When we welcomed our second baby nearly two weeks ago, we embarked on a seemingly endless stretch of natural highs. We cooed and giggled, marveled over how our son was already wired to be a big brother, and kissed every time we were in proximity to each other. My husband was on paternity leave.
The experience of adjusting to a new baby together was a world apart from doing it by myself the first time around. Two parents working to keep the peace is WAY easier than one. So much better in fact, that I was putting finishing touches on a thank you note in my head to his employer, gushing about what paternity leave has meant to our family.
Halfway into his week off, he was unexpectedly called back into work, popping the natural high like a stretched balloon and sending us into our first “unpleasant discussion” since we found out we were expecting.
The thought of suddenly being on my own was daunting. It felt as though he was haphazardly changing his priorities, with me and the baby losing out. As we continued to talk, it became clear that he was under tremendous stress, knowing he would need to disappoint his boss or me.
We all know society has changed in the last few decades. Men are more involved in raising their kids than ever. I meet men all the time who are just as proud and quick to tell me about their families as they are about the work they do. My husband is not alone in his challenge to balance the work team and the home team.
Work and Family Institute just released a study called “The New Male Mystique,” which updates one conducted in 1977 by the Department of Labor. According to study findings, “men are experiencing what women experienced when they first entered the workforce in record numbers—the pressure to ‘do it all in order to have it all.’”
My husband changes diapers (sizes 1 AND 5), chases a toddler and gets up for midnight feedings to see if I need anything. He also puts in full days at work and works remotely on the occasional off-hour. In essence, he lives much the same life I do.
I follow #workmom tweets and find an engaged community of women sharing their experiences as working mothers, trading advice and generally supporting each other. Search #workdad and you’ll find nothing. No one has asked my husband if he plans to return to work after the baby; I get asked all the time. So while he’s evolved into a dad trying to do it all, society still saves its compassion for the ‘fairer’ half of the parenting equation. Perhaps someday we’ll all catch up. Till then, I still think paternity leave (and my hubby’s employer) is THE BOMB.