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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

My Wrong Reaction to Paternity Leave (now put right)

How could I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?

How could I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?

I’ve long been an advocate for working fathers. Then why did I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?

My son just started middle school. He’s taking it in stride but I’m finding it hard to believe that my baby boy is now in 6th grade.

Our school district is great. One of the things I like about our schools is their attention to detail. For example, the 6th grade guidance counselor will move with the students and be their counselor in their 7th and 8th grade years. In this way, the counselor really gets to know the students and there’s more consistency from year to year. Really smart.

We were excited to make an appointment to see the counselor. Nick doesn’t have any major issues, but we wanted to get some tips to help him get and stay organized as he juggles multiple teachers/classes/assignments for the first time.

But the guidance counselor is not there.

As explained in a memo home to all 6th grade families, the counselor is on paternity leave. They have an experienced counselor to fill in for his leave, and all is well. As I said, attention to detail.

You know that I am a vocal proponent of paternity leave. That being said, I surprised myself with my initial unthinking reaction:

“O no! The man who will be my son’s counselor for three years is missing perhaps the most important time to get to know these kids- my kid!”

Ugh. I sounded just like one of those unsupportive managers I’ve been complaining about* (and working with to change their attitudes). It was such a wrong reaction to paternity leave.

It took me about a half a second to realize I was being dumb and petty. Of course, it is a good thing our counselor is taking paternity leave. It is a good thing that our school district offers paternity leave and supports those who take it.

If we want this counselor to be with Nick’s grade for the next three years and to fully invest in his job, it is great that he is taking paternity leave now. He can adjust to being a working parent and come back to work refreshed, engaged and fully committed. That’s good for both the counselors and the kids. Research shows he’ll now be more likely to stay on the job long-term. That’s good for the district. And I’ll have another guy in my life to talk with about fatherhood and work. Good for me!

So, yes, it is very mildly inconvenient that we won’t have our full-time guidance counselor for the next several weeks. But this is more than made up for with the many many positives. I am embarrassed by my initial wrong reaction to paternity leave and am glad I took the time to reconsider.

How have you reacted when others take paternity leave? How have others reacted to yours? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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* There’s one last lesson in this for me. After thinking through my initial reaction, I have more empathy for managers and others who initially resist change because they immediately think of the downside, as opposed to considering the positives.

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