A working dad tells us about his extended leave and how the traumatic birth of his first child led his partner to create a portal to help other people going through the same thing.
Postpartum Plan is an award-winning, holistic online membership for new parents, laying the emotional and physical foundations for a lifetime of parenthood. It brings together an experienced team of postpartum experts that all new parents should have access to; women’s health physio, yoga and breath-work instructor, nutritionist, postpartum doula and more. It was inspired by founder Meg Murray Jones’ traumatic first birth which left her with PTSD, diastasis recti, insomnia, postpartum anxiety and an overwhelming sense of inadequate support.
Her husband Dave, who works at Google, just took extended paternity leave of 18 weeks following the birth of their third child. He tells Working Dads about that – and how Postpartum Plan came to be.
It was wonderful for several reasons. The main one of course was being able to focus on our new little one Peggy and spending quality time with her, my wife and my other two kids. I took July and August off meaning we made the most of the summer. Our other two kids are at school. The first two weeks they were still in school so me, my wife and Peggy went on lots of trips outside. We went swimming in Brockwell Lido several times. We ate out lots. It was bliss.
Then the other kids finished school for the summer so I was able to spend quality time with them too. That was the other main benefit; being able to switch off from work and be truly present with the family. When I’m at work I’m often really busy. Work is on my mind and I get home exhausted and not able to give the kids my best. Taking extended pat leave gave me perspective on what’s most important in life. I decided that when I went back to work I would try my best to prioritise quality time with the family and being present in those moments.
I was a bit nervous about disappearing from work and the weeks preceding my pat leave were stressful trying to finish up projects. I tried to choose times of the year that are quieter at work. I chose Dec and Jan and then July and Aug. I also chose two big blocks because I remember from my extended pat leave with our second child. Back then I took one to two weeks here and there. This was actually more disruptive at work because I could never get stuck into projects and was forever playing catch up.
I know I’m lucky to work for a large progressive company that can afford to invest in employee well-being. Our managers are trained to be supportive so I felt reassured about taking the time off. Also, I looked at the bigger picture. When am I going to get this chance again? Pretty sure this is the last time! Therefore I decided to embrace the opportunity and invest in my family and well-being. It was 100% worth it.
A lot of dads raised eyebrows when I said I had 18 weeks. I know I’m lucky and that a lot of companies just give dads the bare minimum. When you think about it, getting just two weeks after your baby arrives is pretty woeful. Newborns (usually) sleep around the clock. When they get a bit older and you’re grappling with teething and sleep regressions…that’s when a dad being off work could add the most value.
So yeah, some people are surprised but most are impressed by my company’s attitude and I also saw other dads with similar extended pat leave. All of them were the same as me in terms of finding the time off incredibly special
Meg suffered terrible PTSD after the traumatic birth of our first child, Jude, in 2016. We had done everything to plan for the birth, like society tells you to, but didn’t prepare for the postpartum period and all the emotional and physical issues that come about.
Meg was not given the emotional support she needed – nor was I – and it had long-term implications on our first year as parents and Meg’s return to work. When we got pregnant with our second child Meg threw herself into understanding postpartum recovery through nutritionists, mental health experts, physios, sleep consultants and more. She realised that postpartum was a forgotten area of health and spent the next three years researching how to support new parents. Postpartum Plan brings together all that knowledge with over 100 videos, podcasts, recipes and live sessions with experts to help parents emotionally and physically recover.
That was brutal. We were both shell-shocked by Jude’s difficult birth, the three days he spent in an intensive care incubator and the thought he might have brain damage. That was like a cloud over his first year. As it turns out he was fine but we didn’t know that at the time so it was very tough. Plus he had bad acid reflux which made it harder still.
Back then my company gave me two weeks off for pat leave. They’ve come a long way since then! I remember going back to work knowing Meg was dealing with a lot emotionally and physically. Leaving her and Jude alone wasn’t easy. I’d be in meetings and see message alerts on my phone. Quite often Meg was finding it hard. Jude was in pain. I felt unable to help. That was definitely a dark period.
Obviously, I firmly believe in extended leave for new parents. To put it bluntly, parents who don’t have this are missing a golden opportunity. I understand not all companies can provide this benefit but if I was 10-15 years younger I would 100% be considering my employer based on their parental leave offerings.
Read more about Postpartum Plan.