The Impact of Paternity Leave on My Family

Minh Reigen
5 min readSep 6, 2023

My wife and I recently had our second child, and it’s official — we’ve once again joined the illustrious “No Sleep Club.” Yes, that’s right, this isn’t our first rodeo with sleep deprivation; we’re repeat members! Sleep? Sleep is overrated anyway :) Watching TV or listening to our record collection? Forget it. That’s so last century. We’ve now become bona fide experts at navigating life on a mere 4–5 hours of sleep, and this time, we’re doing it all over again! Who needs Netflix when you’ve got a baby monitor providing 24/7 entertainment, right? 🍼😴

I’m deeply appreciative of the generous 10-week fully paid paternal leave provided by my California-based company Brilliant. Although their policy is a 12-week paternal and maternal leave but since I had only had started working for 10 months until our baby was delivered so a total of 10 weeks is what I am allowed to take. I planned to take 8 weeks in one chunk, saving the remaining 2 weeks for later in case my help is needed at home.

This leave allowed me to be there for my wife both before and after childbirth, a time that places significant physical strain on women. As a husband, my role was one of support; I couldn’t alleviate her pain before, during and after childbirth, all I could do is assist her in other ways. I took on the responsibility of caring for our first child and, after the birth, I continued to lend a hand in looking after both children, enabling my wife to have the much-needed rest she deserved to recover. My wife experienced significant blood loss and a third-degree tear, which severely limited her mobility such as walking or sitting, making even basic tasks like cooking for our eldest child or driving her to activities or classes a considerable challenge :( Taking care of a family of four, including a continuously crying yet adorable baby and a wife who couldn’t move around much, made me realize the immense amount of work that goes into managing a household during such a critical time.

While it’s true that 10 weeks of paternity leave may not compare to the more extensive leave policies offered by companies like Netflix (52 weeks), Lululemon, Spotify, Dropbox, and Etsy (26 weeks), those 8 weeks that I already took have been an enormous lifeline for us!! I can’t even begin to imagine how we would have managed without my paternal leave during this crucial time. I consider myself fortunate to have the option to work from home, but even with that flexibility, it would have posed a significant challenge for us.

For instance, trying to balance a demanding full-time job with the responsibilities of caring for a family of four, all while getting only about 4–5 hours of sleep each night, would have made it nearly impossible for me to perform adequately at work.

The United States stands as the sole industrialized nation that lacks a paid parental leave policy

Research indicates that the existing regulations disproportionately affect minority and low-income women, as they are less likely to avail themselves of unpaid leave. Shockingly, statistics from 2017 revealed that there had been no significant alteration in the percentage of women receiving maternity leave over the preceding two decades! In stark contrast, other countries like Slovenia grant fathers a substantial 12 weeks of 100% paid paternity leave. Sweden offers an impressive 480 days of 80% paid paternity leave weeks. Norway provides options for either 49 weeks of 100% paid paternity leave or 59 weeks of 80% paid paternity leave. Finnish fathers are entitled to 11 weeks of partially paid leave.

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal statute that provides eligible employees with the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave within a 12-month period. This law is designed to protect the job security of qualified employees during their leave and guarantees their right to return to their previous position or an equivalent role upon their return. However, it’s important to note that while the FMLA grants employees the option of a 12-week unpaid leave, the average American fathers, regrettably, tend to take only about 10 days off from work due to financial constraints.

Who’s gonna feed the family, yo? 😢

Parenting and the Breaking Point

Esteemed psychotherapist and marriage researcher, John Gottman, conducted an extensive study that tracked couples from their newlywed phase to the challenging transition into parenthood. What he found was quite revealing: a significant portion of break-ups within the first seven years of marriage occurred as a result of becoming parents.

Intriguingly, a striking 67% of couples involved in the study reported a noticeable dip in their relationship satisfaction following the arrival of their first child. This decline in satisfaction typically manifested itself around six months for women and nine months for men after welcoming their bundle of joy into the home.

Surviving Parenthood Round Two

These 10 weeks of leave have been a lifeline, not just for my sanity but also, I believe, for the health of our marriage. In short, many couples statistically face the tumultuous post-childbirth period, which is quite common and often leads to stress and strain. We had our share of struggles after our first child arrived.

I must admit, taking care of the second child has its advantages. We don’t have to relearn the basics like holding the baby, changing diapers, soothing cries, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, giving baths, or mastering the art of stroller operation. Yet, there’s one challenge that remains quite the hurdle for me — dealing with a screaming baby during car rides. It’s a test of my sanity like no other! 🚗👶😅

While I’m currently in my 8th week of leave, I’m preparing to return to work, reserving the remaining 2 weeks for future family needs or perhaps some precious bonding time with our newborn. I’ve missed working quite a bit already. However, I can’t emphasize enough the challenges my wife and other mothers face after childbirth. For a man, returning to work after childbirth might be easier, but it’s definitely not the same for women!

This paternity leave has strengthened my loyalty to my current company

And I plan to stay for the long haul. When a company treats you well, it inspires a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support. This feeling fuels my desire to contribute even more to the company’s success, creating a win-win dynamic that’s truly amazing.

For companies that have not yet embraced these policies, I strongly recommend considering their adoption. While it is acknowledged that offering paternal and maternal leave can pose financial challenges for a company, the perceived benefits are believed to far surpass the associated costs. This is particularly relevant for companies already offering unlimited time off benefits. Providing new fathers and mothers with a few weeks of paid leave does not appear significantly different from the concept of unlimited time off, and the potential positive impact on employees’ lives and their loyalty to the company is likely to be substantial!

thank you,!