In the 6 years that my husband and I have been together, he has been a firefighter. That requires that he be on a schedule of 24-hours at work, 24-hours off work; then after doing that four times, he will have 4-6 days off. For most of our relationship, I appreciated having these seemingly opposite schedules because it allowed for each of us to get our ‘alone time’. But, since we welcomed our first baby, it has been one of the hardest things to get accustomed to.
With his schedule, he had six shifts off for paternity leave, which is about half of a month. Prior to having the baby, I thought I would have gotten annoyed by him with that much time off together. But in reality, after having our baby, experiencing postpartum recovery and a newborn, I could not imagine doing it without him there.
Having a baby changes every aspect of your life: your home, your body, your emotions and more. In particular, I was not prepared for after having a baby was the impact it would have on my body. Having my husband home allowed me to take that for self-care without worrying if my baby would wake up or get fussy. I could shower and not rush which as many new moms know, is not always the case. It really helped lower my stress levels, give me some "me time" and let me refresh.
My husband took the six shifts off, then took additional time off to not only bond with our baby, but to also help me get to a better mental and physical place before needing to be the sole caregiver for our baby for 24 hours at a time. We were able to get some sort of a routine and learn more about our son together. It was an invaluable five weeks as a new family and as new parents.
When it was time for my husband to go back to work, I was a complete stress case! I relied so heavily on him being home, whether it was with help caring for the baby, or just giving support during my breakdowns, late-night wake-ups, etc. While five weeks off together may seem like a long time, our newborn is changing every day. There's no schedule. Every feeding is different, every bedtime is different, every nap is different. I get stressed thinking about him leaving for work and then I stress during the day he's gone. I know that my maternity leave is much more generous than his. And while I don't think that three months is enough for a mother, I also believe that fathers and partners should have the same parental leave as the birth mother. I am not sure how I would have dealt with the early postpartum phase without him there and I continue to wish he was here during the last weeks of mine to help with our growing newborn.
What's your experience with maternity and paternity leave? Share with us and expecting families about to embark on this time.