Two first-time dads recommend taking paternity leave
Being first-time parents, my wife Maria and I decided it’d be best to have all hands on deck for those first two weeks when neither of us, to be honest, had a clue what we were doing. Aoibheann arrived a week overdue in February — a handy time to take paternity leave as it was a time of year when no-one else in the office had time booked off, so there was flexibility in letting me take the time off once she was born. In hindsight, taking my leave for her first two weeks was the right choice for us. Sleep was erratic for all three of us, and I know Maria appreciated the help — however useful I was is up for debate — while she recovered from the childbirth. Now that Aoibheann is a little older, and more alert and interactive, I do sometimes wonder would it have been better to wait to take the leave. But while spending time with her now would be more fun and playful than when she was a newborn, I know we made the right choice from a practical point of view.
I took my paternity leave in February when my son Páidí was about four months old. He’s my first child and the benefits of spending two uninterrupted weeks with him are immeasurable. It gave both him and me the chance to get to know each other at an important stage of his development. He was just beginning to smile, so it was great to be around and see that for myself, instead of getting updates via text at work and feeling terrible for not being there. Most importantly, though, I gained an understanding of how difficult it is to be at home and care for a child. It’s infinitely rewarding, of course, but it is very difficult and I now appreciate and have a full understanding of how hard my wife works on a daily basis to give him everything he needs. Nappy-changing, feeding, changing clothes, playing, getting him to sleep — the list of duties is endless. During my leave, my wife was with us a lot of the time but my presence gave her the opportunity to go out for the day if she wanted, or a chance to go and meet friends without having to pack a thousand baby-related things into the car. The two-week window isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s so important. All dads should consider taking it.