This past week 2 of my male co-workers welcomed a baby into their families. If you’re a parent you know what an exciting and exhausting time this can be. You’re captivated and completely consumed by your new addition and everything else in your life suddenly becomes secondary. It’s all you can do to keep it all together for you and your partner or wife… The first few weeks or even months are a quick and sudden blur. But unless you’re self employed or work for a modern and progressive company, a working father’s attentions are soon turned toward returning to work — ASAP.
My two co-workers both returned to work within a few days, essentially right as their wives were released from the hospital. Those first few days, weeks and months are a critical bonding time for both parents, yet, at least here in America, we are often so beholden to providing for our families that we miss out on one of the most critical moments we have as families.
In my own experience, I was fortunate enough that I was self-employed and able to maintain a sustainable income for the first few years of two of my child’s lives. But between those two, I was Creative Director at a small web development firm and did feel that pressure to return to work within a few days after the birth of my second child.
Some companies offer new dads paid time off ranging from a few days to a few weeks. California became one of the first states to offer paid family leave a little over 10 years ago. California law allows for you to take up to six weeks paid to be at home with your new baby. But employers aren’t required to provide your normal salary or pay for that time away.
I think often times even when one’s company does provide any kind of paid or unpaid time off, many fathers feel obligated to return to work immediately, either out of necessity, guilt and maybe even in some cases, because it’s less work than being at home with a newborn…
But for those of us who relish every moment we get to spend with our children, it’s a disappointing reality that whether because they choose to or because they are forced to, many men will miss out on some of the most precious weeks of our child’s life.