While I’m lucky enough to work at a company that offers paternity leave, taking those weeks off is a difficult and interesting process. The first time I did it, I assumed I’d simply spend time with my wife and child. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, there would be the occasional grocery store, several late nights, and maybe a few panicked calls to the doctor, but that’s about it. Boy, was I wrong.
Now that I’ve experienced paternity leave a couple of times, I’ve really honed the craft of taking time off with a new baby. The key to making the most of this period is to keep your expectations low and understand that each process is a new experience. That said, there are a few things I wished I’d known before taking leave the first time. Now, I’m passing those regrets (and knowledge!) to you.
- Get to know your baby. Okay, this is an easy one. But I mean it when I say that you should try to get to know your new kid. No, feeding, burping, and consoling your crying newborn doesn’t count. Learn what they prefer and how they want to interact with you. How do they like to be swaddled? Do they like to be saddled at all? What to their different cries mean?
- Take some time to mentally adjust. Whether this is your first or your fifth baby, your life just changed. Take the time to think through which parts of your life will be different, then try to anticipate any speedbumps you could encounter.
- Accept help. If help is offered, always take it. My wife and I both had time off, so we didn’t think we needed to accept help when one of our parents offered to spend the weekend in town taking care of the little one. Boy, were we wrong. If somebody offers to help with your newborn, even if it’s just for a few hours, you take that help. It really helped my wife and I emotionally reconnect after the birth.
- Take as many pictures and videos as you can. You really can’t have enough pictures of your newborn. They grow and change so quickly—the kid you saw after the birth will not be the same kid sleeping on your chest a month from now. Document everything shamelessly.