A Foolish Father’s Take on Paternity Leave

Even though 89% of fathers believe that employers should offer some amount of paternity leave, only 9 percent of workplaces offer it.   At The Motley Fool, new parents—regardless of whether they’re a mom or a dad—get 16 weeks in parental leave.

Scott Dornbush, who works on the Motley Fool Investment Management tech team  (actual title: Co-Assistant Junior Executive Vice President of Absurdly Long and Erroneous Titles), will be celebrating his first Father’s Day this weekend with his daughter Vera. He recently returned from his paternity leave so we decided to find out how it went.

How long did you take off?

I took off 16 weeks total. I took the first two weeks after our daughter, Vera, was born and then I was able to use the remaining 14 weeks when my wife’s maternity leave was up. Between the 2 of us we were able to stay home with her until she was 6 months old.

What was the best part about taking the time off?

Being able to spend time with Vera and watch her learn and grow over 4 months. We created our own father/daughter traditions between frequent (necessary) Starbucks walks, trips to Wegmans, nightly reading time, and stroller runs. A couple weeks ago we ran the Alexandria Running Festival 5k and finished 8th overall with a time of 21:37! She even got her first medal for “fastest baby”. Since my wife and I both took time off to be home with Vera, we both have an understanding of how challenging it can be to balance work and home responsibilities which allows us to better empathize and support each other when we have tough days.

What was the hardest part about taking the time off?

It’s a completely different mindset between being a stay-at-home parent and going to work every day. Having never taken more than two consecutive weeks off of work since high school, it was initially tough to make that switch. On my second day, I remember telling my wife that I couldn’t believe it was noon and I hadn’t even taken a shower yet. It took some time, but I eventually learned how to switch out of my normal routine and became flexible with what the day threw at me. And time becomes very strange-the best way I’ve heard it described is “the longest, shortest time”. There were plenty of days when I thought to myself, “Did I brush my teeth today, or was that yesterday?” It all blurs together.

What did your friends and family think about your paternity leave?

My friends and family were surprised, but thrilled for me and my family. The first reaction from anyone I told about my leave was to say “What company do you work for? They must be pretty incredible…and are they hiring?”

Was it hard to come back to work?

It was obviously tough to bring my daughter to a daycare provider, instead of staying with her, but she also needed to have some more interaction with other kids her age. I love my job, the team I work with, and my co-workers at the Fool; they feel like a part of my family too so it made the transition back to work easier.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about paternity leave?

One of the misconceptions I had was regarding the amount time I was going to have. I had heard stories of new dads playing video games for hours and I thought I was going to have a ton of time to catch up on projects around the house, teach myself Python, binge watch Game of Thrones, amongst other things. Of those things, I only was able to accomplish a couple projects around the house and still have yet to watch a single GoT episode. There were some video games though.

Happy Father’s Day to all of our Foolish Fathers! You are all awesome in our book (even if you have no chance of beating Scott and Vera in a stroller race.)

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