Paternity Leave Made Me a Better Christian Dad

Time off at the very beginning helps fathers prepare to bring up their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

When our first daughter was born, in the fall of 2021, she couldn’t nurse properly. For my wife, feeding her was an every-few-hours exercise in pure pain. Lactation consultants were consulted, to little avail; a minor tongue-tie operation, newly trendy in such cases, didn’t help either. We thought about switching to formula, but my wife was dead set on seeing nursing through.

So we triple-fed: She would nurse the baby through gritted teeth for as long as she could stand it, while I tried my best to distract her—singing songs, reading, putting something on the TV. Then I’d take the kid and finish the feeding by bottle while my wife pumped. As it turned out, the baby just needed to get a little bigger. By eight weeks, my wife’s pain was gone.

When our second daughter was born last year, the process seemed to restart—then unexpectedly cleared up in week two. The bigger challenge, it turned out, was managing the emotions of the now-toddler, who found herself, unexpectedly, no longer the center of the known universe.

After a period of protest, she settled into a new equilibrium. Yes, mom had a new baby, but she still had dad. For those first few weeks, the toddler and I were inseparable. (I made time for mom and baby too!) Soon, she had grown to like her little sister enough for us all to reintegrate as one happy family.

Both these stories have a key subtext: I was on paternity leave. Under my then-employer’s heroically generous, deliberately pro-family policy, I was free to take up to 12 weeks off per child to help my wife recover from childbirth and to bond with our new arrival.

I was lucky; that arrangement is rare. Most American fathers take only a short stint …

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