Paternity leave: real advice from dads
Becoming a dad for the first time can be daunting – and since taking paternity leave isn’t yet as common as it should be, you might be wondering what to expect. With a collection of tips from guys who have already been through it all, our new dad survival guide can help – so you know exactly what to expect going into your paternity leave. Or at least, there’ll be fewer surprises.
Figure out your paternity leave pay.
Every first-time dad will find himself in a slightly different position when it comes to taking paternity leave, so it’s important to find out in advance what you’re entitled to. If you have one, talk to your HR department to find out what your company’s policy is: how much time off you’re entitled to, if any, and how much of it will be paid. Once you’re clear on what’s available to you, you can start to plan and prepare. “Two weeks was paid by my company,” father-of-one Paul told us. “And I took a month off unpaid – I saved to cover a month of no salary. It's hard to do but well worth it.” Paternity leave policies are different around the world, but there’s generally limited access to it: find out how we’re advocating for better leave with our new initiative
Plan and prepare.
Arrange a pre-paternity leave meeting with your supervisor to talk about what will need to be covered while you’re away, and how the team will manage it. The transition back to work as a working dad can be just as difficult as adapting to paternity leave, so this will help make that return to work easier, too. “My colleagues were more than supportive over the time I took off,” said new dad Danny. “They banded together to ensure my store ran just as well as it would if I was there, chipping in to do extra hours where needed”
Being a first-time dad is hard work.
There’s no getting away from the fact that paternity leave is hard work. Go in knowing it’ll be tough and equip yourself with the right mind-set. Caring for a newborn is physically and emotionally draining, but there are so many benefits of paternity leave that it’s well worth the effort. “Learn to be patient, and to put your considerations last,” says journalist (and dad of two), Johnny. With night feeds, new emotions, and big responsibilities, tiredness is what to expect. For dads it’s inevitable, but it won’t last forever. Johnny adds, “The worst thing is the lack of sleep. For almost all of my three months off, our daughter would spend the hours between 10pm and 4am screaming her head off”
Make the most of every minute.
What is paid family leave for if not to enjoy? It’s not just time to learn how to be a dad – most men who’ve taken it guarantee it’s an unforgettable experience. Paul recommends making the most of it. “Always have your phone to hand to take photos,” he suggests. “There are so many amazing moments to capture.” Gareth, father to a seven-month-old, says it best. “Despite all the books, nothing will prepare you for fatherhood,” he told us. “Just try to embrace it and enjoy the crazy experience that it is!”