More dads than ever before are taking paternity leave as ideas about parenting shift. Paternity leave gives men an opportunity to bond with their children and strengthens their relationship with their partner as they go through this monumental life change. For those who are fortunate enough to take this paid time off, here are some things you can do while on paternity leave according to other dads.
Take all the days you can
Take as many days as your workplace will let you take. This isn’t an opportunity that’s available to many people so take it and make the best of it. Don’t allow social stigma or work pressures to keep you from taking as much time as you’re able to. New parents often say the days move too fast, so you want to take these early days, slow down, and just savor it. You’re going to miss this.
Be alone with the baby
New dads approach infants with a lot of fear. They are small and look so delicate, plus we live in a culture in which men are not socialized like women when it comes to spending time around children. For this reason, for many men, their child can easily be the first infant they hold. Don’t let this fear hold you back, spend some time with the baby alone. Take this time to bond with them on your own. The baby belongs to both of you but you also each have a personal relationship with them. Have skin-to-skin cuddle time to bend and communicate with them. Touch is one of the primary ways we communicate love, care, and affection. Talk to the baby, sing, play with them, and just spend time bonding.
Also do a significant chunk of the practical stuff like changing diapers, feeding and bathing them, and soothing them to sleep. If for example, the baby is exclusively breastfeeding, be the guy who brings the baby from the crib to mom.
There are far too many social media articles, videos, and podcasts about women going straight back to doing housework, two, three, or four days after giving birth. Giving birth is traumatic and most new moms don’t have time to eat, sleep, shower, much less cook or clean. In the past, women’s female relatives would come to help out and, in some instances, they still do, which is great. The only thing is you’re her partner. You. Partners support each other. From here on out there’ll be so much more housework and childcare. You might as well adjust to the new state of things. As her partner, you take care of what needs to be taken care of in the home, and that includes all those house chores we all hate.
Spend time with the other kids
If you have other children, spend time with them. When a new child arrives, the focus often shifts to them and the other children can feel suddenly left out. While mom concentrates almost exclusively on the new baby, you can take this time to bond with your other children.
Care for your partner
Your partner just underwent an experience that is traumatic to their body and mind. They are still healing. This is your opportunity to take care of them. They just underwent this huge medically risky procedure in order to grow their family. A procedure that has significant mental and emotional effects. It can be a very distressing time, full of anxiety, so listen to them, give them what they ask for, and look out for signs of stress. Care for the baby as much as possible so that she can get some much-needed downtime to rest, to sleep. Her mind will likely be hyper-focused on the baby, which means she’ll need someone to look out for her. That person is her partner. You.
Take care of you
Take some time for yourself to rest, sleep, walk, exercise, read. A new child is often a stressful time for all involved and that includes you. You need to have the strength and stamina to take care of everyone else, which means you need to take care of yourself. Call on your community including family and friends to offer the support that can make this possible.
All the best new dad.
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