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I am going to be a father for the first time in March. We are living in France, so, thanks to the welfare state, my wife will not be returning to work until September.

I am willing to set a good example for my kid, and take my share, so I will also stop working for 6 months, using some of my vacation I did not use the previous years, in anticipation of this.

The thing is that I don't have enough 'credit' to stop working all 6 months, so I will stop for 3 months, and work 3 days a week for 3 months.

The big question is: When will I be more useful at home? (Or, should I start by working a bit and then completely stop, or the other way around)

Things are sorted out at work, and they don't mind either way, but my boss would like to know soon in order to make plans for next year.

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First off, congratulations!

Here's my recommendation: plan on taking the first month, period, no ifs ands or buts. That period is going to be the hardest on your wife, as she is going to be going through huge (and I mean you can't even fathom) hormonal changes. That's before you even get into the sleep deprivation. If she's breastfeeding, she's going to need a lot of support (even as simple as just staying up with her so she's not alone at 2am feeding the little critter).

After that month, take another week to evaluate. Is your child easy going? Are they adjusting OK? If so, this is the prime time to pad out some work time to extend your leave. The baby should be gaining weight and stabilizing in terms of feeding, naps, and generally existing, and you and your wife should have a handle on most of the curveballs your child will throw your way. If you're both still having a hard time, schedule your time off accordingly.

Now, in terms of peak 'fun', try to schedule some significant time off around 4-5 months. At that time your child will be coming out of the fourth trimester of development and really start to blossom. You're going to see smiles, laughs, rolling, just tons and tons of development. Plus it'll be the middle of summer and the weather ought to be beautiful, so lots of time for family trips and the like.

Beyond 5 months I don't have much advice as my daughter just hit that milestone last week, but the first month is critical for everyone's sanity, while months 4-5 are the most fun in terms of seeing your child develop.

  • Thank you for the answer. Unfortunately, the deal at work is as good as it is bad. I can take how many days I see fit, but the schedule must be fixed within the next few weeks. Hence the difficult exercice of predicting how I will be needed – Maxime Aug 14 '18 at 18:11
  • Fair. In that case I would recommend one month to start, another month when the child will be 4-5 months old, and the month of September after your wife returns to work. Schedule the part time work as you see fit. Assuming this piecemeal situation is possible. – Marisa Aug 14 '18 at 18:41
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Please know that people will have different opinions on this. My opinion is based on my own experience of parenthood and on taking care of new parents (moms mostly.)

Sleep deprivation is the most likely negative consequence of having a newborn, so being there initially for your wife (the baby doesn't know much about what's going on at first) to help care for the child and let her sleep when the baby sleeps is on the top of my list. This means sleeping in shifts, and when not sleeping, doing the necessary cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc. If you can do this with the baby cuddled close to you, it's a win-win.

If your wife plans to nurse, you can help by getting the baby and doing the final burping (and possibly diaper change). If you're planning to bottle feed, you can be much more involved in the feeding.

Most babies wake frequently (and during the night) for at least two months, so the first two months seems a reasonable time to take off of work completely. Working part time after that sounds ideal.

I am willing to set a good example for my kid...

Your child won't even know you're doing this unless you tell them when they're older. You're doing this for your wife, who will most likely really need it.

But you will be there for that first smile, the first organized utterings, the first everythings with newborns. And those things are priceless (or they were to me, anyway.)

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    Dead-on. It was exactly like this with our 4 kids. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Aug 14 '18 at 18:47
  • I would recommend the opposite, get a good nights sleep so you are are fully capable to look after the feeding zombie wife next day, her every whim is anticipated – WendyG Aug 15 '18 at 10:04
  • @WendyG - Your point has merit, and I like the idea of having every whim catered to. :) But this is what worked for me as a new mom. If partner slept all night, I'd still be nursing the little feeding zombie every two - three hours during the day, and as anyone who's been there knows, it usually takes an infant a long time to nurse off of both breasts. :-/ – anongoodnurse Aug 15 '18 at 13:51
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    @anongoodnurse yes I remember mine was 40 mins feeding every 2 hours. so I liked somebody awake enough to respond to "sweetie could you just...", "sweetie could you leave me a plate of biscuits before you go to bed...". Both systems will work for different people :) – WendyG Aug 15 '18 at 14:48
  • @WendyG - Ahh, that makes sense! – anongoodnurse Aug 15 '18 at 16:51
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Congratulations! Time for the discussions to plan. As discussed, the first months are very taxing on the caregiver. Sleep deprived to the point of halucinations are possible. Is the plan to breast feed, pump and feed from bottle or just formula from bottle? You can probably get an idea of the time needed for each and whether it falls to just the mom. How is the support network? Depends on how the feedings are going to be handled will determine what others will need to contribute. Meals, cleaning, personal care assistance, babysitting so some quality sleep can be achieved. Is there pets that will also need taking care of. Getting to appointments will need a mini plan as well.

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