My wife and I are expecting our first child in June. We're talking about me taking paternity leave. Talk to me about your experiences with this, pro or con.
My wife and I are expecting our first child (a girl!) in early June. The logistics of this are just starting to sink in. At the moment, the plan is for my wife to take her full allotment of FMLA to care for her, but that is as far as our plans have made it. We have discussed the idea of my taking a further three months of FMLA after her three months are up, but we are navigating in unfamiliar waters. I'm kind of freaking out about the idea, but I'm not convinced I have any reason to be, so I figured I'd ask y'all about it, and see if anyone here has had an experience taking paternity leave. (Part-time leave to transition into daycare would be OK too, but I don't think I have any reason to expect that my employer would go along with me working 2 days a week for a while, whereas they HAVE to go along with 3 months of full-time leave)
Some background on us:
- I make more money than my wife does, but not vastly so (it's about a 60-40 split at the moment). We can survive 6 months of one salary by dipping into savings, unless a baby is WAY more expensive that we've budgeted for
- Benefits are through my employer
- We live in Boston (specifically Jamaica Plain), in a fairly walkable neighborhood that has a sizeable population of parents with young children
- We're in a bit of an awkward spot, in that we're the first couple among my friends to have a baby, and the last among my wife's friends. There are probably hand-me-downs to be had, but we don't know anyone who will have a child within 2 years of age of ours for playdates
- My job could in theory be done from home (code monkey), but no one at the office telecommutes, and I doubt they'd be willing to start with the guy who is obviously a full-time caregiver while "working" at home
- I am really, really uncomfortable with the idea of putting a 3-month-old infant in daycare. There are plenty of places near us that will take them that young, but I would like to avoid doing so if at all possible
- It is technically possible that my wife might finish up with her three months of leave, and then decide not to go back to work, but it would be vividly out-of-character for her. Let's call it a 5% chance.
I am amenable to the idea of taking a few months off (and am actually kind of excited that I would get to spend that much quality time with as-yet-unnamed-baby), but parts of the idea fill me with dread. Specifically:
- Logistics, which I will sort out with HR if I decide to pull the trigger, but about which I am curious now. YANMHRP (you are not my HR person), but maybe you have some prior experience with a similar experience. What happens to the employer contribution to health insurance and 401(k) if I go on unpaid leave for 3 months? Do benefits usually get prorated to the amount of time during the year that I'm a salaried employee? What if I work out some sort of part-time thing for a while?
- Work repurcussions. The inevitable gendered bullshit I am going to take from co-workers worries me not one bit, but it occurs to me that we are still in an era where this sort of thing Just Isn't Done, and I'm worried about backlash from management. Yes, FMLA technically shields me, but it is tough not to read articles like this and start worrying about long-term repurcussions.
- Jumping into an unknown social circle. By the time the baby is three months old, I expect that my wife will have made some connections through the numerous mothers' groups in the area, and will probably have playdates and mom-and-baby yoga dates and goodness knows what else going on... at which point I will show up, introduce myself as Dad, and try to hurl myself bodily into a group that is 90+% female and already filled with established relationships. This seems like a recipe for disaster, which leads me to:
- Loneliness/boredom. It's unfair of me to assume that this problem will be specific to me when my wife will face the same thing (on top of being generally more sleep-deprived and dealing with the physical post-partum symptoms, of course), but I'm having trouble avoiding the idea that it's going to be me and a 4-month-old infant, trapped in the house, with nowhere to go and no one to talk to. Is this a thing that happens? I'm the kind of person who is very badly equipped for large amounts of free time; day 3 or 4 of vacation is usually when I start climbing the walls. How do people fill their days without a 9-5 job?
This is kind of a broad-spectrum question, but I am looking specifically for people who have done this (or explicitly avoided doing this), and their general experiences with work, family, the new baby, and life as a temporary stay-at-home-dad in general. I almost made this anonymous, but I'd like to be able to talk with y'all a little bit about individual circumstances. And, um, if anyone at work is reading this, I am very definitely a different person with this name who lives in Boston.