Caitlin here on the blog this week to talk to you about #DadsAreChanging. That precious time we have with our babies, parental leave, and why paternity leave is so important.
Gone are the days when Dads are simply the bread winners and raising babies is “women’s work”. Today’s dads know what a vital role they play in kids’ lives and are active participants. Lil Helper wants to support Dads to be all that the can be and that’s why we started our #DadsAreChanging campaign. More on that later.
Diaper changes on the go are just one way #DadsAreChanging – my husband, Jon, on his first paternity leave
Maternity vs paternity vs parental leave
In Canada we are given the option through Employment Insurance to take up to 18 months of leave for our kids, and this can be shared between parents.
The first 17 weeks are designated as maternity leave for moms, and the remaining weeks can be split, shared, or parents can choose to take turns. This is known as parental leave, but when a dad takes it, it is often called paternity leave.
Jon embracing the chaos of toddler tea parties on his second paternity leave.
With our first, my husband chose to take 4 months of paternity leave. His leave started well after the birth, because we had grandparents here to help. With our second, he is taking closer to 6 months and began immediately when baby was born, as we didn’t have extra help due to Covid19 travel restrictions.
Split and share, together, or taking turns
So what is the best way for you and your partner to decide on how to use your paternity and maternity leave? For some families the best choice is to split the time and share it, or one partner may take it all. For others, they may choose to both take leave at the same time, or take turns i.e. mom takes leave for the first six months and then returns to work and dad stays home on paternity leave with baby until all benefits are complete. Here are some things you might want to consider when deciding on your leave.
While it is wonderful that Canada offers these benefits, its important to note that benefits are still only as high as 55% of your previous income, if your employer doesn’t offer additional top up. For this reason it may make sense for one partner over another to take leave. Plan accordingly and remember you may need to put extra aside for tax season as well.
Breastfeeding and pumping is a lot of work so it may make more sense for mom to stay home with baby initially. Many babies have success with combo feeding, formula, or exclusively pumped breastmilk. Do what works for mom’s mental health and baby’s growth.
Milk drunk Aileen and Jon, happy to be able to help with feeding when I was exclusively pumping.
Mom’s physical recovery
Depending on what happened during labor and delivery, mom’s recovery time might look different/take longer. She may need help with any lifting, and there is growing support for mom’s to rest as much as possible during the six week recovery period after birth.
Mom’s have a lot to recover from and do during those early days!
Benefits specific to paternity leave
Having the opportunity for both parents to stay home is incredible and I highly recommend it if you are able to make it work for your family. Here are the big three benefits I see to Dads staying home.
Mom’s mental health
It’s not unusual for the majority of the mental load to fall on mom’s. Add in sleepless nights with a newborn and the physical recovery of childbirth, and the toll on the mental health of new moms can become unbearable. Extra help at this time is crucial to helping mom recover not just physically but mentally as well.
Someone there to help make sure she is eating and drinking, and give opportunities for breaks is crucial. It’s also helpful for Dads to focus on other household duties while mom and baby take the time they need to connect and recover. Dads can complete extra household chores which helps many moms stay calm and collected during this adjustment stage.
Regular communication is key as everyone adjusts, as is sleep. For us, during the low sleep newborn stage, my husband and I actually sleep apart. It is better for my mental health to know that he is rested and ready should I need to tag him in, than for us to both wake for every feed.
A good partner needs to be ready for the tag in whenever you need it!
Bonding and connecting
Dads need time with new baby to adjust too. There is not always an instant connection to your new addition and time alone for dad and baby is important. Especially if breastfeeding, it is very easy for new moms to want to jump in with baby all the time.
Dads can cuddle, change diapers, and bottle feed!
I find leaving Dad and baby alone for a few hours every week benefits not only my mental health but their relationship, even in the early days. Dad gains confidence and babe learns that other grown ups love them just as much as mom.
With our second, I have found the biggest challenge so far is ensuring that both kids have their needs met. At 2 months, my husband and I have found a real rhythm where both kids usually get one on one time with each parent every day. Like many new Dads, however, I know my husband sometimes feels there is not much he can do (besides chores and diapers) in those early days with an infant. But he can play with our toddler.
Aileen and Jon during bedtime story time.
In fact, this second paternity leave has him spending more time with our first born than ever before and that has been a wonderful way to ensure that she feels love and connection during this big change in her life as well. So even though we are more experienced as parents now, I think paternity leave has proven even more crucial this time around.
Paternity Leave and Shutting Down the Dad Stereotype
Too often in media we see two parental stereotypes: moms who run the show and struggle to do it all, and dads who are bumbling but loveable.
Lil Helper is a big believer in supporting Dads too. In fact, the whole cloth diaper system was designed with Dads in mind!
Dads should be empowered and encouraged that they are as important a parental figure as moms. Dads know what they are doing, work hard, and are important role models for their kids! Normalizing paternity leave encourages Dads to take an active role in family life. It’s time to shut down the bumbling Dad stereotype and show dads for what they really are – awesome.
Lil Helper also is building a community for Dads online in the Facebook group #DadsAreChanging, check it out here.
Paternity leave is so important. It supports new moms, keeps the household running, and strengthens family bonds. I want our kids to grow up seeing two parents who work hard in and out of the home, who love them fiercely, and are capable and committed to the family. By supporting Dads taking leave too, we can normalize and achieve all this and more!
High fives for Dads!
How did you split parental leave? What do you think is the best part of paternity leave? Share in the comments below!