What is the best advice you have ever received?
It’s a trite question to be sure, and the responses are typically just as cliché. Quotes about being yourself or following your dreams are definitely true and valuable, but they lack a certain defined actionability. That is why, for me, the best advice I ever received regarded one specific decision.
Should I take paternity leave?
That is the question I found myself intensely pondering as the due date approached. There were many pro-leave benefits such as supporting my wife and bonding with my newborn daughter. However, there were also several risks that would have been irresponsible to ignore. Would there be long term implications to my career? Could this decision impact my ability to provide for my now expanding family? How would I be perceived by coworkers, family & friends?
While the internal debate raged, I decided to approach my mom who had been through the wonderful, yet terrifying, event of having a child.
The advice she gave helped to change who I am, both as a parent and as a person. While not overstepping her role as a mother and soon to be grandmother – or ‘Gam-ma’, as she is now known – she encouraged me simply by saying:
“Well, what is your priority?”
Priorities can be slippery to define and often compete with one another for our attention and time. As we worked through it together, she helped me to discover that work was only a priority insofar as it provided for my real priority, my family. We then discussed regrets and the limited window of opportunity I had to be present with my family versus any potential career risk.
Enjoying this article? You can get more like it in GRAND Magazine delivered right to your inbox.
Ultimately, I decided to take a substantial leave and I am so glad that I did. Being there for both my wife and my newborn was crucial to becoming the family man I wanted to be. It allowed us the time to learn how to parent together and we adjusted to our new life in a very positive and natural way. The responsibilities of care became ours, not just hers, simply because I was present.
As it turns out, my fears of coworker perception, job risk, and long-term impacts were largely unfounded. Most of us, especially other parents and grandparents, fully support positive changes in work/life balance. However, we all too often let fear govern our actions and without the support of our loved ones, great opportunities like paternity leave sail right past us.
As a grandparent, my mother understood the long-term impacts of the decision and she patiently encouraged me to do what, deep down, I knew was right for my family. She helped me to see things clearly and most importantly to act in line with my priorities. I consider it her first gift as a grandmother.
If you have the opportunity to share a broader perspective to the future parents in your life, I highly encourage you to follow in the footsteps of ‘Gam-ma’ and speak up. Calmly & rationally, yes. Patiently, of course. But do speak up. It is one of the best gifts a grandparent can give.
About the Author – JT Smith
JT Smith is the creator of Paternity Leave Pioneer, a website encouraging Dads to prioritize their families’ right from the start. To the detriment of today’s children and parents, American adoption and acceptance of paternity leave have been a painfully slow process. JT firmly believes it is time to speak up and inspire all Dads to play an active role in the early years of their children’s lives. The site shares advice on negotiating, taking, & optimizing paternity leave, as well as addressing some of the biggest fears and concerns. Please check out and share the valuable information at https://www.PaternityLeavePioneer.com & follow along with JT’s second paternity leave!
Additional link for following my second paternity leave: https://www.paternityleavepioneer.com/set-up/