What I talk about when I talk about paternity leave

Since going back to work two weeks ago, I’ve found that talking to dads about my time off work can feel a bit uncomfortable. When people ask me how it was, and whether I think I benefited from it, I want to shout about how amazing my six months were and tell them how much I think Eddy and my relationship has benefited, how much closer we are, and how I feel like I am a far more active part of his life than I was before. Talking to mums who have taken a lengthy period of maternity leave, that almost seems like a given, but speaking to dads, I feel like I have to be more careful to make sure I don’t sound like I’m saying ‘well you might have a good relationship with your kid, but mine is better’.
I’m genuinely unsure whether this is entirely my own preoccupation and paranoia talking, but while I don’t believe there is a direct correlation between time spent together and strength of relationship, I am certain that Eddy and I are closer, and I am better at being a dad than I would have been without taking the time off work. What that doesn’t mean is that I think I am a better dad than anyone else, or that I have a better relationship with my son than any other dad does with their children. There are a million different types of dad out there, there most definitely is no one best way to be a dad, and no way to judge who is doing it better. It’s just quite hard to talk about why I think it’s worth having time off without talking about Eddy and my relationship and how I see myself as a dad now.

That would be fine, and easy enough for me to manage by trying (for once!) to be a bit more humble, and slightly underplaying how good my time off work was, or just downplaying the issue entirely and replying, ‘yeah it was great, how was your weekend?’… but actually, I don’t really want to do that, especially to dads, and more than that, especially to dads who might think about taking extended leave in future. I really want to shout from the rooftops how good it is to have the opportunity to take a new perspective, do something different, bond with your child at a key stage, and that they should really, really do it if they get a chance. But I’d rather not sound like an arsehole while doing it, if it could be helped!

I am in the middle of drafting a longer piece that explores in a bit more detail what I think I learned and how I think I grew during the time I spent away from the office, but that’s taking a long time as I’m finding out that juggling flexible working, days off with Eddy, nursery, home life and actually trying to have a bit of time for myself and for Katy and I, is way, way harder when you are both at work. No shit, says everyone who’s done it, but it’s a new challenge for us at the moment, and it’s meaning that blogging is quite low down a quite long list at the moment.

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