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My wife and I just welcomed our first baby. I’m grateful for a million things, but right now I’m especially grateful that my company gave me 8 weeks of paid time off to take care of my family.

As I talked to other parents, I realized how rare it is for non-birthing partners to get paid parental leave in America (it’s pretty darn rare even for the birthing parent). One friend said he had to beg for 2 weeks off after his wife had a C-section. Another cobbled together sick leave and paid time off just to get a month. Another went back to work after only a few days. This is absurd to me. It sounded ridiculous before having my own child, and now I can’t fathom it.

“Regarding paid family leave, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about 1 in 4 employees (24 percent) in the private sector workforce have access to paid family leave.”

-American Progress, 2023

After being there for the birth of my daughter and a few days of recovery (or, more accurately, more days of not sleeping) in the hospital, my wife and I went home to figure out the whole “parenting a newborn” thing. Beyond the existential changes, my days and nights were largely filled with tasks: Feeding Mom while she feeds Baby. Changing diapers. Prepping food for Mom. Carrying the car seat, groceries, and anything else over 10 pounds so Mom can heal. Tracking medication schedules. Logging Baby’s daily schedule. Adding Baby to our insurance so we don’t go bankrupt. Paperwork. Coordinating info with family and friends. Taking photos. Washing and rewashing bottles. Washing/drying/folding more laundry than I knew existed. Kinda sorta sleeping. Wondering if I’m doing anything right. Helping Mom believe she’s doing everything right. Staring at my new baby. Holding Baby. Doctor’s appointments. Baby gear troubleshooting. Figuring out how to be a dad. Texting all the people. Occasionally taking showers. And probably many other things that I can’t remember because it’s a total blur.

We were lucky to have a healthy baby — and a pretty happy one at that. Even so, it wasn’t until week 3 or 4 that I could imagine going back to work. And I was so glad I didn’t have to think about it yet. Month one was survival — sleep, eat, don’t fall asleep on the couch while holding Baby. Month two was integration — figure out how to exist as (mostly) functioning people with this new (amazing and demanding) addition.

The Stoltz parental leave policy is a lifesaver

I work for a woman-owned, women-led advertising agency that puts people first. Our policy is parental leave. Not maternity or paternity…parental. That means we encourage any person welcoming a new human into their family through birth or adoption to take 12 weeks off — 8 of which are paid. 

With this policy, leadership is actively trying to make life better for dads and other non-birthing partners. 

Why? First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, what’s good for dads is good for their partners too. When one parent has to go back to work immediately, guess who is left alone to figure out how to take care of a tiny human and somehow also do EVERYTHING ELSE? You guessed it—the other parent. To take care of all people, you have to take care of all parents.

Stoltz implemented their parental leave policy in 2020 because we understand that having a new baby is beautiful AND disruptive. When you encourage parents to take the space and time they need, you’re encouraging them to be their best selves at home and at work. That’s only possible with parental leave.

I’ll never forgot those eight special weeks of getting to know my sweet little baby, who is already not so little anymore. I’m back at work now and writing this. As expected it feels strange to be away from the little one all day. But it also feels good to know my family and I are supported and cared for even when my billable hours are zero. For that, I will always be grateful.