Tips for making the most of your parental leave
5. Prioritise your baby’s routine over yours.
I can’t blame a dad (or mum for that matter) for wanting to hold onto their previous life, routines and hobbies and wanting their baby to seamlessly integrate into their existing lives. Some parents try to take their kids to parties and rock concerts and try to continue doing everything they used to enjoy doing together before baby was born. If that works without any repercussions on sleep, development or behaviour (let alone hearing ability), then good luck. At the other end of the spectrum, some parents become so anxious to do anything that disrupts their baby’s routine that they become imprisoned to their perception of their baby’s ‘needs’, to the detriment of their own physical and mental health.
Both are extremes, but the key is to try to find the balance somewhere to the right of the middle where the baby’s needs are met in a way that is still sustainable for you as primary carer. Totally neglecting your own needs such as sleep, having adult conversations or even just getting outside to exercise and feel the sunshine, at the expense of putting your child’s reduces your own capacity to care for your child, which is ultimately your child’s biggest need- someone fit and able to care for them.
At the end of the day, caring for a happy baby is much easier, less stressful and more enjoyable than looking after a tired grumpy baby. The point is, don’t think that I baby will just sleep anywhere and tag along with whatever you want to do. Yes every kid is different (and some just have trouble taking day time naps), but if you are denying your bub what they need like the opportunity to sleep because you are trying to fit them into your schedule, then your parental leave is likely to be more challenging than it needs to be.
The Australian Government allows for parents who are married or in a de facto relationship to take Concurrent Leave of up to 8 weeks as part of their total unpaid leave entitlement. This leave can be taken up until the 12 months of the birth or placement of the child. If you can afford it, taking this time off together is invaluable for the father to learn all he needs to know from the mother before taking the reigns full time himself. Concurrent leave can act like a 'handover period' between parents, giving dad the chance to learn everything he needs to from his spouse / partner in order to take over the primary carer reigns, including sleep routines, learning tired signs, settling techniques and everything else he'll need to know before going it alone. You may also also want to use this time to travel or see family together before your partner returns to work.