This week was my first back at work after Mikey was born. I was not prepared for how hard it would be to go to work and leave him and my wife at home. It has been a little hard to focus when all I want to do is go home and spend time with them. Of course, before him I was distracted because I was looking forward to a beer and video games… and my beautiful wife of course.
I was able to take two and a half weeks off of work to spend with our little guy but I wish I could have stayed out longer. In California new dads are able to take up to six weeks of leave at 55% pay. The state allows you to supplement that with vacation time if you have it. If you don’t then you are stuck eating cup-o-noodle and beans if you stay out for too long. Before the 55% will kick in you have to be out for one week, unpaid. I happened to have exactly one week of vacation on the books that covered that first unpaid week but anything after that was at the 55% rate. My advice to future new dads, save every hour of vacation you can leading up to the birth of your baby, so that you can make the most of your time off. Some employers will allow you to go negative on your vacation in special circumstances. It couldn’t hurt to ask your HR department about that. The worst they can say is “HAHA NO!”
Returning to Work
I fully expected that each day after returning to work it would get easier to be away from Mikey. Today (Friday) has been soooo much harder than Monday was. It seemed like every day it was harder to leave the house and I was that much more eager to get home. By Thursday I was threatening to take him to work with me and keep him at my desk. My wife and I reached a compromise, she got to keep him with her and in return I got pictures throughout the day.
Be a Help, Not a Burden
If it was hard for me to go back to work, I can’t imagine how hard it would be for a mom to do the same. Guys, pay real close attention to what makes your wife happy during pregnancy because you will need to pull out all the stops once the baby comes. Especially if she has to go back to work at some point. Her emotions will be all over the place and she will probably cry for no reason at all. Add to that the crying because she has to leave her baby for 8+ hours a day and she will need you to be all you can be. Most important, when she is crying, remember that you more than likely cant fix it, but you can be a support and encouragement. Don’t get frustrated if what you try doesn’t help, she already has one baby on her hands, she doesn’t need another. Just keep changing tactics and make sure she knows that you love and support her.
Remember, this is a time in your life you won’t get back. Enjoy every minute of it and don’t be afraid to use your support structure (family, friends, church etc.)