Taking Parental Leave?

Mother and son smiling covered in different colored paints at public festival
Image credit: photo by ketan rajput on Unsplash.

This is a very personal decision, and I've decided to take 2 months of paternity leave when our daughter arrives.

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook.

To leave or not to leave? There has been so much recent focus around paid parental leave, the most recent of which is regarding Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook offers employees, regardless of gender or birthing method, four months of paid parental leave and Zuckerberg himself is taking two months of leave to be with his new baby daughter.

Often, however, the focus in the media has been on the implications for the corporation, or how coworkers view those who leave, with less emphasis on the emotional aspect of taking a parental leave or not taking a parental leave, or the impact on a partner or spouse.

Considering Leave?

There are a myriad of feelings experienced by parents considering parental leave, whether that be considering taking leave at all or trying to determine the length of leave. We may experience fear, anxiety, loss, anger, frustration or sadness.

Making this decision isn’t as simple or straightforward as writing up pros and cons, and can stir up much internal conflict, as there are many emotional, social, familial, and financial aspects to the decision.

Many parents fear that if they do take leave, then their careers may be affected, especially if coworkers and bosses are not supportive. Even when coworkers and bosses are supportive, we parents often feel a sense of guilt in leaving our responsibilities to another person. We may even believe that we are the only one who can handle the role.

Tuning in to your own needs:

All parts of us need to be part of the decision-making process: our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. In order to make a decision based on you, and not on the opinions of others, it can help to ask yourself these questions: What do I need? What does my baby need? What does my spouse need?

If you say to yourself “I want to take off two months”, notice whether you feel dread or excitement. How does that idea feel within your body? Close your eyes and notice if your heartbeat is speeding up, have you momentarily stopped breathing or does your body suddenly feel completely relaxed?

What happens for you may be a clue to what feels right within yourself. Would it feel better to give yourself longer, or to perhaps not take any leave at all? (You can ask the question again with a different statement like: “I want to take off six months”.) Ponder whether the statement is really what you want, or is it simply too scary to contemplate the potential loss of income?

Setting boundaries is another part of learning to listen to your own needs. Though others may try to be helpful, questions and comments from others may spur a sense of guilt over your decision. Whether the helpful include bosses, coworkers, friends, or grandparents, simply let them know that you appreciate their concern and that you would like to make your own decision (together with a spouse or partner).

My wish for you today is that you are able to tune into what it is that you really want, without the distractions of society or others’ opinions.

Discover more tips and helpful guidance on parental leave in my complete article.

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