Preparing for Labor Day: “Maternity Leave” Is Also for Dads
This blog is a part of our This Is How You Dad series.
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I’m a middle-aged man, and I will be taking maternity leave. You read that right.
I will be taking primary caregiver leave (usually called maternity leave) upon the birth of my daughter, who will join us in life at almost any time now! Our Labor Day Miracle is on her way, and after she arrives, I will be the primary caregiver of my children.
I will not be returning to my day-job until January of 2019, taking the maximum amount of paid leave my company allows. This isn’t unheard of in New York City in 2018, but as a senior sales manager at a major financial technology company in the home stretch of an aggressive sales year, some might argue it’s a career-ending move. Nevertheless, I am professionally walking away to support a newborn, my other two children, and most importantly, my wife.
She is the reason I have decided to make this decision. My best friend and partner in life, she is one of the smartest people I know and has been my biggest supporter, both personally and professionally. A board-certified psychiatrist, she put an unbelievable amount of time and effort into her medical residency, her medical licensing, and her board certification.
When our son and daughter were born, she worked at a hospital and was provided maternity leave. But a couple of years ago, she decided to start a private practice, adding the title of “business-owner” to her credentials. I was, and continue to be, incredibly proud of her professional accomplishments, but I also knew that one of the biggest stresses surrounding her current pregnancy was with respect to how soon after giving birth she would return to work.
“If given the opportunity a hundred times, I would and will make the same decision every single time.”
Unlike when she worked at a hospital, this time around every day she doesn’t work, she runs the risk of potentially compromising her practice, and in the process, her professional reputation. It was in this dilemma that I knew I needed to step up and support my wife’s career the way she has supported mine. After careful consideration and some very honest conversations, it was decided that we were going to flip the script. This time I was going to stay home and she was going to go back to work.
I’d be lying to you if I said that this was an easy decision to make, and that I wasn’t apprehensive about approaching my manager. However, my company has been nothing but supportive, and I know the decision I am making is the right one. If given the opportunity a hundred times, I would and will make the same decision every single time.
Although not an easy decision, this feels like a logical one, considering my upbringing. All my life, I’ve been supported and surrounded by people who have both preached and practiced the concept of equality, which in turn has helped shape the lens through which I see the world.
My father, a chemical engineer and professor by trade, was able to rise from the villages of India and provide a better life for his family by immigrating to Canada. He was a staunch believer in the value of education, and strongly pushed my sister to study the STEM subjects and excel academically. Ultimately, she achieved her Bachelor’s, PhD, and JD. And despite his traditional upbringing, he supported my mother as a returning student, encouraging her in her own career development. My father always believed that there is nothing more empowering than to be able to support oneself, and his support of my mother shaped what I wanted in my own marriage.
With that said, believing in equality and actually living it can be two different things. Against the nature I thought I possessed, I found myself with reservations about this decision. This, in spite of all the support I received from my family and friends. This, in spite of the fact that I am a vocal advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equality, both personally and professionally. This, in spite of the fact that I have actively engaged and served with organizations that promote equality and have been honored by them. This, in spite of the fact that I have put my time and money into causes that promote equality, both domestically and internationally.
There is still a stigma about fathers putting their personal lives above their professional careers. At the end of the day, I still feel the very same apprehensions, concerns, and even fears that I’m sure my female counterparts face when taking time off to care for a child.
It was in those reservations that I realized if I felt this way, surely there must be many other men who do, too. I knew I needed to take this opportunity to speak openly about a subject that historically has been directed at women. If I truly wanted my children to live in a world where equality is a practice instead of a buzzword, I had to speak up and tell my story.
Over the next four months, I will document my experiences as a primary caregiver and talk about not only the mental and physical experiences I undergo, but the emotional and social ones as well. My hope is that other men (and women, too) can learn, change, and feel empowered through my journey. I’m coming into this with a positive attitude and high hopes, but also realistic expectations. What will be interesting to observe and document is how my experiences affect me and what type of person and professional I become by the time I return to work in January 2019. I look forward to sharing this unique time in my life with you.
Krishna C. Nadella is a senior sales manager at Bloomberg LP.