Every few years, there's a big Hot Sports Take orgy because a pro athlete decided to skip a game for a birth and/or paternity leave. This year, it was Daniel Murphy's turn in the barrel, getting dumped on by Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa after skipping two games after his kid was born. Esiason has since apologized, but Francesa suffers from a rare condition in which he cannot hear voices that operate at a frequency different from his own, so I assume he's still blowing off his finger guns and telling his children they're too soft while giving himself a Diet Coke enema.
Anyway, here in the world of rational logic, paternity leave is something most workplaces allow and most new fathers take advantage of. Is it an important time for bonding between you and your wife and your little bundle of joy? Yup. Will you like it? OH GOD NO. Here now is a quick rundown of what to expect once that slimy baby comes a-shootin' out:
1. You should take one full week off from work for paternity leave, and NEVER more than that. By that last day, you'll be dying to get out of the house, and your wife will have finally regained enough physical strength post-delivery to beat the piss out of you and chase you out the door. You take a week, then "ease" back into work the next week, maybe leaving early Monday or going in late Tuesday, before throwing aside niceties and getting back to spending 10 hours a day at the office surfing the Internet.
2. You're the errand bitch. Every new dad strains to be really useful during paternity leave. This is especially true if your wife is breastfeeding, because she's the one who has to get up every hour on the hour while you lie there in bed like the candy-ass that you are. When a child is born, the father instantly becomes the unwelcome intern begging for meaningful duties. Giving that intern shit to do is more work than not having him around at all, and the average new father feels that in his bones. Sometimes you even grow to resent it. HEY! I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE! I'M NOT A FUCKING IDIOT!
Anyway, it will fall upon you to ANTICIPATE errands and run those errands without asking your wife what those errands ought to be. It's fun! It's like taking a test blindfolded. For example, you can't ASK if you need to get groceries. You just take control and go get them. If you ask, you will be killed. You will have to wash the dishes and do the laundry (and fail) and heat up the formula, and do it all with the anticipation and visual acuity of an NBA point guard.
3. You will have to manage visitors. Seemed like a good idea for your mom to come down for that week and "help" with the kid, right? Well, it turns out your mom is really annoying and will often make passing comments that act as stinging criticism: "Oh, so you hold the baby THAT way? Curious." It will fall upon you to diplomatically tell your mom to piss off and come back three months from now. Same with any other visitor coming to ooh and ahh over your sleeping kid-larvae. You will be in charge of wrapping things up by saying FEEDING TIME! and shooing the parade of well-wishers away*.
(*When having a kid, it helps to coordinate a dinner train, where a new friend brings you something to eat every other day or so, so you don't have to worry about shopping, even though you'll end up having to go shopping anyway. Then you bring them dinner when THEY have a baby. And the circle of Chicken a La King is complete.)
4. You will have a couple of moments where you think the baby is dying, but the baby is just doing normal baby stuff. Why is it throwing up? Why is its shit marbled? Dear god, what are those sounds it's making while sleeping? That can't be normal. He sounds like a busted radiator. You will call the pediatrician convinced your baby is dying, and then the pediatrician will tell you that it's nothing, and that you suck for waking him up at night.
5. Even though you are home for a full week, you will NOT be able to watch Game of Thrones the way you planned. You thought you'd be able to squeeze it in, right? Nope. You will fall behind. Get used to it, friend. I've spent the last eight years trying to catch up with all you prestige-TV assholes.
6. You will be tempted to push the soft spot on the baby's head in all the way. Totally normal urge. Do not do this. You will rupture its brain by puncturing the fontanel. Still… awfully tempting. It would be like opening a foam tray with a ribeye steak in it. Look how deep my thumb goes!
7. You are the official documentarian of the birth. It will be your job to take pictures and take videos and put together annoying Snapfish albums to send to family and friends, and give email updates to everyone. "Davey kinda smiled while he was pooping!" Stuff like that. This is usually the moment when fathers turn into amateur Scorseses and start pretending like they know shit about lighting and composition. You're clearly getting too much glare off the top of the baby's head. Anyway, if this is your first child, you will be obsessed with getting all this shit on the record. By the time your third kid comes along, you will give the zeroest of fucks. I don't think we even have a picture of our third kid. We could probably kill him and no one would find a paper trail. EXACTLY AS I PLANNED.
8. You will smother your wife. Again, you want to feel useful, but you just don't know how to go about it. Maybe you should get your wife a pillow. Would she like some soup? Maybe you should ask her if she's okay 7,000 times. Your wife will not like any of these ideas. And then you'll get mad because you were just trying to help. Then she'll get mad because you're being a pussy. And then you'll be like, WHOA, HEY, I'M ALL MAN. And then you'll take a walk to blow off some steam. It's pretty much a continuation of what happens in the delivery room.
Again, all perfectly normal. Childbirth is a wrenching, violent, transformative process for everyone involved. And even though you will feel impotent and resentful at times, it's important to be there for that process. It's what helps turn you into a functional, active parent, and not just some goober with a baby. Skipping out the second the kid is born to go back to your working life, pretending that you don't have to deal with any of that? That's what fuckheads do. So take your paternity leave and start washing those nipple shields like you mean it.
Image by Jim Cooke, photo via Shutterstock.
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