How taking advantage of a new parental leave policy allowed me to be the best dad I could be.
By: Joao Braga Ribeiro
It wasn’t long ago (August 2017) when we found out we were expecting Lucas. And even though we already had Alice (the most amazing 5 years-old soon-to-be “big sis”), we always knew Lucas would complete our dream of a family. I remember the amount of happiness like it was yesterday. Yet, after the days of extreme excitement, it didn’t take long to also be concerned with some peculiarities of our situation here in the U.S. It was just the beginning and I already had a lot of questions on my mind.
My family and I relocated to Benton Harbor — MI in 2014, so having no parents and relatives here and not knowing how the pregnancy would go was adding a sort of a sour taste of fear and uncertainty to this moment. At that time, I also had no clue about how long I would be able to stay with my family during the initial days after the delivery.
… And Then in October 2017 Whirlpool Corporation Announced the New Parental Leave Policy, Including 4 Paid Weeks for Dads
That was a real game-changer for us. Knowing that I would be able to stay 4 entire weeks with my family gave me the balance and calmness I needed to support my family. Knowing that I could take the 4 weeks the best way it suited to my family was also amazing. Should I need the 4 weeks when he was born, I could take them! Should I wish to wait for my wife’s parental leave to finish and then take the 4 weeks, I could. It was perfect
The Remaining Months Just Flew Then
Before I even noticed, it was the due date (March 30th) and we were at the hospital. My wife delivering via c-section was the longest 30 minutes of my life waiting at a hospital room. And then they brought me this tiny hairy dude. Now we were four!
Although my Mom came to the U.S. to spend a couple of weeks supporting us, we knew everything would be different for the next month. Recovering from a c-section, my wife would not be able to drive, to walk upstairs or downstairs, to carry weight, to support with any home task or to comfort our daughter with the same “Mom’s lap” she has always done.
When we had Alice we were in another country, with different rules and different policies, yet we had the entire family from both sides supporting us. Now it would be different. I took the entire 4 weeks of paid leave and it was the best thing I could have done.
My team and my boss supported me with everything I needed to transition and take the 4 weeks. I also stepped up and did my best in advance to not leave any important matter behind schedule. Knowing that taking the leave wouldn’t affect my career goals was a relief. Everything worked perfectly. Having no fears allowed me to be the best Dad I could ever be and also set the tone for the Dad I want to be for the rest of my life.
The 4 weeks then became an intense life experience. Spending all that time with my wife while she recovered, and spending quality time with Lucas and Alice were my only priorities. All the other fears I had when I was a young Dad with Alice (like: “Oh my God, are they gonna break?”) didn’t exist now. I was grateful to have the chance to change all the diapers I had to change. I was grateful to be available to drive them up and down to see their doctors. I was grateful to have all the energy I had every night I put Alice to bed and told her a bedtime story. The benefits of being there for my family are above and beyond anything, and it has transformed my life as a Dad.
The kids are born knowing who the Mom is. They know their smell and recognize their voice. Breastfeeding also strengthens their relation with the kiddos. But Dads… oh boy… we have to earn it! We have to be there, make ourselves noticed and bond with the kids as much as possible. Every diaper, every bath, every change of clothes, every skin-to-skin contact we can have. That’s going to shape the Dad you can be. That’s going to shape your relationship with them. That’s going to shape the men/women your kids will be.It doesn’t matter if you are on the 1st, 2nd or 5th kid, I encourage you to take the leave and offer your family the best Dad you have inside of you.