My third child, Isaac, is almost nine months old, and for the next three months I am on parental leave while I wife returns to work. I take some parental leave for two reasons: to maximize the limited top-up both of our employers give us on top of the government EI payments we receive for parental leave, and so my wife and I can see how it is to be on the “other side” of the fence.
Working while one parent is at home with the kids is a blessing since you leave the mess and craziness behind for 8 hours a day to deal with a different sort of mess and craziness at work. You get to have a break from the kids.
When you come home, often your spouse needs a break after being with the kids for those eight hours. Meanwhile, you just want to put your feet up after a long day at work. There is no rest for either parent, but both parents feel as though they deserve it.
Empathy starts to kick in. You enter a state of Zen-like bliss where craziness is the norm and rest is an impossible dream. And when it does happen, you feel strange being idle and not having anything to do.
Being a dad on parental leave is a great thing. I think it’s helped to make be a better father and husband. My wife gets jealous responses from co-workers when she tells them she came home to a clean house and dinner being made (although those two happening on the same day is a statistical oddity).
Sometimes I get mild ribbing from other (usually older) male co-workers when I tell them I am going on parental leave. “I’d never do that!” or “That’s mom’s job” are a few responses I’ve heard, which I find weird. Men are supposed to be the stereotypical “tough” members of the household. Fix the car, mow the lawn, burn the meat. If you’re such a tough guy, why are little children so intimidating? Real men raise their kids, have tea parties with their daughters, wipe their son’s boogers off their fingers. Real men are involved with their kids, dirty diapers and all.