Being an American living in Britain, I am afforded certain benefits that I wouldn’t neccessarily get in the US. One of the big ones is paternity leave, and not just the time off, but also the very reasonable pay for said time off. Following on from Scott Benson’s lovely article on the experience of 16 other Dad’s who took paternity leave, I wanted to share my story of why paternity leave matters for Twin Dads.
My company has a really good paternity leave option, two weeks full pay as standard, plus a week of half pay of extended paternity. Granted three weeks off is nothing compared to what the mothers get, but it is still special and a bit unique. Having an extremely understanding and supportive company, along with good timing around bank holidays, I was able to take six weeks of paternity leave, which included two weeks of annual leave, all paid.
Knowing that we were having twins, I knew that two weeks would just not be enough to support my wife and get a real chance to bond with my newborns. So getting to have six weeks seemed like an amazing opportunity that I desperately wanted to take. I could almost have said I had seven weeks as my wife was unexpectedly admitted into the hospital a week early with pre-eclampsia, so I tacked on a few sick days to attend to her as we thought they might deliver the babies at any minute. Granted it wasn’t until a whole later that we got to meet our precious babs.
The first four days were largely spent sleeping for an hour at a time on the hospital floor of our private room. I was largely fully in charge as my wife was still recovering from the c-section and resulting blood transfusions. If there was a cry, I was on it, if someone need to be held, I was on it. This was a constant theme for most of my six weeks off as my wife was exceptionally sore and recovering from the operation. She was amazing all throughout it and did well to follow orders when she was getting to active. If I hadn’t been around for those extra weeks, my wife would have really struggled as there weren’t people to assist her for the time I was at the office.
Another aspect was that for those first few weeks, the kids routine was feed, sleep for an hour or two, feed, sleep, etc. With twins, it took one of us about an hour and a half just to feed them, let alone get both changed and put down to sleep. Having that second person really made a difference, and even allowed the other to grab some sleep during the day. While I could go on about how helpful it is for the Dad to be around to help with the kids, there are other benefits as well.
Now that our twins are nearly five months old, I can say that they changed more in those first six weeks then they have since. Routines changed every week or so, little things like grabbing your finger, staring into your eyes, smiling and more happened in those first six weeks. I got to experience all of that. I’m able to remember what it’s like to hold them in one hand/arm, be able to cradle them both and be able to bond with them. For me, it was the bonding that I got to do with them over those six weeks. They got to know my voice, my smell, my warmth and that I was always there for them.
By the end of the sixth week, I was getting smiles whenever I approached them and that melted my heart. It made me realise just how valuable that time off with them was. My wife and I both managed to get some sleep, get the twins on a good routine of sleeping and eating as well as taking care of all the other day to day things that wouldn’t have necessarily been as easy to do if I had gone back to work straight away. Paternity leave is amazing and something every Dad should take early on. Hopefully, more places will adopt better paternity leave policies and even better policies for parents of twins.