Making the Most of Paternity Leaveby Adam Riches
Most dads only get a couple of week paternity leave and although employers are offering more and more flexibility in terms of options, it is still pretty common for fathers to have their short time after the birth and then it’s back to work as normal (plus amplified eye bags and the odd poo stain on the shirt.)
Making the most of paternity leave isn’t easy, but this time around we have done things a bit differently and this has made so much difference to my time off with my family.
The instinct is to get out of the hospital as soon as possible because your paternity starts as soon as the baby is born (or if you’re really unlucky when your partner goes into labour). Be careful though as getting discharged too quickly can mean that you may have to go back in! We learnt this with our first little boy. We were desperate to get out and get things...but it ended up with readmission 3 weeks later (boo) so make the most of the care while it is there.
Pull up the drawbridge (if you want to)
Visitors are great, but if you aren’t careful, your first 2 weeks with your new baby and your partner pass without you having spent any time with them. Pretty much everyone loves a newborn, as nice as it can be to have people over, the last thing you want is to be a tea boy for random people. Pulling up the drawbridge and just seeing those closest means that you get to bond (and stress) as a family and it relieves the pressure so much. People will be happy to wait, trust me.
Thinking about what you actually want to do during your weeks off is really important. I wouldn’t recommend theme parks or anything too adventurous, but at least having a few bits to do like going out for lunch is a nice way to break up the monotony of parenting. Getting out also helps build your confidence with having a baby. Your partner will be grateful when you go back to work that you have an understanding of how the buggy unfolds. It also means that when you do have to go back, you are more confident when you do have free time.
Take it in turns
Babies need mum mostly, especially so if they are breastfed, but it is important to give your partner a break. On paternity, you have the opportunity to get involved a bit more than you will whilst you are at work. Giving mum a rest is really important to help with recovery (newsflash, the birth isn't the end) and it is also a great opportunity to get used to having your very own baby. I’d never held a baby before paternity leave… by the end, I was juggling the baby, washing and hoovering (a hyperbolic metaphor obviously...don’t report me).
Becoming fixated on keeping a baby alive quite often can lead to you forgetting to keep yourself in good shape. Make sure that you build back up on paternity leave, especially if you were in the hospital for a while. Get the old online shop sorted, get some food prepped before and look after your partner and yourself! The last thing you want to be doing is running back and forth to the shops and eating rubbish. IT’ll make going back to work even more difficult.
Do something non-baby related
Just because you are on paternity leave, you don’t have to just do dad stuff. It’s a weird feeling not being at work when you should be….you’re not pulling a sickie, you can do things other than change nappies and mop up sick. Having a bit of time for yourself can be a really positive use of your time. Don’ and I repeat DON’T read that as you should go fishing for 3 days or on a lads holiday, but make sure you do have some downtime. Life is about to get wild, so start as you mean to go on!