One Man’s Evolving Perspective on Parental Leave
by Clint St. Mosley
I have always felt like I supported Maternity Leave. Most of this support was as an area sales manager of retail locations and I was normally helping leaders or mothers themselves navigate through the process, paperwork and other hoops that must be jumped through. I never complained about the time mothers took off, I never pressured them to come back early or made them feel any guilt about the time they were taking. I remember one time I had hired a new store manager and she had just relocated from Knoxville, TN to Wilmington, NC. We were driving around visiting her stores one sunny day and she said “Clint, I have to tell you something.” I think I remember her even prefacing it something like but I don’t want you to be mad/upset/etc. She then proceeded to tell me she was pregnant while holding her breath waiting on my reaction. I guess my reaction was different than she expected as I instantly told her congratulations, how great that was and how happy I was for her. Was she thinking I was going to ship her back for being pregnant? I thought about that conversation for years as I thought about what mothers go thru to ask/seek/take the time they have earned and the time they deserve. It is a shame that a mother would have to stress about asking for time off to spend on such a special and wonderful occasion.
Fast forward eight or so years to me myself finding out after several years of trying that my wife and I were pregnant and that we were expecting twins! Having the fortune to work for MomSource Network, a startup focusing on flexible employment, I knew that I wouldn’t have to fear a conversation about parental leave and how much time I would take off. Courtney, our founder and fearless leader, let me know early and quickly that I was to take as much time as I needed. I decided on 16 weeks. My wife could take 12 weeks and I wanted to ensure the boys were taken care of but also, I wanted to make sure that my wife didn’t have to go back to work and send our boys to day care at the same time. This was the best decision we made and made the transition much easier.
Fast forward again to April 3rd, 2017. This is when daddy day care began. Our boys were born on January 10th and my wife Susan and I had 12 wonderful weeks as a whole family to spend night and day and especially middle of the night together. Now Susan was going back to work and my four weeks of having the boys by myself was to begin. It wasn’t easy the first couple of days. I had to adjust from man to man coverage where my wife and I each had one boy at a time to zone coverage where it was dad versus boys. I had to find a routine that worked where they were satisfied but not upset/crying/angry at the same time. Sounds like a simple goal, right? Much harder than it sounds. It took me the first week to get into a routine. The second week we started to venture out a little more. I took them to the mall to walk around…yes that does make me a mall walker but I have yet to officially join the Mall Walkers Club at Great Lakes Crossing.
So, what do I think of parental leave now? I think it is simply the most amazing time in the world. I have seen a lot of great places around the world, had experiences others sometimes don’t believe but nothing compares to the time I had with my family and the last four weeks of just me and the boys. How in the world does changing diapers, getting peed on and spat up on compare to diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Maybe it would be a closer comparison if the reef could smile at me, laugh with me or make an eye to eye connection that fills your whole body with love and warmth. Maybe if Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day could reach its little arm up and place its hand on my chest then it would be a closer match. I can’t tell for certain that I wouldn’t have had some of these same experiences between the hours of 6pm when I would have “gotten off work” and 8pm when we put the boys to bed but since I know these things happened during my parental leave I am giving the credit to parental leave.
I thought I supported parental leave but now that I have experienced parental leave I know that I could have done more. I could have advocated for longer leaves, equal leaves for fathers, etc., etc., etc. I can’t do anything about my advocacy in the past but I sure as hell can do something about it in the future…..and so can you! How? Here are a few easy steps everyone can take:
- Take It – if you are lucky enough to have paid leave take ALL of it. If you only have unpaid leave, take as much as you can financially and emotionally afford.
- Talk About It – we all need to talk more about it. Talk about it before you are pregnant as a right that everyone should have. Ask about it during interviews and when you are thinking about a job change. Tell your story after you are back from leave. Don’t let people thinking you were just lazy and wanted to take 12 weeks off. Tell them about the great things you got to experience. Tell them about the struggles, difficulties and learnings you encountered.
- Encourage It, Incentive It – if you are in a leadership position make sure you are encouraging parental leave throughout your organization. If you lead a small team, make sure you are creating an environment where your team feels comfortable to take what they need and that their peers are supportive and not burdened by the leave. If you are an executive or lead a larger team make sure you wield your power and authority for positive results. Take a look at your parental leave policies from the top down. Are you progressive and giving your organization what they need or are you regressive and only thinking about short term gains?
- Join MomSource Network – MomSource Network advocates for professional development, networking and matching professionals to flexible working arrangements. By joining and supporting the network and other similar networks you are helping those in need now and in the future.