Client Partner, Facebook
Father to two beautiful girls
Paternity Leave: 9 weeks
We've had the pleasure of getting to know Alex over the past few months as a colleague, and now a friend. Alex has built a strong career in advertising, but more importantly has built a beautiful family with his wife, Allie.
In his spare time, Alex loves to write, and the passion he has for his wife and girls always shines through. Alex is a strong advocate for women, and someone we're proud to know. He recently joined the board of the Women@ Facebook New York chapter and we can't wait to watch him shine.
We caught up with Alex to take a look at the transition back to work from a father's perspective. Here are Alex's thoughts on helping his wife, Allie transition back to work after maternity leave.
One dad's thoughts on helping his wife transition back to work after maternity leave.
I’ve written pieces in the past, but writing this was much harder than others. The reason for this is because simply put, this isn’t about me. My writing has an air of conviction. I write about what I know to be categorically true. This post is different -- here there is no one truth, and I think that's exactly where we need to end up.
I am incredibly proud to call my wife the mother of our 3 year old and 1 year old daughters -- she is thoughtful, caring, fun and committed. To brag a little more, our girls are (mostly) sleep trained, independent, healthy and silly. I credit my wife for making our house a home. My wife is also completing her training as a periodontist, which takes 7 years of grueling school to accomplish.
She is the nucleus of our family and spends hours of her day performing surgery. She recently transitioned back to work after a very short maternity leave. Because of her schooling and residency, she’s taken a total of 40 days off for maternity leave between our two daughters. By contrast, if she was working in my industry she would've been able to take 240 days between the two girls.
While my job is demanding, and requires that I travel a ton (writing this from my 4th work trip in 4 weeks) -- my wife's schooling at times has zero flexibility. In other words, you can't pick up a phone call while you are grafting gums from the roof of someone's mouth.
So how did I help my wife as she transitioned back to work? Routines, Partnership, Knowing when.
Routines - There was an article in the WSJ a few months ago, which mused that in relationships people tend to start doing certain tasks and stick to them forever. Start paying the utility bill when you first move in together? That's your job from now on. Take out the garbage? Yours too.
While I find that idea to be true in our relationship, I think it's important to suspend the comfort that the rhythm of knowing your responsibility affords you when you have a kid. As a new dad, or a 2nd time dad, your schedule will change and morph. And while as a dad you might be able to dictate the terms of how you execute on your new responsibilities, it's not exactly the same for your wife. What I came to realize is that my wife's entire routine was turned on its head, and she didn't have a ton of control over it-- she was waking up earlier to get in a pumping session before work, and going to sleep later to get an extra feed in.
Therefore I did what I could to make sure that I was filling in where she needed me, not worrying how it fit into my routine. I did warn you above, this isn't about me (or us). You will likely get back into routines as your kid gets older, but the constant change that comes with having newborn doesn't afford that rhythm.
Partnership - The second realization I had when my wife went back to work was that when I do something for the kids, I am not doing it instead of my wife, I am doing it on behalf of us. To put it in work terms, there is no one P&L owner.
Kid needs to go to the doctor but my wife can't make it? I bring a script with questions/concerns and a pen to take good notes. This isn't because I am incompetent, it's because I know how badly my wife wants to be there.
Parenting isn't a zero sum game, and the role you play in the partnership of parenting isn't either. I find that our roles are constantly evolving. Like the 'lava' in a lava lamp, every time one of us morphs so does the other.
-- A note to first time dads, every stage feels like it's the new forever but it's not. And every time your kid changes so will you/your partnership with your spouse-
Knowing when - Striving to have a fulfilling work life and a fulfilling family life. It's important to internalize that it's hard to do both at the exact same time- and I mean literally in the same moment. Your best meeting won't matter to your kids and your best beach day won't matter to your client. One of my senior leaders at work put it well when my second was born, "Parenting is a mad dash – only you know who needs you more – work, family – it’s never both at the same time."
At the beginning of this, I mentioned that there is no one truth here. What I meant is that the above is our story. Not every dad and mom have the same needs and wants. I also recognize that everyone's support system is different. We are very fortunate to live near family who eagerly fills in when my wife has a late night in clinic, and I am off in another city for work travel. I am also grateful that we both respect each others careers and parenting styles. I hope that what I've learned from our truth can help you think about yours.
To my wife Allie, thank you for giving me the privilege to write this kind of posts. This is an infinitesimal and superficial expression of how much I appreciate all that you do for me and the girls.
Love you, Alex.