HAPPY mid-SEPTEMBER EVERYONE! Are we all adjusted back to regular programming, daycare/school/work?? Not so much around here… does it ever get easier?? WAHH.
Well, despite our difficult adjustment so far (I’ve been SPOILED with hubby home) I wanted to provide a bit of a recap as to why every Dad should take parental leave. If you’ve been following along up to this point you will know that my amazing hubby took this past summer off to stay home with our two munchkins (aged 1&3) after I returned to work from 12 months of mat leave. We learned early last year that in Canada, DAD’s also have the opportunity to take parental leave…and not just within the first 12 months, thus forcing Mom back to work. While most people know that the parental leave (35 or 37 weeks) can be split between both parents, and the government provides us a financial benefit, what most people are unfamiliar with, is the additional 9 months BEYOND the original 52 weeks that can be extended to the opposite parent who took the first 35 (or 37) weeks. The one caveat to this policy is that the government will only provide a financial benefit for a combined total (maternity & parental leave) of 52 weeks (Well, actually 50 weeks because the first two weeks is unpaid.. I still don’t understand that!). So YES, hubby stayed home for the summer (4.5 months), and did NOT get paid. Since his income is more than mine, this was painful…not gonna lie. HOWEVER, I would do it again 1000x over.. except I won’t have 1000 more kids so it’s more just a metaphor to say IT WAS THE BEST DECISION EVER, and here’s 8 reasons why:
#1 – IT MAKES THE TRANSITION BACK TO WORK SO MUCH EASIER
I had almost forgotten what it was like to wake up in the morning and get myself together without having to worry about rushing around to get a child up, dressed, fed, etc. As most women who stay home with their child knows, you come last 99% of the time. Lounging around in pjs until 10-11 am is not uncommon, and if you are wearing yoga pants 7 days a week this is totally acceptable. With hubby home, I was able to wake up (often AFTER my son was already up and being looked after by Daddy), and just focus on making myself look and feel good for the day. I could casually stroll into the kitchen, get my breakfast together, pack my lunch, have some coffee and head out to the office without worrying about the kids. This was HUGE. In addition to this, I could be at work and be at peace knowing my children were in the comfort of their own home, being taken care of by their Dad who could reach out to me whenever he needed to for questions, advice, tips, etc. I never had to worry, and it really helped me to focus more on getting back into my work-life without the distraction of home.
#2 – THE KIDS GET MAJOR DADDY-BONDING TIME
For the better part of existence, Dad’s have been known to be the “providers” and mom’s the “nurturers”. While this still holds true a great deal of the time, I am a massive proponent of breaking the mold. I want my children to see their Dad as a safe place, someone who works hard, but is also there for them whenever they need him. He can do everything that Mom can do, and vice versa. We want to squash the gender role expectations, and highlight equality. Since D (hubby) never really had the opportunity to spend extended periods of time with our children, this was the perfect time to really get in some amazing bonding time. He’d take the kids to various parks around town almost daily (they are sort of park-snobs now), and he got really good at playing barbies. You wouldn’t believe the names He and K came up with for some of her barbies. The best!
#3 – DAD BEGINS TO FULLY UNDERSTAND WHY THE DISHES WERE NOT DONE AND DINNER WAS NOT ALWAYS READY WHEN HE CAME HOME
I’ll be honest, I did my best to have dinner started and the house relatively in order by the time D would get home from work. Did it happen every single day? Nope….and while he never once questioned me, he has since admitted that he definitely thought being home all day would make it easier to get stuff done around the house. Not one week in, and HE TOTALLY UNDERSTOOD. I absolutely love him for admitting this, and while I know he would never hesitate to tell others this truth, I truly don’t believe a Dad could understand this unless he experienced it for himself. I’m fairly certain that D took the kids to the park every day to avoid cleaning up the explosion that would occur inside the house.
#4 – A NEW CHEF EMERGES IN THE HOUSEHOLD
This point somewhat aligns with #1 in that it made my transition so much easier. Hubby would almost always have dinner started before I came home, so that I could just relax and play with the kids until dinner time. It was soo amazing. No rushing through the door to get dinner going, scarfing down the food to rush to bath time, etc. It was so easy-breezy and I loved it so much! In addition, although hubs never shied away from cooking before, he definitely discovered that it’s not so complicated after all, and I would say he totally improved his culinary skills! I mean, check out this roasted tomato and ground turkey rigatoni!
#5 – ALL OF A SUDDEN MOMMY IS THE BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD
I fully realize this is beyond selfish of me to say, but how often as a SAHM do you get to walk through the door and have your kids scream “MOMMY’S HOME!!!!! YAYYYYY!!!”, and your little one (who doesn’t talk yet) literally RUNS to the door squealing. Come on. There is absolutely no better feeling, and NOTHING makes your work woes disappear as fast as those words.
#6 – DAD LEARNS TO RESPECT THE M-F’ING SCHEDULE
Understanding that not everyone operates on a strict schedule, this point may not apply to you. However, I am a firm believer that children THRIVE on schedule and routine. Since they can’t communicate as well when they are young, it’s important that they are used to the same things happening each day at (approximately) the same time. Sleeping, eating, playing, waking, etc. All of these things should, and in our household, do, take place at (mostly) the same time. Yes, we have to fluctuate on occasion, but I’m slightly obsessed with routine, and our children do well with this structure. If you are like me, you know that sometimes, Dad has a tendency to throw this schedule out of whack. Coming home, wanting to play a bit later, reading an extra story at bedtime, skipping naps to do something more exciting, etc. All of these things can throw things off schedule, and when you are home all day with your kids and understand the importance of routine – this is maddening!! When Dad is home for 4.5 months as the primary caregiver, he learns QUICKLY that when the routine is messed up, the kids turn into monsters. You will never have to explain again why the kids need to nap, or why keeping them up too late is disastrous!
#7 – DAD UNDERSTANDS WHY GOING FOR A RANDOM DRIVE ALONE AFTER THE KIDS GO TO BED IS AH-MAZING
There would be nights that I would leave the house after putting the kids to bed, and just drive, or go to a store, go ANYWHERE to see that civilization is still taking place around the world. It’s incredibly therapeutic to get out and about, and begin to feel like you exist. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, until my hubby started to ask if I needed anything out, and even though my answer would be “No” he would still go out. He’d only be gone for an hour or so, but I knew where he was coming from… and he began to understand why I’d always be wanting to get out of the house. You see, it’s funny when you work outside of the house, you get home and don’t want to leave. But being home all day makes you REALLY NEED to get out of the house for absolutely any reason.
#8 – BECAUSE..IN CANADA, YOU CAN!!
The Canadian government allows both parents to really play an important role in the first two years of our children’s lives, and I wish we knew about this rule when we had K. Thankfully we were able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity, and I implore EVERY family with a newborn/baby on the way to look into making this happen for your family. Is it difficult to lose the income for a brief time? Yes. Which is partly why hubby only stayed home for 4.5 months and not the entire 9 months (37 weeks) that is allowed. However, it was what worked for us financially, and we understood that a short term financial hit was worth the benefit of D staying home and spending a significant amount of time with the children. We will never get these years back, so making the most of the time we have is 100% our priority and our commitment to our children.
Well, I could absolutely write a list of at least 20 more reasons why having Dad’s stay home with children is equally important to Mom’s staying home, but I’d much prefer some input from you! Have your Husbands/Significant Others (or to you Dad’s reading this – you), stayed home as primary caregivers to your children? Would this interest you? Would they (or you) even WANT to? I’d LOVE to hear what you learned by going through a similar experience! Any more reasons you can think of to add to the list?
If you’d like more information about the Canadian pregnancy and parental leave benefits, check out this link for ALL of the details. (Warning: It’s somewhat tricky to understand. I probably read it over and over about 20+ times) The part relevant to the additional 37 weeks is under the “Parental Leave” section. Note that the key to the wording is that the the “other” parent must BEGIN their parental leave BEFORE the end of the 52 weeks after the baby is born or the child comes into their care. It does not have to END. So what that means is that if Dad begins his parental leave the day before Mom’s leave ends, he gets 37 weeks from that point on. 😉