Long term paternity leave

It’s been five months since I last thought about work. My laptop is in its original packaging. My home office turned into a guest room and work goodies packed away. I’m currently taking a six month break from work since the arrival of Ariah.

Long parental leave is normal in some countries, but for a South African father, 10 Days is the maximum. The Lord has blessed me tremendously through Automattic. Their benefits are truly world class, specifically the generous paid time off. This is my fourth paternity leave period during the last 5 years. Through sheer privilege, I was able to be on paternity leave for 16 months all together.

Before tell you about the experience, I wanted to note the following. I’m not on standby. I don’t have to do any checkins. There are no work emergencies to take care of. I’ve handed over all my responsibilities to my team. Even after becoming a team lead, a great team mate (thank you David) stepped up to handle my responsibilities. That’s the way Automattic expects you to do it: when on leave, focus on your personal life, not your job. For the sake of communication, no news is good news.

So, how does it feel?

With our first two boys, Judah and Hosea, I had a lot of down time. Lauren breastfed exclusively which left me waiting on her call for assistance, but from Avah onwards, it felt like I was switching to another full time job. The more kids you have, the more valuable longer paternity leave becomes. With each new family member, everything becomes exponentially more complex.

The first few weeks was more about switching off from work and switching on to the reality of a new family member. I’ve already written about the challenging times we had with this pregnancy, but to add more context, with Ariah arriving early and then further complications with Lauren I was the full time carer for Judah, Hosea and Avah. I had a lot of help from my family as we moved back to my moms house during Lauren’s long hospital stay.

I’ve heard many people say “kids grow up too fast”. They all wish they had more time to spend with them. And this is the best benefit of paternity leave: a special time spent with your wife and kids. You get to take them to school, the park, outings and longer walks at the end of the day. You get to support your wife and entertain the new baby with your “googoo gaagaa” impressions.

Paternity leave is not a holiday. You don’t get to simply pick a destination and enjoy your time off. Having a baby is a serious responsibility and they limit your options quite a bit, especially in the first 3 Months. It is tempting to use the time for traveling and getting out, which we did, but during these outings we always realised that the best thing one can do is stay at home. The last few weeks felt more relaxing. We decided not to make any plans, avoiding the stress brought on by the desire to maximise time off.

Towards the end of paternity leave, your mind starts to wander back to work. How will you adjust? What must be put in place with the family to make the transition as smooth as possible? How will we cope with kids during late night meetings? What if I have to travel? The situation changes from being supportive to needing support. All these questions will be answered in the next few weeks, as we make the transition back to normality.

Normality

Whenever I’m away from work, I realise the great value it adds to life. It gives a sense of purpose, belonging and the feeling that you’re spending time on something more important than yourself. You’re in a team, part of the crew, rowing in the same direction.

Am I ready to work and take on the challenge of juggling more responsibilities? As I write this, I have little more than 3 weeks left. My mind is slowly making its way back to work. I’m about to setup my office again. I’ve started working on a side project just to see if I can still write some code. Planning to setup a few meetings before I return, just to get the feel for where I’m going to fit in again.

The past 6 months was life changing. I’ve grown as a father, man and a believer. I’ve realised how quickly things can change and how precious this life is that we all share.

Since the family is full, this is also my final paternity leave. Again, what a great privilege.

Success with your support network

Lego inner cricle. A close nit lego family.

To succeed at remote work, we need to know what we need and how to communicate it.

I have three kids and the best kind of support from Lauren. Remote work would be impossible without her being a great friend, taking care of the kids when I’m having meetings and listening to all my silly ideas.

This post was a draft for a while and I’ve tried to make it as universal as possible, though, I realized that I could only share my viewpoint on the type of support one would need and so I’ll touch on practical and intangible support.

Practical support

My workday starts at 8am. I have a separate space where I can lock the door to stop the kids from running in. I’m not too fond of interruptions and any other task or requests while I’m working. I’m most productive in the morning and try to schedule my deep work between 8 and 12. Since I became team lead I have more meetings in the afternoon. I take a break every hour and regularly go outside to see my family.

To think about what you need to help you with, consider these questions:

  • What kind of space would you like to work in? Should your space be open and accessible to those around you?
  • What are your preferred work hours and when are you most productive?
  • What can others do to make your work easier and how can you return this favour?

After answering these questions or thinking about your own practical needs, consider the intangible needs that are equally important.

Intangible support

I need to talk about disappointments and let go of stressful situations. Similarly, I love speaking about the joyful work moments and having some quiet time to write and think fills me up. Reflecting on the positive things and practicing gratitude allows me to face life with a fresh perspective. There are days where it’s impossible to be entirely focused, where I am distracted by family responsibilities or life. You will face similar situations.

For the intangible support consider these questions:

  • Do you have good separation between work and life? Are you taking enough time off?
  • What makes you truly happy and how can you create a space for this in your life?
  • Do you take time to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, regardless of how small they are?

When we disconnect from work we need to return to space where we are loved, respected and cared for. In this environment we can more freely share how work affects us emotionally. Remote work situations differ a lot and we all have our own unique context, but despite the varying contexts taking your loved ones on the journey with you is crucial.


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Remote work success

Remote worker, like a lamp in the darkness

The global pandemic induced a mass workplace migration. Many office inhabitants were thrown into the wild remote working paradise. The expected decrease in Covid-19 case numbers will see most people abandon the remote working paradise, but for some, the distributed work environment is here to stay. I’m writing this guide for those who will become permanent remote workers.

I have worked remotely for over 7 years and still find both glorious and challenging. Along with flexibility and control, remote work requires great discipline and support.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting on the pillars of remote work success. I’ll touch on inner circle support, time boundaries, self care and much more. If you are interested in learning more about remote work and other related topics please subscribe below.

This is the list of topics I’ll blog about in the coming weeks. I’ll update the titles with links to the posts as I publish them.

1 – Success with your support network

Update: After thinking through these topic, I realised that I don’t have much more to say beyond the titles. So here they are. Consider them and make sure you do some of these things.

2 – Time boundaries

3 – Find a dedicated space

4 Remove Distractions

5 – Structure every day

6 – Take great breaks.

7 – Get out and away for remote work success.

8 – Work hard on yourself .

9 – Look after yourself.

These topics are the pillars that have helped me over the years and I’m sure it will guide you in figuring out how to succeed in a remote working environment.

Howzit Podcast Appearance

It was a privilege for me to feature in episode 003 of a fantastic podcast called Howzit. The podcast episode touches on remote work, faith, writing, and personal development. I’m grateful to Travis for inviting me.

Links

Habits of Highly effective Software Engineers

Valuable advice from the “Tech Lead”. A career in software engineering is a long term game, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Having habits like these, ensure that you’re preserving yourself as you grow in experience and influence.

  1. Healthy Lifestyle, exercise, water and nutrition. Keep a good posture.
  2. Good Sleep routines.
  3. Continual learning. Keep your skills sharp.
  4. Have result-oriented work ethic. Focus on being effective, get work done.
  5. Keep things simple. For yourself and others. Complexity works against you.
  6. Create periods of deep work in your day.
  7. Collaborate with other programmers to save time and effort

What does 6 months paternity leave feel like with 2 babys?

I didn’t want to say much about this as it is not that common, especially here in South Africa. The norm here is three days and some annual leave. When I share that I’m on family responsibility leave and for how long, people usually either respond with excellent or a mild form of disgusted jealousy. I’m am truly blessed to have the privilege of paid leave for such a long time.

Continue reading “What does 6 months paternity leave feel like with 2 babys?”

Take a Nap, Change your life Book Review

I used to ascribe to the phrase: “sleep when you die”, but to what benefit? Hustling? Working hard? That may seem like the best thing to do now, but it may take 3 times as long for you to reach your goals, if you are burnt out, as you make a lot of mistakes in this state.

The title of this book grabbed my attention. Who doesn’t what to change their lives for the better? I guess most of us do, so the things I take form this book was exactly what I expeceted: Working smart and sharpening your most valued tool, the mind, is simply one of the best things you can do for your better future.

The book teaches that napping has many benefits and encourages you to incorporate a nap into your daily routine. On regular days, a short nap will do, but on days when you feel more exhausted taking a longer one is perfectly fine.

The short 20-minute nap gives you a boost in energy and alertness, which is good for motor learning skills. The longer 90-minute nap gives you a full sleep cycle, improved emotional state, and procedural memory, this also helps with new connections in the brain. Source for more data.

What I didn’t like about the book. I was expecting a 5 pager to be honest. Give me all the good stuff and let me go to bed right now. The book focuses on education around sleep in general. It makes a short hit at the naps and how to do it. The main focus is on understanding how sleep works.

You should read this book, if you want to undrestand why napping is important and how your sleep cycles work.

This book may not change your life, but applying the principles may have an exponential impact on your health, happiness and possibly even bank account.