Parental Leave

I'm pretty spoiled by my job at a Federal consulting firm.  It's really easy to take for granted the lenient policies they have in almost all aspects of employee benefits.  As an example, I have to remind my team (and myself) that you don't actually "request" time off - you simply let your supervisor know that you are taking it.  It's not a request because it can't be denied.

So it's no surprise that the Parental Leave policy here is pretty great as well.  Well, it's mostly great.  I had to do some finagling to actually work it since I'm a dad.  It's funny - the policy was clearly made in such a way as to not discriminate against men, but also in such a way as to ensure that men do not get to be the primary beneficiaries of the policy.

Basically, the policy allows 16 weeks for moms after giving birth.  By default, dad's get two weeks.  The 16 weeks are split into two-eight week blocks.  The first is only usable by mothers that have just given birth and is specifically for them to medically recover.  The second block is called "Primary Caregiver Leave" and is not specifically for mothers, but it's strongly implied that it is only for mothers (i.e., only one person can be the Primary Caregiver, and if you think it's going to be the dad, you're crazy).

When I talked with my leave management representative, I was told as much.  It'd be impossible for there to be two primary caregivers.  And while I can understand there not being two simultaneously, the argument didn't hold water serially.

Since my wife would be going back to work after twelve weeks of her leave, I made the argument that I would be the primary caregiver at that point (i.e., weeks 12-16).  Leave Management eventually acquiesced and here I am, the day before I start four weeks of fully paid leave.  This is in addition to the four weeks of PTO I burned immediately after my daughter's birth.

I am pretty excited about having the time off to spend with my daughter.  I'm also nervous.  The first time I took off, it was me and my wife figuring things out together - we were always there for each other.  But this time it's going to be just me*.

I have conflicting views of how the days are going to proceed.  In one variation, I'm hamstrung by her and stuck on the couch to serve at her beck and call, unable to soothe her or defrost her mother's precious milk fast enough.  In the other extreme, she happily plays with me and goes for walks with me, and then sleeps while I hop on my bike trainer to get in a nice 90 minute ride, plus shower and, of course, enough time for a good recovery meal.

In my heart of hearts, I know that neither will be the case, but I can't help to oscillate between them, instead of trying to figure out what that happy medium will be.

*Luckily, my wife works two days a week, so the primary caregiving I won't be completely on my own.


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