I work for a mining company. We mine sand. I've been there two years now, but I've been doing mechanic-type stuff for years. I live in a rural part of New Jersey. People are great out here, but if you're talking about ideologies, it's definitely more conservative.
I have a kid on the way, and I’m really excited. I can’t wait, to be honest. I’m more ready than my wife is. I’m excited about the whole experience, I guess. Honestly, it’s something I never thought I'd go through until recently.
I know that having a baby is pretty intense for the woman. So for me to be around to help my wife through that recovery period is a big deal. I need to be there to help. I think it's unfair just to have someone be like, “Alright, well, I'm going back to work.”
Being There for My Wife and Baby Is Important to Me
My wife and I will be raising our kid pretty much by ourselves. I’ve got family around, but we’re not super close. For the most part, it’s just my wife and me, and that’s probably how it’ll stay. So it’s extra important for me to be able to be here to help out and pick up some of the slack.
But also, I just want to experience this to the fullest. This is my child—my first child—and I want to be there during this time. I'm having a daughter, and I want to be there for her. Obviously, I’ll be there for her in the dad role or whatever, but I also want to be there for every aspect. I don't want to just be like, “Yeah, I make money; you should be thankful you have running water,” and that's it. Being a good dad is pretty much the bottom line, and I think a lot of that is just being around for life as it happens and not just going out to make as much money as you can. Because it's never enough anyway, you know?
So I’m taking the full 12 weeks of family leave that I’m entitled to through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to be there for my wife and baby. I mean, that's what they give you. So I don't see a reason not to.
I’ve gotten a lot of pushback for my decision to take time off. It’s actually kind of crazy. It really doesn't affect anyone else at all, but they all have a lot to say about it, for whatever reason.
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My Family and Co-workers Treat Family Leave Like a Scam
At first, it was just at work. Not from my bosses, which is what I hear the most from other people. I have neighbors that say they got a lot of grief from their bosses, like, “Oh, what are we gonna do? We're gonna be shorthanded. It's really going to screw us over for you not to be here.” For me, it’s coming mostly from my co-workers, asking why I have to take all of the time I have coming, which doesn’t make any sense to me, since they have the same rights to time off.
My parents have been even worse. My mom called me out of the blue to tell me she doesn’t approve of me taking family leave. “That’s not what a man does,” she said. “You’re supposed to be out there making money.” She went on like that for 30 minutes. It got so crazy, my wife recorded some of it.
There are a lot of people who think that the man’s role is supposed to be the breadwinner, that his responsibility is to be making money for his family, not being there to spend time with them. A lot of guys like it that way. I’ve had men be like, “Well, don’t you want to be at work?” I was talking to a co-worker and asked him if he’d taken family leave, and he was like, “No, I was back at work the next day.” I asked him what his wife did, and he said he didn’t know. I didn’t say it to him, but I was like, “You don’t care? You just went back to work?”
These other people aren’t the ones who are having the baby. They’re not the ones going through the physical pain or doing all of the exhausting work.
I want to be there in whatever ways my wife and our baby need me for. I know for sure I'm going to be doing all the chores. She’s going to have her hands full. I just want to make sure she has everything she needs, that she doesn’t have to worry about laundry, doesn't have to worry about dishes or stupid stuff like that.
I’m Standing Up for My Wife and Daughter
Plus, I want to spend time with my newborn too. I want to spend time with this new person. I've always wanted a daughter for some reason. People tell me I'd be a good girl dad. It’s not any one thing that’s exciting to me about it—it’s the whole thing. Just being there and watching somebody grow up and helping them through all this stuff and giving advice or whatever—just normal stuff.
These other people can keep trying to push their ideas on me. I'm not letting any of that change my mind. I'm still taking all my leave. I just think it's bizarre that all these people think it's so wrong to do that. They all seem to think I'm taking advantage of a system or something, when I feel like I'm doing the opposite. Family leave is a government program, and I pay my taxes. It is what it is, you know?
I'm not going to let anything get in the way of that. There's always another job. There’s maybe not always another family, you know, but you’ve got to do what you can with that. You can disagree and do what you think is right. And that’s what I'm doing.