We are very lucky that my husband’s job has a very good parental leave policy. As he’s a fire fighter who works 24 hour shifts obviously this is a job that requires coverage 24/7/365. I mean someone does have to work Christmas – leave around 5:30 Christmas morning and coming back around 7:30 on the 26th. So leave becomes a sort of funny thing. I’ve always been able to essentially take leave when I want it in any job I have without worrying about coverage issues. It’s odd, but in most jobs I’ve had I’ve generally been a one-woman show. I mean, I’m part of a team, but no one else really does exactly what I do. So generally, when I’m not there, my job doesn’t get done and I come back to it as I left it. So there aren’t really traditional ‘coverage’ issues. I can usually arrange my schedule of deliverables around my vacation a little and it all works out – I’ve never been told, no you can’t take vacation at this time because this other person is already scheduled then. Obviously the same is not true for my husband in his role. He can ask for Christmas off the very first day leave dates are decided – but it all still goes into a lottery and maybe he gets it, but more likely he doesn’t. Until you have kids. And then there is an awesome and generous parental leave policy. Under their policy, you can take off any day you want – using vacation, sick leave, comp time or unpaid leave – for the first two years. You want Christmas? – no problem. You don’t even have to ask in advance. As he hasn’t really used much sick or vacation time and has worked extra to accrue some comp time, he actually has about 3 months leave stored (amusing that while I’m taking 3 months off, this will NOT all be paid as my leave policy isn’t that generous!). He didn’t want to use all of it right now (that obviously wouldn’t be smart), but it did give him the option to take a little extra time. He started off by going to class one night – so just leaving me (with my Mom!) with the baby for a few hours, but after 2 and half weeks he returned to his normal schedule. That first day back was hard – for both of us. I took lot of pictures of the baby (holding signs that said “I miss you, Daddy.” He later joked that he knew the baby hadn’t written those as a 3 week old would have better handwriting.) and sent them along.
I know he missed her, but the truth was I envied him getting to leave some. I felt guilty about it and KNEW no other sane, rational, GOOD mother would feel like that. But I did. After the first week, I finally realized the truth and admitted it to him. Look, I know that I wanted kids. I just never realized that I didn’t so much want to be a Mom as I wanted to be a Dad! He looked at me and said – I’m not going to lie to you. Being a Dad is awesome. Luckily, he also told me the truth – that as hard as it was to leave and as much as he missed us, it was a little freeing to be able to leave and go to work. While he worked hard and was mostly busy, he had down time where he could just talk to friends / do things / have independent thoughts. Heck – he probably slept more during his 24 hour shift than he did at home!
It became apparent that I really needed to leave the house some too. My Mom had gone to stay with my in-laws for the first week or so and had traded off to my brother some, but was now mostly staying with us full time. I loved having her there and appreciated her help, but I also didn’t get a lot of space for me between my mother and my daughter. I really hadn’t left the house for more than the doctor since the baby was born almost 3 weeks ago (and hadn’t left the house much in the 2 weeks before that). Cabin fever was setting in. It was still February and too cold (and too flu season) to go much of anywhere, but we decided to go for a drive. I sat in the back with the baby while my husband drove to a nearby park. We were only gone a little over an hour, but it was so good to get out of the house! A few days later, I pumped some milk so she could get a bottle and we actually went to lunch together without her. I figured we were very close and only a cell phone call away – until I realized that we had BOTH forgotten our cell phones! It was a short lunch after that.