Being a New Parent is no Joke
By Drew Kreienkamp, Organization Effectiveness and Development Lead — U.S. Talent Management
Parenthood is one of the best, most fulfilling aspects of life, but it also can be one of the most challenging, especially in the early days, weeks, and months of having a newborn. My wife and I are just entering the 12th week of our third round of the newborn phase, so my thoughts and feelings on this journey are top of mind. I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to use a parental leave benefit during my time at Bayer three times now and was happy to have the opportunity to reflect.
What do you call a happy hour for a new parent? A nap!
One thing I have come to realize for me personally is that I am not and cannot be my “best” at work while being my “best” at home with a newborn, especially in the first few weeks. While bouncing on an exercise ball for hours a day and sleeping intermittently might sound like a health trend, it is in fact a survival plan for those first weeks. I can recall not too long ago that, almost daily, my wife and I would look at each other mid conversation and completely have forgotten what we were talking about. To me, that would not go well in a work setting.
Why did no one laugh at the newborn joke? The Delivery!
For me, my focus during paternity leave shifted with each child, in a large part because the needs of our family shifted. With my first child, I took two weeks up front. I did the cooking, cleaning, diaper changing and made sure my wife had what she needed to recover and care for our daughter. Going back after two weeks felt manageable as we reserved the other weeks to visit family and for when my wife transitioned back to work full time. We had a similar experience with our second child, but with added complexity of two children waking throughout the night. Most recently, I used three weeks right away. While the full-time diaper duty, cleaning and meal prep continued, this time our oldest two had a two-week school break, which meant I was on daddy daycare mode. To me it was important to focus that time on the older two so they felt appreciated and had attention while adjusting to their new sibling.
What did the buffalo say to his baby boy when paternity leave was over? Bison!
Beyond the sleep deprivation, not knowing what you are doing, or which sleep sack/swaddle will work, a huge challenge a new parent faces with a newborn is reassimilating to the workplace. With my first two experiences, I felt that I needed to jump back in with both feet, going back to the pace of which I worked prior to having a new family member. With my third, and having two small children at home, I know that will not be best for my family or work life balance. Am I still delivering on commitments? Yes, but am I taking longer to respond to emails, clarifying timelines and sticking to core working hours? Absolutely. You cannot do late night work while bouncing and rocking a crying baby. While having a leave, four weeks in my case, is incredibly helpful, having a team and leader that are supportive and shows care and concern is essential. Even co-workers acknowledging the daily challenges new parents face felt validating and encouraged me to acknowledge and shift focus .
I hope sharing my experience helps others reflect on their experiences, plan for impending additions to families and normalize what others may be struggling with. I am grateful for my parental leave, both personally and professionally, and could not imagine life without this benefit.