Paternity leave: why I took five weeks off

Published by Jai Breitnauer
Published on 11 January 2010

Noah Fagan, 32, Bristol

When I was made redundant a month before our son was due, my first thought was about getting a job. I needed to provide for my family, and in this economy I didn’t want to hang around.

But my wife, Jaime, 31, had different ideas.

‘What’s the rush?’ she said. ‘You wanted more paternity leave, here’s your chance.’

She was right. I was raised by my Dad, and desperately wanted to be there for Jaime and Isaac, now 1, when he was born.

I’d been disappointed I was only allowed two weeks off, and we’d discussed me taking extra as holiday, or even applying for unpaid parental leave. With our savings and the pay out I’d been given by work, we had enough money to survive for a month or two.

Isaac was born in November 20th 2008, after a four day labour. IT was great to be there with Jaime, helping her with her TENS machine, giving her massages and cooking her meals. Jaime and Isaac had to stay in hospital for five days, and although I visited whenever I was allowed, I think I would have felt a bit cheated if I’d had to go back to work – most of my leave would have been used up before Isaac even got home.

Jaime had trouble breast-feeding, and because she’d lost a lot of blood and had to have a transfusion she was very tired. She made the decision reluctantly to switch to bottle-feeding, and I was there to take over the night shift and reassure her that she was making a good decision.

There were things I would have missed out on if I’d gone back to work. On December 16th Isaac smiled for the first time. He was three weeks old, and it was the middle of the day. I wouldn’t have been there if I’d got another job. Me and Jaime would spend hours watching him stare at his own hand. He figured out he had control of it when he was around four weeks old, and it was fascinating to see him practising his new motor skills.

In January 2009 I decided to go back to work, but I chose a flexible working option. Now I spend two days a week working from home. It means that during my lunch break I can play with my son, and if Jaime needs some help with a dirty nappy, or just a hug, I’m there. Most importantly, when I finish work at 5.30pm, I don’t have to travel – so I can feed Isaac, bath him and put him to bed two nights a week.

I know I’m in a minority, and feel really lucky. Many of my friends don’t even see their children Monday to Friday – they leave before they get up and get home after bedtime. I couldn’t imagine not being a hands-on dad.

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