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An Awkward Post About Parental Leave

Posted Aug 23 2010 12:00am

Writing about my parental leave situation is  tricky because I don’t want to seem ungrateful, especially in light of the fact that I start a  four month parental leave next Wednesday. And I realize that I also run the risk of casting my employer in a negative light, if I say too much, which is the last thing I would like to do. Also, now that I’ve shown my face around here a few times, I feel weird letting it all hang out, but I’ll get used to it. 

I think it’s important that I  share a little bit about my experience  because it’s a huge  issue for all families and, hopefully, you will share too.

 From the moment I told my colleagues at work that Nadia and I  got “the call” about Baby Jay’s birth, everyone at my job has been extremely supportive. Let’s face it, the whole situation, could have led to some very awkward moments because no one at my  job knew that we were trying to adopt a baby; it just seemed to happen out of the blue. Fortunately for me, my job allows for 3 months paid parental leave for pregnant women, their spouses, and adoptive parents, which I know is extremely rare in this country, so it’s kind of perfect.

Even though I was dying to be with Baby Jay, I didn’t take my leave right away because  two weeks before Baby Jay’s birth, I was given some “very important” extra responsibilities for the summer and I knew that leaving abruptly would not be viewed favorably. Additionally, after looking into her leave policy, Nadia learned that she would be able to take some time off to spend with our son, so I knew that he would be in excellent hands–eventually.

 Given the emergency nature of the placement, Baby Jay, spent his first month with us with a beloved baby sitter  during the working hours. She has taken care of several children in our building over the years.  But, no matter who it is, it’s hard to leave your child with someone else, when you want to be on The One taking care of his every need. Obviously, in many respects, the care giving situation was less than ideal during that firts month, but Nadia and I muddled through the unexpectedly delightful first months of mommy hood, as sleep deprived as we are were.  

When I finally broached the subject of my leave with one of  supervisors, imagine my surprise when he told me that he would like me to consider delaying my leave a little further–like six weeks further–when my son would be about 5 months old. 

Huh?

Was this because my son was adopted? or because he has two moms? or was it just work -life politics circa 2010? Who knows? And, ultimately, who cares. I didn’t think about this one long enough to turn it into an adoption teachable moment .

Dear readers, you will be happy to know that with the backing of human resources, my wife, and many of my colleagues, I politely demurred. I will be on parental leave with Baby Jay from September 1 until January. Yes, my three months leave was extened to four months due vacation time  accrued and holiday office closings. 

 So, I am thrilled to have the time off to finally bond with my son after so many years of waiting for this miracle, but if I hadn’t stood my ground, it was have started after Baby Jay’s 5-month birthday. Even though I have ‘great benefits” my experience has made me curious about other people’s family leave experiences.

So leave a comment to let me know how about your family leave experience. I would love to hear how the initial ‘conversation’ went with your supervisor. Was s/he supportive? or did s/he fake a smile? Also, were you made to feel guilty for taking the time you need? If you are a non-bio parent, were you able to take any time? And, if you are an adoptive parent, how did/does your employer handle parental leave?

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