Christian reflections · Family life

10 Reasons Parental Leave is Necessary

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I’m currently on parental leave from my position as an associate pastor. Our church has been incredibly supportive of our growing family.

Not everyone is so blessed. Parental leave is a sticky wicket in America. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

From my own ongoing personal experience, here are 10 Reasons Parental Leave is Necessary.

10. Yesterday I couldn’t find pants. I own lots of pants. Some of them are even clean. Not many of them, because my newborn son has mastered the art of spitting up so much that it soaks both my shirt and my pants (it’s quite remarkable, really). But I couldn’t find any of my pants because I was too tired to open my dresser drawers. True story.

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9. The day before that, I forgot my husband’s middle name. We’ve been married for nine years and friends since 2001. Think of how many people I could have offended if I was back at work by not remembering their names.

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8. I have had three REM cycles in the past five weeks. Three. Most people have two per night. Missing 50+ REM cycles in five weeks leads to things like fits of hysterical giggling, passing out on the sofa while still wearing the baby Bjørn, and the complete inability to locate clean pants.

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7. I read an article about Eastern European orphanages last week and then cried for two hours. Because: the BABIES.

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6. I called our newborn son – whose name is Wilson – Hudson for the first two days of his life.

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5. We are pretty strict on sugar, but since bringing our newborn home our preschool son has had fruit snacks for breakfast. More than once. More than twice. More than… oh, never mind.

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4. I had the following conversation with a friend last week:

Me: How are you?

Her: Doing well. It’s been a really good spring.

Me: So, how are you?

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3. Lunch today was four spoonfuls of chocolate frosting and half a bag of cheese crunchies. We have leftovers in the fridge from dinner that friends brought us, but the microwave was too much for me to handle while holding a wailing baby and fending off a starving preschooler. DAIRY. CARBOHYDRATES. NUTRITION. Don’t judge.

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2. Our newborn is a super hungry baby, which means my average day consists of five minutes of nursing, ten minutes of trying to get something done, five minutes of nursing, two minute of drinking a liter of water and eating whatever is within arm’s reach (see #3) in order to produce more milk, and ten minutes of dozing. Repeat. Around the clock. For five weeks. Now try to form a sentence, send an email, or write a sermon. I dare you.

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  1. In all seriousness, though – at the end of the day, parental leave is important because the new tiny person added to the family has needs. The new parents have needs – sleep, food, sanity. The siblings have needs. Put that all together and those first days and weeks are a whirlwind of emotion, exhaustion, physical strain, and joy. Having a bit of time off work is essential.

Parental leave is not vacation. It’s in no way restful. It brings its own sort of bliss because babies are miraculous, sweet, milky, spit-up-y, cooing little gifts from above, but it is not a month at the spa. No one is eating bon-bons around here, unless it’s because someone brought us a box and they are substituting for dinner.

Parental leave is vital. Science proves it. Experience backs it up. I’m so grateful for it, and I want the same for all new moms and dads out there.

I look forward to being back at church–in both the office and the pulpit–but it is the margin this leave affords me that allows me to look forward to it with joy and not utter overwhelmed-ness. Adding another human to a family is no joke–physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.

For those of you who have kids – did you get any parental leave? Was it enough? What difference did it make for you?

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7 thoughts on “10 Reasons Parental Leave is Necessary

  1. You’re right that we don’t support it enough in the U.S. It really bothers me when people, even jokingly, compare it to a vacation. I got a month of full-pay, followed by a month at 1/2 pay, then I got unpaid leave for the next two months. It was okay, but not ideal. I was ready to go back to work, but then I had to deal with a sick baby while adjusting back to work (daycare viruses are so ongoing…)

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    1. So true, Sharon! Welcoming a new baby is a big adjustment, and the benefits to leave extend far beyond just the new parents (to the employer down the line, the community, etc.). And a sick baby is no joke!

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  2. Yes, you are blessed! When I was a young pastor’s wife, having a second child…parental leave was unheard of. You were expected to be dressed in your best (high heels included) and to be present at every service, committee meeting, etc. Times have changed, for the better for sure…I’m happy for you! Take care of yourself and those darlings.

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    1. High heels?! Those won’t be happening for me for awhile, Jeanette! We’ve made it to church most Sundays, but I’m so grateful to be part of the congregation and not back up front for some time!

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  3. I’ve been a SAHM and feel like parental leave for my spouse would’ve been awesome. He worked so hard at that time I never asked him to do anything to help with the baby, feeling the need to guard his rest so he could manage his work demands. But girl! That gif if the lady lying down in the supermarket aisle. I’ve almost done it. And I HAVE done it in the kitchen floor! In the first years I subsisted off of Cheerios from the floor and forgot the taste of hot food. I’m pretty sure I had post partum Blues too. This kind of leave from work shouldn’t just be availabile, it should probably be obligatory!!

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    1. I hear you, Jenn! Especially with kids after kid #1, because you can’t exactly ask a toddler to ‘nap while the baby naps’! I think baby blues can sometimes come simply from being utterly overwhelmed at caring for a tiny person (or two or three!) alone without close family and spousal leave while recovering physically yourself. It’s no joke!

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  4. Rob was self-employed, if he didn’t work, we didn’t eat! Because we opted to have me stay at home, having lefy my nice job in medical sales, parental leave was not an option. We were OK when our first daughter came along, however, when daughter #2 came along, and then became quit ill at 10 days until about 3-4 months, there are entire blocks of time I have very little recollection of! Tired? Fatugued? That doesn’t even begin to describe it! Thankfully we all survived!

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