2022 was the year I became a dad. It was also the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. I still worked from home, and remote working was the reason I was present for all the special milestones of our baby boy Noah.
Three years ago, I would have taken 10 days of paternity leave and after that, I would resume commuting to the office every day. I’d leave before Noah woke up, I’d spend at work 8 to 10 hours, and then come back home around 7pm, when he would be winding down for sleep. My fatherhood would be limited to seeing Noah grow up in photos and videos my wife would send me on WhatsApp. But, hey, I would have the weekends to catch up and remind my baby of who I am. Thankfully, this was not the case.
The first times
Being there when your baby smiles for the first time is priceless. So are all the other developmental milestones: the realization that it is him controlling his hands, the first roll, the first grip of toys, the confused face when he tastes solid food. I got to experience them all.
Remote working means I get quality time with Dora and Noah when they wake up. I make coffee and we observe Noah playing in his baby gym. I interact with him, I see him laughing, and I laugh at his vocalizations (which are testing our neighbors’ patience).
Being at home also means I can support Dora a lot more. I take some (more) of the housework; I can do nappy changes, I can quickly pop out to the pharmacy, or baby-sit when Dora needs to attend a medical appointment or another activity.
But… what about work?
My job is great. I help people develop their careers and draw satisfaction from their professional growth. I work with a global team spread across many time zones. Sometimes, I have work calls early in the morning with Australia or late in the evening with Seattle. I can easily attend all of those because I am already at home.
When I need to take time off during the day, I put it back in during the evening. This is the time Noah sleeps and Dora catches up with her personal stuff, but it can easily get out of hand. Failing to manage my time and my workload means stealing time away from my family. I avoid this by using mindfulness and steering clear of distractions.
I know very well that not everyone is so lucky; some people need to be physically present at work. This can be difficult for new dads. A poll in the UK showed that 69% of dads have missed a key milestone in their child’s life, with 24% missing the first steps and 21% missing the first words. 32% said they regret not taking any, or enough, leave after the birth of their child.
Parental leave and career
Where is the right balance between a successful parenthood and a successful career? I am not sure. This is another blog post, which I haven’t written yet. What I know is that we owe our children to raise them according to their nature, not based on what works for our own career. This means giving them our undivided attention when they need it, and being present for as long as we can.
Because we live in Luxembourg, I am entitled to 4 or 6 months of parental leave with a reduced pay. I will take my parental leave when Dora returns to work and Noah is 10 months old. There is no question this will hinder my career progression. Six months in a fast-pacing environment is a very long time, but I can always catch-up, while I will never again get to be at home with Noah when he’s 12 months old.
I identify with a new generation of dads. The rate of Australians going on parental leave doubled in 2022. In the UK, 66% of men who plan to have children in the future said that they would be likely to take shared parental leave. The rest will relinquish the opportunity for a variety of reasons. I hope they will not regret it. I know I would.