Two is better than one

In parenthood, once you have a routine down, it’s bound to change (especially with a newborn). Stages come and go so fast, it’s hard to keep up. Well, this week we ended the ‘paternity leave’ era and entered ‘stay at home mom’ period.

When my husband went back to work, I cried as he said goodbye to little Leigh and me before heading off. I may have also sobbed back at home when I realized how much I depend on him. He’s done so much to help with the baby since he was born. He’s changed every diaper. He’s helped put on every onesie. He’s carried the baby when my arm goes numb and soothed his tears when I’ve run out of patience. He’s been my rock. And now he’s back at work. Sure, he could quit his job and stay at home. Hell, we could both quit our jobs and stay home together with Leigh for the rest of our lives, but we’d be living on the street in a box with two dogs who take eating very seriously. They get really grumpy when it’s dinner time and their kibble is running late. I can’t take their longing eyes as they stare into my heart saying, “Feed me.”

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Like most people, we are not independently wealthy. We have to work for a living. We’re so lucky that Eric was able to take three paid weeks off using his vacation and sick days. Unpaid leave wasn’t an option we took seriously for all of the reasons mentioned above. But for most people, an unpaid leave is all they can take.

The United States is one of just two countries in the world that doesn’t ensure any paid time off for new moms. Forget about dads.

The United States does have the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), a federal law requiring employers to provide employees job-protected leave for qualified medical and family reasons, including the birth of a child. That’s great and all but it’s UNPAID. My employer is generous enough to offer a paid leave, so we can afford for me to stay home with the baby for six weeks. My heart aches for the parents who have to hand off their newborns to childcare and return to work sooner than that.

But things are changing. Businesses are making headlines as they adapt to more generous family leaves. In November, Amazon announced that it’s giving new moms up to 20 weeks of paid leave and six weeks of paid leave for new dads. One of the most generous family leave policies I’ve seen is offered by Netflix. They give “an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption.” That’s an amazing benefit.

If we decide to have another baby in the future, I have faith that Eric might actually get paid paternal leave. We’ll see if either of those things happen. For now, we’re super content with little Leigh and we appreciate the time off work Eric and I spend with him. Every night when my husband walks in the door after work is a reason to celebrate. Until then, I walk the floors with our dogs to keep me company.

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