Tuesday, March 19th. 3:45AM. Standing in the living room in my unmentionables. Completely awake and visibly distraught. Urine-soaked warm-up pants on the floor. Spit-up stained shirt on the couch. My wife, Natalie, rubs her eyes and asks, “What the hell happened?”
It was Day 5 of having our newborn at home. And I was losing my mind…
How do we get him to sleep? How often do you have to feed him? Do I really need to change this diaper every 15 minutes? I have to keep him alive! He’s losing weight! Oh, got to remember to tell my wife how much I love her; how proud I am of her. What is that splotchy red mark? And why the hell is there ‘milk’ oozing from his nipple? WHAT? Why is he crying again?!? I’m freezing…where is my shirt? God I’m hungry! Look at him—he’s amazing.
The one thing that wasn’t on my mind? Work. No emails. No chats. No quotas, forecasts, practice sessions, strategy meetings, or interviews. Just Natalie and Harrison.
Mark Zuckerburg received a lot of attention last week after announcing that he’s taking two months off to be with his growing family. I think he’s setting an example for fathers-to-be, and the companies that employ them.
I work at Lessonly—a tech company in Indianapolis. I love everything about it, and I’m over the moon that the timing worked out and I have the opportunity to work with this team. But there are limits to that love, because my new family is a priority and I’m encouraged to think that way. Max Yoder (our CEO) and Conner Burt (our COO) have instilled that into our culture.
I don’t know when the paternity policy was put in place—I probably should know more about it. When I started with Lessonly, there were only a few ‘baby llamas’ in the world. But now, the place is starting to burst with photos of newborns in Lessonly onesies.
New dads at Lessonly know this: Six weeks. Paid. No judgment.
I know my wife, Natalie, would emphasize that I only took 2.5 weeks off— that’s still a point of contention in our household. I think I wanted to get back to work because of my own baggage.
There have been times in my career, even when I performed at a high level, that I felt judgment for taking time off. The feeling was often that long hours with no breaks equaled productivity and value. So I skipped the last 50% of my paternity leave. I regret it now—I missed out on time with this new miracle and my miracle of a wife. We laughed together, wrote late-night thank you notes together, we cried together, learned together, failed together. And I’d pay top dollar to do it over again.
I also know that if I’d taken the full six weeks, the team at Lessonly wouldn’t have batted an eye. Everyone on the team pitched in during my absence, especially my sales counterpart and great friend Matt Lubbers, who had spent time off with his new child just a few months earlier. The team gave me confidence that everything would be ok, and it was.
We had the time and space to do what every family should be able to do: put work & money aside and concentrate on our new family. New parents have enough to worry about.
I came back to work exhausted, but forever grateful for the time. I was bought into Lessonly before Natalie was pregnant, and before Harrison arrived. But because of the thoughtfulness Lessonly continues to show to my new family, I will grind even harder to spread the word about this phenomenal company. The time off made me better in a lot of ways—it deepened my devotion to the team and made me a better employee.
I encourage the 85% of American companies that don’t have a paid paternity policy to reconsider. The good news is that Lessonly, Facebook, and a host of others have paved the way. All you need to do is jump on board.
Enjoy the time, Zuck. And thanks for setting an example for all of us.
P.S. – In case you were wondering—yes, Lessonly is hiring! Join us!