[Note: TJ Simonik is a CPA that works in Risk Management at Duke Energy]
January 2019 began differently than previous Januarys in my professional career. I did not return to work. This was an unusual feeling because I’m a CPA where January has always been “busy season.”
This year I spent January on Paternity Leave with my beautiful wife and my bubbly baby girl.
These last six weeks have been the longest break from my day job and (spoiler alert) have been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
My employer, Duke Energy, did not offer Paternity Leave when I first started at the company.
Since I was single at the time, this benefit was not high on my list of priorities. My dad didn’t have Paternity Leave (as far as I know) and it’s not a benefit I ever expected to receive. Over the last few years more companies, including Duke Energy, have included Paternity Leave as part of their benefit package.
I have several peers employed by said companies who scoff at the idea of Paternity Leave saying “I would never take that much time off;” “I don’t want to hurt my career track to make partner/manager/director/VP;” or even, “My manager would never support all that leave.”
A Harvard Business Review article, even noted that fathers in Scotland “felt worried and even embarrassed to use offered leave and flexible working entitlements.”
At Duke Energy, I received strong positive support from both my direct manager and my department’s senior vice president. I didn’t feel any pressure not to take Paternity Leave so I ignored my peers and shut down my computer in late December 2018.
How did I survive? Why was it one of the most rewarding experiences of my life?
Here are the four highlights of my time spent on leave. I’m sharing my story to help encourage other fathers on the fence about taking their full Paternity Leave. I promise that you won’t regret taking the time.
Diapers, feedings, changings, baths, repeat. These are the basic steps in the routine of 0-3 month old. However, when my daughter stares up at me smiling and acknowledging my presence the whole world stops. This moment is priceless (every single time) and worth any lack of sleep I had the night before.
(2) Spending time 24/7 with your spouse
The longest my wife and I had spent together was around our wedding and honeymoon almost three years ago and totaled about two weeks. This six week journey together allowed us to reconnect.
More importantly this time together was spent figuring out what it means to be parents. Figuring out parenthood is hard for men and women alike, but keep in mind what your wife just went through to make you a dad. She needs to be able to lean on you as she also navigates being a new mom while simultaneously regaining her physical and emotional strength. You are needed.
Parenting is a partnership just like marriage and I couldn’t imagine raising our little girl without my wife.
I reaffirmed that I love my wife more than anyone after surviving spending 24/7 with her for six weeks.
(3) Every day is Saturday
Venturing out of the house (especially in January) is a big event no matter if it’s to the doctor’s office, church or a local brewery (the Simoniks made it to five Charlotte area breweries).
Every outing gets easier, but each one is also different.
The important thing I learned here is that the three of us can go on adventures together, big (like traveling to Ohio for Christmas) or small (like walking across the street to a brewery).
When I was a kid one of the gifts I got my dad was a little plaque that read “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.”
Being on leave for six weeks helped me reflect on the type of dad that I want to be and gave me ample opportunities to demonstrate that to my little girl.
I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, but spending time being intentional with my thoughts and actions will make me more successful in the future.