I have been thinking a lot in this past week how grateful I am for Paternity Leave. I have always thought that providing (paid!) time off work for new fathers was a good thing. I figured it must be so important for fathers to have time to get to know and bond with their new babies. In some countries, fathers and mothers can share out the leave, so fathers can take up to a few months leave in the first year of their child's life; this is good for female employees, since there is less disparity between mothers and fathers taking time off for children, which makes employers more willing to hire young women. (Aren't I great, I think about everyone!)
But now I see how vital paternity leave is for new mothers as well, if my experience is similar to most, anyway. Jon has two weeks off work for his paternity leave, and it was able to start the day I went into labour. And let me tell you, I do now know what I would have done without him here--being a new mother is wonderful, but can be overwhelming! Gus is actually a really good baby, but it is so helpful to have a partner in full-time parenting during these first weeks. Jon has been able to sit next to me and provide moral support when Gus's latch wasn't quite right and it was painful to nurse him. It was really good to have at least one person not in tears! And even when the breastfeeding is going well, it's good to not have to choose between letting Gus eat undisturbed and getting something for my own insatiable thirst. Plus, Jon has done almost all the diaper changing!
Even though I love cuddling my little one and generally hate to put him down, there have been times when all this constant contact can just get to be too much. This usually seems to coincide with the times when Gus won't settle without being held, and Jon is there to take up the reins and get some cuddles in for himself. Even the simple fact that when Gus wakes up in the middle of the night, Jon offers his support, however I need it, and I can take it up based on my and Gus's needs, without any of us worrying about how Jon will be able to get up in the morning if he helps at night. Obviously, he will be going back to work shortly, but it is so good to have this time when we are all learning together and sorting ourselves out.
A couple of days before Gus was born, I read an article in which the author said how necessary it was to hire live-in help the first few weeks of a baby's life. To be honest, I found the idea rather revolting. I think a lot of that revulsion came from the tone of the article (or that tidbit, anyway) and the privilege that she exhibited without any awareness that this option would be feasible for only a small section of our society. But from this side of Gus's arrival, I can see where she is coming from. If a father can't get the time off work and there is no other family around, I can totally see why people would find this a necessary expenditure, even to the point of making other financial sacrifices. The sanity and well-being of a new mother--in some cases, I imagine this could literally be the things that prevents the baby blues spiraling into a more serious condition--is worth quite a lot!
I am doubly lucky, because my parents arrive for a week's stay the day before Jon goes back to work, so I will have an even longer time with full-time support. Plus, Jon's family aren't too far away to come over and help out for a couple of hours when needed. But I have been so happy this past week to be able to spend all of my time with the two men in my life as a newly expanded family. I think all three of us have gained so much from this time together.
But I am interested--what do others do / have done? Does daddy find some other way to stay at home? Does mom get support from other family, or just soldier through on her own? Any thoughts?