How a new leave-sharing program is helping my family navigate parenthood
After combating severe sleep debt, major diaper malfunctions, nap schedules and breastfeeding woes, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to return to work before the end of my year-long protected leave (yay, Canada!).
Did I really want to leave the tiny love of my life in the care of someone else (in this case, Daddy) so I could set my alarm every day, commute through busy morning traffic to sit in meetings and navigate heavy workloads?
The answer was: Hell, yes!
Basic principles of time and space don’t apply in a rapidly growing tech company. I didn’t want to miss out on all the action and my husband, also a lawyer, knew that his workplace would be supportive of him sharing the leave. To top it all off, Benevity had just announced additional support incentives for Benevity-ites sharing a portion of the parental leave with their partner. So, we decided to give it a shot.
It has been revelatory on so many levels. As Patient Zero of Benevity’s new leave-sharing program, this is what we’ve learned so far:
It is way easier going back to work knowing that your partner is in charge and the baby’s basic routine hasn’t changed. While I still have irrational panicky thoughts about whether the baby is safe or happy, my husband is in a good position to remind me
that these thoughts are totally crazythe baby is fine. Still, NestCams and FaceTime are excellent tools for a quick spot check.
Work can be downright relaxing. Well, maybe “relaxing” isn’t quite the right term but the fast-paced, client-obsessed environment we have at Benevity feels like "me" time compared to the demands of motherhood. At work, I get to drink coffee while it’s hot, focus on a single task for as long as it takes to complete and talk to grown ups about grown up things. My piping hot coffee tastes like sweet freedom.
A daily shower is no longer in the “nice-to-have” category. You’re welcome, colleagues.
Making money again feels sooooo goooood. I am stacking that paper (as the kids would say) and am enjoying the satisfaction that comes with that. And there is nothing sexier than coming home to my man who has dressed the baby in a cute, clean outfit, has dinner cooking, and baked a fresh loaf of bread.
My husband and I "get" each other on a whole new level. For example, if I say I'm going to be home at a certain time after work, I make sure I am because I know my husband has spent the entire day desperately clinging to the thought that if he just makes it till dinner time, he can hand off the little dictator and finally take a bathroom break.
On a more serious note, let’s acknowledge that constant, aching pain that sometimes goes along with returning to work after baby. It’s led to many sleepless nights and self-questioning. I wonder whether some of that is conditioning and societal expectations, but it is real regardless. But here it is: I really, really loved wearing sweatpants all day, every day. Something that just isn’t realistic in the modern workplace (unless you’re a web developer). Oh yeah, and I miss my baby a lot too.
The best part about coming back to work is this: While I am hyper aware that every minute spent in the office is one less minute that I get to make goofy faces, snuggle and swell with joy during fits of uncontrollable baby belly laughs, I’m fired up and want to make it count.
And I know I’m not alone: folks that decide to come back to work after the awe-inspiring, paradigm-shifting experience of becoming a parent or growing their family are fired up too. They are going to make those work hours count because they are doing it for their tiny loves (and want to create a better world for them to grow into).
They bring a new set of honed skills with them too: juggling competing priorities, multitasking and listening (to name just a few). In my humble opinion, parents back from leave are work-life ninjas ready to totally crush it.
So, friends, I’m here to share my big secret: sharing your parental leave with your partner and having an employer who supports you in both your career as parent and legal pugilist is pretty fantastic (except for the whole sweatpants thing, but I’m sure I’ll be okay with it someday).