Since then, I’ve convinced a few of my male colleagues to do the same. This kind of leave is vital for all parents. The time off for recovery from birth should be a no-brainer, but how are you supposed to recover while keeping a brand-new human alive without any help? — Erin Learoyd, 40, Massachusetts
I wasn’t granted any parental leave (I work at a small nonprofit, so those types of benefits weren’t an option) but I made a concentrated effort to store paid time off during the pregnancy and was allowed to use two weeks when the baby arrived. I can’t imagine having gone back to work any earlier. Breastfeeding was an extremely stressful and frustrating process. Without my continuous emotional support, my wife said it was unlikely she would have continued with it. Our baby also struggled with acid reflux. If she was awake, she was crying, and she was always awake. It was absolutely critical that we had each other to pass her off to when our nerves broke.
People don’t like to talk about just how frustrated and full of rage you can get at your own baby, but it is enormous and it’s frightening, and everyone needs someone to share that burden with. It’s an imperative that would lead to dramatic improvements in our culture and our way of life. — Sean Gilligan, 29, Anoka, Minn.
‘An investment in the business sector’
I am the sole provider for our family and was able to take one week of vacation for the birth of both my sons. My wife endured an emergency C-section to bring our first son into the world in 2015. Although young and healthy, her delivery and recovery was traumatic, including a trip to the emergency room several days later when her incision popped open. She had a raging infection. Caring for the wound was so complicated that they implored us to hire a nurse to come pack it four times a day for a month so she could recover. Although we are a middle-class family, we couldn’t afford a nurse and I took on the responsibility of caring for my wife, who could not physically walk to the bathroom solo for several weeks. We were barely home from the hospital when the office started calling. We were both completely frazzled, burned out and depressed with juggling the stress of work on top of this huge change.
We’ve since had another son and are currently expecting a third baby. All of these births have required me to bully my way into having a week off to tend to my wife and hold my sons. Both parents need family leave. I am convinced that we would return to work happier, healthier and more productive. — Adam Denton, 36, Louisville, Ky.
My wife and I were both allowed to use five days of sick leave when we adopted our child in 2011. Any other paid leave had to be vacation. We saved vacation days and money scrupulously for years — we were always thrifty — but this was a big lift on top of adoption-related expenses. Still, my wife was only able to stay home for a month and I was home for four months, most of that unpaid.
I would have loved to have had at least 12 weeks paid off so we didn’t have to spend so much of that time worried about money and staying covered by insurance. We spent every last cent we had in those months. I am still mad about it. It has always felt like adoptive parents are given the short end of the stick because no one in our family gave birth, but early bonding time is critical. — Paul Hillstrom, 40, Minneapolis