May 16, 2008

Last Day of Paternity Leave

Filed under: Personal Blog — marcstober @ 12:17 pm

Today is my last day of paternity leave. Thanks to a great employer who paid 60% of my salary while I was out, I was able to spend eight weeks away from the office, taking care of Max and being a stay-at-home dad.

I’m supposed to say what I liked best was the time to bond with Max, but what I really appreciated was the change in routine. I never set out to have a 9-to-5 job in an office. I set out to be creative, and make an economic contribution to society, and society seems to have said that working on a computer, at a desk, is where I do that best. I started my first full-time job in 1996 and haven’t taken much of a break since 2001, when I took a semester to finish grad school and move to Boston. In high school and college I was doing something different every year: I was a musician, then an artist; I could work with my hands, then with my intellect; I could travel the world. I knew I would grow up and settle down, but I never expected to get quite as settled as I’ve become. These eight weeks at home were a time to do something different, with the reward of spending more time with the kids, and not too much risk.

The Jewish holiday of Passover fell during my leave. This is when we remember that God freed us–emphasis on “us,” not some ancient people–from the slavery of the Egyptians. In recent years I’ve come to see the message of Passover as being that we are still slaves–hopefully not in the literal sense, but we are not completely free from economic forces, social issues, and our own limitations in accomplishing our potential to do good. I won’t say paternity leave is like forty years of wandering in the desert, but I did find the time to be freeing and it helped me reflect on these things.

I’d like to say I have all the answers about what I want to do as a father and a professional but eight weeks is not that long. I did learn to bake a pretty decent challah and figured out a recipe for pareve chocolate chip cookies without trans fat. I think I bonded just fine with Hannah without taking time off when she was born, but this time around we did spend time with both sets of grandparents that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. I’ll probably never be a professional child care worker, but if I had to stay home more with my own kids, I’d be very happy with that. I’ve hardly looked at a line of code in the past eight weeks, although I’ve continued to think a lot about software. I think there is some great challenge out there for me, but I haven’t quite found it yet.