To many, a paternity leave is a holiday?—?because patriarchy.
In order to survive in my job and to survive as a parent, I developed a thick skin. You try to be great at your job and you try to be a great parent and then you deal with all the little paper-cuts that your life at work and home bring to you.
How was your holiday?
Coming back from a nice holiday is full of wonder and excitement. You feel refreshed and with any luck you’re gearing to go. Coming back from parental leave was nerve-racking. Oh, I have a new family member and I’m just getting used to that and I need to figure out how to work while sleep deprived.
My manager probably didn’t realise that “How was your holiday?” was the worst thing to ask me after I came back from paternity leave. If this was just one of a handful of tiny little slights, I could have ignored it, but this felt like the 1,000th paper-cut.
I suppose context is needed, because to many a paternity leave is a holiday?—?because patriarchy. I suspect for a lot of people paternity leave is just letting mum take care of the new addition. This trend continues beyond paternity leave and into most of child-rearing for many families.
Patriarchy would have us believe that parenting is primarily the concern of the mother. Therefore paternity leave is a few extra days off for dad to chillax with his family and help mum out. He might even go into his garage and build a highchair or go into the woods and hunt and forage for food.
Being a mum or dad through biology or proximity makes you a parent. Parenting is an activity. My wife is a stay at home mum, but outside of my work hours we strive for equal participation. Certainly this is aspirational and honestly I don’t really enjoy being on the hook as much as my wife is, but it is what we decided is fair in our household. It’s not just that it’s fair, but the responsibility can be rewarding.
While some of my leave was just helping my wife, much more of it was to bond with my new son, and to help adjust my eldest to his new brother. For an active (almost) four-year-old that meant a lot more than teaching him the fragility of a newborn. It meant taking him to the park. It meant picking up his Grandma. It meant playing terrible board games.
It also meant trying to solve all the logistics that my wife will soon face alone:
- How to shower while the baby sleeps and keep child 1 from crawling into the crib with his brother.
- How to load two kids into a car without the stroller careening down a hill or child 1 running off into traffic.
- How to re-babyproof a house that’s recently been un-babyproofed.
- How to easily create playlists of the DisneyCollector on the YouTube app on the AppleTV.
Paternity leave and holidays are conflated for another reason. They are too damn short. While having six weeks at a portion of your salary is better than nothing, it’s not quite enough. I was fortunate to have my full salary through my employer for four weeks. All those new expenses don’t get easier with a thinner paycheck.