying it at all. I’m also not going to write about that right now. It’s something that is pretty obvious when you compare the United States to any European country or Canada. Here is a good article that addresses this.
This post is simply based on my experience having my husband and supporter around during the tough first few weeks postpartum and how that compared to our first weeks with our first child with no parental leave. While I’m mostly sharing reasons this is important after a baby is born or adopted, I believe this is important after older children join a family as well.
Five reasons why paternity, parental or partner leave should exist for all
- Postpartum mammas need support. There is no better support system for a new mom and baby than her partner. I remember distinctly the way I felt when my husband had to go back to work after Bodhi was born after just a week. And we were even one of the fortunate couples who had family help pretty much whenever we needed it. But, I was not doing well physically or mentally and the thought of dealing with someone other than my husband was not something I could handle. Yes, I experienced Postpartum Depression, so perhaps I was an extreme case, but I can’t imagine any new mom not needing her partner. You can read more about my postpartum experience this time here.
- Daddy-baby bonding. While my husband and Bodhi bonded over time after he was born, without a doubt, and my rock star husband quickly learned Bodhi’s cues, it would’ve been harder with two kids. Because he is on the minute he walks through the door every night, he would not have had time to truly bond with the new baby without a parental leave.
- Dads need time to adjust too. I would argue that a new baby is one of life’s biggest changes and challenges. It’s bigger than a new house, a new job, getting married. It changes you forever. And it’s thoroughly exhausting and exhilarating.
- Helping older siblings transition. My husband handled the majority of the care for our older child during his leave. For us, this meant that Bodhi was cared for so so well. He got a lot of attention, more than normal, I would argue. It also really gave me the chance to enjoy the baby and not feel completely pulled in two plus directions. I didn’t feel guilty when Ezra needed to nurse for an hour.
- A calm household is a calm household. OK, this is obvious, but having a couple extra hands during those first really hard weeks after a new baby joins the family can make all the difference. I’ve mentioned before that simply having the dishes done, laundry semi-caught up and garbage clear is what truly matters to me. When you’re feeding a baby and trying to recover from any kind of birth or travel (for adoption) or anything really, those two hands can help make those key household chores happen. Starting off calm is good for everyone.
I know at this time it’s not possible for all families to have two parents home. It’s a dream though. While I have my theories, I’m not 100% sure what it was that helped me to avoid Postpartum Depression this time around, but I’m certain that the support from my husband played a role. For us, having my husband/daddy home made everyone happy. It made a sometimes-stressful season of life, a very joyful one. For this, I’m so grateful.