Life Hack: Staggered Paternity Leave

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As many of you may know, my wife and I have two children. Our oldest daughter is almost 23 months old and our youngest is 3 months old. It is a lot of fun interacting with our children on a daily basis. I detailed the joys of spending time with my family in my post: We are on a Mini-Retirement Trial.

Being a teacher, I get a lot of time off in the summer. It just so happens that the birth of our second child happened while I was already off of work. This allowed me to be home for four weeks, before heading back to work. In August, I dove back into teaching and my wife stayed home with the kids.

Towards the middle of September, my wife went back to work. That same day began my paternity leave. That’s right, I didn’t take my paternity leave right away, instead I waited. My wife and I staggered our time with our girls. This may sound mind boggling, but this is the second time that we have used this strategy and we have benefitted greatly.

I somehow stumbled on this strategy while preparing for the birth of our first daughter. I prepared by calling my school districts human resources department over the summer and asked 3 questions about paternity leave.

  1. How early do I have to notify you about my leave?

    • The answer is at least 30 days before you take the leave.

    • Can vary depending on the birthday of the child.

  2. Can I still coach my basketball team, while on paternity leave?

    • The answer was no.

    • If you are on FMLA, you are not allowed to step foot on campus.

  3. Could I take my paternity leave after basketball season ends?

    • Yes, you can take your leave up to a year after the birth of your child.

Those three questions and answers sparked my plan. I would work during my wife’s maternity leave and come home once she went back to work. We created a plan and schedule to have my mom come and stay for a week to help my wife while I was at work after the birth of our first daughter.

This plan was initially conceived, because I didn’t want to miss coaching my basketball team, but there are so many benefits that can be found from this time.

Benefit #1: Equally Shared Parenting

In our household, my wife is not just the caregiver, but we share a lot of the responsibilities of parenting. For four weeks, we shared the responsibilities of parenting on a daily basis. As I headed back to work and my wife stayed home, she handled more of the parenting responsibilities during the work day. The same occurred once my wife went back to work. I became the caregiver and my wife handled less of the daily parenting.

Essentially, we created a plan and worked together to share caregiving and time off during our daughters first 3-4 months in this world. Sure, I would have liked more time, but vacation days are running low and it is always good to have a few stored up in case somebody gets sick.

Benefit #2: Our Child Stayed Out of Daycare Longer

Some people love daycare and some people despise it, but with little babies, I believe that the best thing for them would be to keep them out of daycare as long as possible. With both of our daughters, my wife took 12 weeks of maternity leave and I followed up with paternity leave (6 weeks the first time and 2.6 weeks this time).

Both times our daughters were at least 3 months old before they went to daycare. Our first, however, was 4 months old when she started daycare. That was 4 months of direct care from both mom and dad.

Benefit #3: Money Savings

An added benefit of no daycare is the savings in not paying for that daycare. This, of course, is not the most important thing, but everybody is looking to save a little bit of money. This year alone, we saved $1,470 by me coming home for 3 weeks. Yes, you read that right! Daycare is expensive in Texas, costing us $490 a week for two kids (ouch).

Why not come home, spend time with your kids and save nearly $1,500? Comparatively, we saved $1,500 during my time at home with our first daughter ($250 x 6).

The savings is not only seen in daycare costs. We saw lower gasoline bills, and less auto repair expenses. The less you use your car, the less gas you need and the less of a chance of a breakdown. Most everything else in our budget stayed relatively close to the same.

Essentially, we saved $1,470 plus approx. $100 in gas, because I stayed home for 2.6 weeks.

Benefit #4: A Respect for the Work of your Spouse

There is a saying that goes, “You can’t know how somebody thinks or feels, until you have walked in their shoes.” There is no better way to explain the respect you gain from being a stay-at-home parent for a couple of days.

I can paint it as easy and fun, but sometimes it is a lot of work and not a lot of time for yourself. It definitely gave me a lot of respect for the job that my wife did while I was at work and the same can be said for my wife.

Benefit #5: Time with Your Kids

There is no greater joy than being around to see your children grow up. During my paternity leave, I helped my daughter learn her ABCs and I helped her learn to count. She can count up to 13 on her own and she is struggling through her ABCs, but she is getting better everyday.

I can say that I taught her these things, because I was at home. I was there. We sang our ABCs and counted everyday. I can say this, because I took time off to be there. I can never get this time back. My children will never be this age again, therefore I need to cherish every moment that I can get with them.

Paternity leave more than anything else gave me time to be there for my kids as they continue to grow. I know it was only 2.6 weeks, but it was more time than most kids get with their working parents and I will never forget the memories that were formed during this time.

Benefit #6: Putting First Things First

I wrote about Putting First Things First in August of 2017. In that article, I shared about the importance of spending time with my kids and some statements that always remind me of this importance:

"Time flies - enjoy this time (with your kids)."

"Enjoy them while they are little."

"Cherish this time, they grow up so fast."

You can work and work and work some more, but you will never get this time back with your kids. Sure that promotion may look great or that next big deal, but there is something more important at home. It is your kids. You need to make time for them, whether or not it damages your chances at a promotion.

What’s important to you (career goals or memories with your family)? You have to make that decision for yourself. As for me and my family, we chose family time. We chose more time with parents and less time at a daycare.

What is your choice? What do you think of my our choice to stagger our leaves?


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