In South Africa, fathers are permitted to take ten consecutive days of paid paternity leave after the birth of their child. Nowhere near enough time to truly develop a bond with a newborn or really give your spouse the emotional and physical support she needs for those first whirlwind months as your family adjusts to its new dynamic.
My wife gave birth to our first child on my birthday, March 25th – one day before the start of the country’s national lockdown. Between getting my business ready for remote operations, navigating how we support our customers during these unprecedented times and the natural anxiety that goes with the birth of your first baby, you can imagine it was a surreal experience.
We are now 2 months in. From a business perspective, it has been a brutal and introspective time. My business has seen first-hand how the impact of Covid-19 has shaken the SME landscape and resulted in reduced or stalled marketing spend. We have worked hard to support our customers and take the time to collaborate with existing and new strategic partners to provide relief where we can. We are focused and passionate about helping business owners future proof their operations and plan for a digitally transformed future as lock-down slowly eases. We hope these measures will soften the blow when we all come out on the other side.
But the last few weeks have been remarkable in a personal way, allowing me to bond and spend time with my son and support my wife in ways that ‘a pre-Covid-19 world’ may not have afforded. This extended and hands-on “paternity leave” time with my son has accelerated my confidence in my own caregiving that might have taken longer to stick if I was rushing home from the office to catch the end of bathtime or stealing moments here and there in the morning before my workday.
Being able to hold him when he received his 6-week inoculations, to carving out time for a mid-morning feed have all been moments I will cherish for a lifetime.
I am one of those people who seek to find lessons in every challenge. What I will take away from this period of lockdown is that talking about having a work/life balance and practising one are very different. In retrospect, I didn’t have it all “locked down”. This time has allowed me to be present with my family, to re-evaluate what really matters and plot meaningful next steps.
This lockdown will ease and I know things will change… meaning this unique experience with my wife and son may resume more traditional routines – but I know for certain that I will never forget and always treasure this time.