Maternity Leave: A Father/Husband’s Perspective

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My wife, Kait, is scheduled to return to work on November 4.  This will be about three and a half months after the birth of our son, Weston.  In the US this is considered a good maternity leave, however, it is not good enough…at all.

Kait’s company offers twelve weeks of full pay maternity leave.  This is a great improvement, because up until about one year ago they offered six weeks at half pay.  Crazy!  I don’t even know how that is legal for a corporation.  If Kait had to go back to work at twelve weeks, she would have been back around October 9 – two weeks ago.  Weston wouldn’t even have been three months old yet. Luckily, New York state offers an extended leave at half pay, which she took.  She also has 40 hours of vacation that she is using, which extends her to a November 4 return.

I still think this is crazy.  Twelve weeks is not a good maternity leave.  Sixteen weeks is not a good maternity leave.  Maternity leave should be six months minimum.  That is really what children need.  Now, I might change my view on this as Weston ages, but there is no way that Kait should have to go back to work right now.  All time of a child’s life is formative and challenging, but I can’t imagine dropping Weston off to some sort of day care or hiring a nanny for him at this age.  I know people do it all of the time, but it doesn’t mean that it is right or the best for the child or the parents.

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I have to be honest, I am stressing out about Kait returning to work.  There are a lot of logistics that are going into figuring this out.  Being self employed, I am lucky enough to be able to have an extremely flexible schedule that allows me to be home frequently and often.  This means that Kait and I are co-parenting most of the hours of the day.  We help each other out, taking turns with Weston so we both can get things done throughout the day.  However, when Kait returns to work, I am going to take on 100% of Weston care when I am home.  

Kait is going to be locked into 40 hours minimum of work a week.  If her work is anything like it was leading up to Weston’s birth, then she will be more like 60+ hours per week. She will have to commute from Philadelphia to New York City a minimum of two days per week.

Kait going back to work means she will no longer have the time to spend with Weston, to guide him, watch him, and share all of her amazingness with him all day long.  Her incredible energy will not be with him all day, conditioning his personality to be happy and positive.  She will not be able to have the connection with him while breastfeeding, as frequently.  The days she has to commute from Phila to NYC, she likely won’t see him other than before she leaves f in the morning.  This is not good for any of us.

All of my work will have to take a back seat because of the amount of time Weston is going to demand with me taking over all duties.  While on maternity leave, Kait’s primary duty has been Weston.  I will be juggling clients, this blog, exploring new opportunities, Weston, the house, and likely most of the work with preparing to move.  This is nothing new, but it will be new without the help of Kait.

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It actually seems like the 3 to 4 month period is going to be the most challenging, as far as sleep goes.  Some babies have no issues with this period, but Weston seems to fall into the category that does.  According to Taking Cara Babies, babies at this age have a natural wake cycle every hour, so it is extremely important that they are able to put themselves back to sleep. For some babies, this comes easily and not so much for others.  So for those like Weston, it is a progression towards him learning to put himself back to sleep.  He does do it sometimes, but not always.  And even if he is awakening every one to three hours and putting himself back to sleep, he is still waking us up while he is fussing and making noises.  Last night, for example, he put himself back to sleep once, but we were awake about four times. It is very interrupted sleep.

We start Weston in his own room, in his crib, then transition him into our room for the rest of the night after his first awakening.  Sometimes that is at 3am, sometimes it is at 10:30pm.  We hope to get more 3am’s and extend that towards 4, 5, 6am.  But this all takes a lot of work, patience, and persistence.  Bedtime routine is also extremely important at 3-4 months, this has to be established.  But with Kait returning to work, she won’t be a part of bedtime routine on the days she has to go to NYC.  It’s not the end of the world, I’ll do it, but it’s beneficial to all of us if we are there to do it together.

Also according to Taking Cara Babies, some babies at 3-4 months will take naps throughout the day for 45-120 minutes, others will take 17-22 minute naps – most which happen while being held.  Weston has his longer naps from time to time, but is definitely trending towards 15-30 minute naps.  This means attention and time is so very needed for Weston right now.  These are crucial periods in his life, his development, and all of our abilities to sleep.  In my opinion, maternity leaves should be a minimum of 6 months.

I have mentioned her courses before, but Taking Cara Babies is an excellent resource for parents and understanding sleep.  She provides a great foundation of knowledge to help parents best be able to guide our babies towards quality sleep, so that we all benefit!

We are lucky enough that we have been able to sell our house very quickly.  We will be moving in January, to where, well that will remain private right now.  For the first month or two, when Kait returns to work, we are fortunate enough that we are getting help from family to watch Weston.  This helps tremendously, because we trust them most without having to do any sort of vetting process.  Still, it is always difficult to imagine how one of our mothers is going to understand and handle all of Weston’s challenging moments.

I believe Kait’s time at her current job has more than run its course, so who knows how long her return will last.  I don’t foresee her ability to maintain that job and be the mother she desires and is….it doesn’t work if she is not around.  I want Kait to be able to have more freedom of time, like she has had on maternity leave because the results for our relationship, our family, herself, her social community, and so on have been amazing.  Kait has so much more to offer the world and a much larger purpose than working in her current job.

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Kait breast feeding Weston at Boone Hall Plantation during our trip to Charleston. One of my favorite photos, so much beauty.

Maternity leave in the US is not adequate.  However, as a small business owner, I understand how challenging maternity and paternity leave can be for a business.  I am the only person in my business and I couldn’t afford to take a paternity leave of any sort.  I was only able to take off a few days when Weston was born.  This worked for us because of my relaxed scheduled.  It seems that only the huge tech corporations can really offer good leave programs.  I don’t know if it should be a government thing or what, but something should change with this.

I hope that Kait and I are able to figure out how we can both make incomes while being around to care for and parent Weston the majority of the time, until he is ready to start being social and learning from others as well.  Then, at that point, we want to be the ones taking him, picking him up, supporting, and being around for him.  We want to be present and guide him as much as we can, and as is appropriate.  I am not talking about being overbearing helicopter parents.  I’m cool with letting him fail (at least I think I am), but I want to be there to help pick him back up and guide him in those moments.  I do not think Weston can have a better role model and teacher than Kait for loving and generally just being a great person.  We both need her around, not bogged down with stressful, negative work energy.

I believe that having parents around, good parents, during all of the formative years of childhood and adolescence is deeply important to the development of good humans. One parent is great, both parents is even better, parents that have a great relationship is even better still.  And, that can start a great foundation for the conditioning and personality of a child.

We should be fighting harder to reject what has become the norm with work and the dollar being the controlling factors in our lives.  We should be taking control of our lives and living them to their fullest.  For me that meant starting my own business five years ago and continually working to figure out how to be my best self, share my perspective with more people, and guide more people.  For us, it is selling our house to downsize our payments and live in an environment that will be a new experience for both of us, to challenge ourselves to live more of the life that we believe we should be living.  For Kait, it will be to figure out how to let go of something that has had a hold on her for far too long – to be the mother she wants to be, and to help others experience the world more purely. 

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If you’re trying to catch us during Weston’s bedtime routine, good luck!  We’ll be reading Peter Pan, no screens, and basically be having family imagination and meditation time.  Hopefully we will all be able to do this together every night.

 

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