8 Things I Learned When My Husband Took Paternity Leave

8 Things I Learned When My Husband Took Paternity Leave - SavvyMom

My third daughter was born during a heat wave in May a few years ago.

Unseasonably hot days will always bring me back to one of my most favourite family memories. That summer, when my maternity leave had started, my husband also took four months of paternity leave.

The five of us—my husband and I and our three young daughters, all too young for school yet—were home together for four straight months. That time alone shaped our little family dynamic. We were fortunate. My husband was able to take a paid leave from work without it greatly affecting our lives, work schedules, or our finances.

I learned a lot during that time. Here are just a few of the things I came away with.

8 Things I Learned from My Husband’s Paternity Leave:

  1. Not everyone understands it. At the time I didn’t realize how complicated a move this would seem to some people. Surprisingly, taking a leave from work for four months to help take care of your family when you’re a man is still a new concept among our generation. I think some people thought it was kind of strange. Some didn’t know it was even an option to take a paid leave as a father. They also thought it was odd that I would leave my baby and return to work after eight months instead of the standard 12. But for the most part, people were happy for us when we explained how it worked for our family.
  1. Dads may do things differently, but they’re extremely capable. During that time, I did a lot of watching. I watched my husband change newborn diaper after newborn diaper. I watched him play with his four and two-year-old daughters endlessly. I watched him make lunches and snacks. I watched him discipline. Do bedtime routines. Put together outfits. He did all of it his own way—differently than I would do it. But he was so involved. Everything got done and I had very little to stress about. It was pretty great. Paternity leave allowed me to see it.
  1. Daughter-and-dad bonding is ridiculously sweet. My older daughters were four and two at the time. Up to this point in their lives, they had a LOT of mom time. When we were home together that summer, I ended up doing most of the newborn stuff (naturally). So my husband and other two daughters became a little trio. They took a lot of trips to the park, went grocery shopping, camping, made dinners and even just watched movies. All together. My kids didn’t realize it at the time—but they were very lucky during those four months. They had their Dad’s complete and total undivided attention.
  1. It was really great for my husband, too. Just like maternity leave is absolutely not a vacation, my husband’s leave ended up being a lot of work. But this wasn’t just about him being Mr. Mom for four months. He was also able to move at a slower pace. He didn’t have to worry about any workplace drama. He could do things around the house. Or just spend time with the kids. He only answered to little humans and himself, rather than bosses and supervisors. I think the change of pace and life was a refreshing break.
  1. Being together 24/7 is better than I thought it would be. Ok so keep in mind this was pre-pandemic. At first I worried a little that being together with my husband ALL the time might make me a touch crazy. We love each other—but we’ve also been known to get on each other’s nerves—and have no problem sharing it with one another. ‘Do you have to make so much noise when you brush your teeth?’ But the benefits definitely outweighed the drawbacks. No amount of noisy tooth-brushing could detract from all the quality time we had during his paternity leave.
  1. I didn’t feel like I had time taken away from my leave. This one surprised me as well. With my other daughters, I spent a lot of one-on-one time with them until they were a year old. So I was a bit worried about how hard it would be for me to go back to work after eight months of leave instead of 12. But those first four months really set me up well for the rest of my leave. I felt like we had a good amount of time to develop and bond as a family. This was my third time around the block, so I felt confident. I knew everyone was well-taken care of. My baby was going to be left with my Mom. Things couldn’t have been smoother. When it came time to work—it was naturally hard (it always will be), but I also really enjoyed that first cup of uninterrupted coffee at my desk.
  1. Going back to work is hard on dads, too. That summer, my husband had gotten used to slow mornings, non-stop time with his gals, days that were long and busy, but happy and relaxed. When it came time to leave that all behind and go back to work, it was tough for him. It was an adjustment. I think it can be easy to forget how the dad feels in all this, but seeing his side of it was easier for me after those four months.
  1. It will have a lasting effect. When my husband took this time off to devote to his daughters and wife, he was also helping his girls see first-hand what a good man can and should be. He demonstrated respect for women. He cared little about being judged or what cultural norms were. And my only hope is that this will stay with them throughout life. That he’s taught them what they should expect from any male relationships they may have in the future.

To all the dads out there, whether you’re able to take four months off or just a few days, much respect to you. I know there are a lot of you just like my husband. And it gives me hope for my kids’ future.



  1. Liz on November 8, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Great article on an important topic! My husband has been a stay-at-home dad for several years, and he does get some odd reactions that stay-at-home moms never get. He’s an awesome dad & husband though, and he takes terrific care of our kids. That’s all that matters to me. 🙂

  2. Heather on November 8, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    That’s awesome Liz! Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you that the most important thing is having an awesome partner and parent to your kids. We’re lucky gals! 🙂

  3. Heather on November 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you for this. I totally agree. For my second child I went back to work after two months. And baby stayed home with dad for a few months before his work season started. That father/daughter bonding time has really made a big difference. She is definitely daddy’s girl. He is a seasonal worker – mainly spring and summer, with down time in the fall and winter. He used to work on his off season. This will be the second year that I insist he stays home. Finacially it is a stretch and our kids are 13, 9 and 7. but the valuable time they have together and the things they get to do out way the financial stress! – Friends think it is weird he “isn’t allowed” to work and is a stay at Mr.Mom but I love it – cooked meals the sharing of household chores and driving duties!!

  4. Heather D on November 9, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I agree – you gotta do what works for your family!! And I personally found the pros of having my husband at home definitely outweighed the cons too! So nice for your husband and kids to have that time together. 🙂

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