When my wife got pregnant and we started to plan out the first year of our unborn daughter’s life, we knew it would be hard. The best my wife could do was to take a little of what sick leave she had, another two months of unpaid leave, and then go back to work.
However, we were lucky. I teach high school in Missoula, and I am fortunate that my employer allowed me to use what sick leave I had built up as paid leave to care for my newborn baby.
So after my wife went back to work. It was dad’s turn to stay home, and it was amazing.
Don’t get me wrong, anyone who has had a child knows that taking care of a baby is incredibly tough work for a mom or a dad, but the bonding I was able to have with my daughter was life changing. The time I spent at home with my child while my wife worked, also changed our family, for the better.
I’ve read some interesting articles and studies about paternity leave. I read that fathers who take leave are more involved in direct care of the child – meaning changing diapers and giving baths – this is definitely true for me. I can confidently say that I’ve changed just as many diapers as my wife. I also know when our kid is starting to melt and what to do about it. I know, because I was there to learn.
The articles also say that paid paternity leave balances family dynamics and creates a system where both parents equally share child and household responsibilities. I always felt like our family would have been balanced regardless of my paternity leave because I’m one of those good guys. However, looking at families around me – and they are great families with great parents – maybe our family is just a bit more balanced is terms of traditional gender roles. I think that is probably a result of my ability to take advantage of paternity leave.
Lastly, I read that paternity leave helps women earn more over a lifetime because they aren’t put in a position of taking extended unpaid leave or giving up their careers. I support almost anything that helps my wife earn more in the future. She deserves it and our family needs it.
Most importantly, I’m grateful that I had those precious few months with my daughter. I don’t need a study to show me that our bond will be greater over our lives. My daughter and I are thick as thieves, and I look forward to everything that comes next.
I think all men should be able to experience what I did. I hope we can work to find a way to provide paid leave to everyone. All parents should be able to take time to bond in those early months and then take time later when children get sick.
Countries around the world do it – Montana should too.