When my wife and I discovered we were pregnant back in 2016, our world was rocked. We had just gone through a miscarriage about six months prior and — while we were ecstatic that we had another opportunity to have a child — we were equally terrified that this too would end in heartbreak.
Expecting joy...and stress
On top of the stress of having the child and all the intermediate steps between finding out we were pregnant and actually giving birth, my wife and I had to deal with planning our work schedules around the expected due date.
By the time our daughter came into the world, we had worked so much overtime trying to get ahead that instead of having a glorious “babymoon” phase, we ended up just crashing and burning to try to recover from work — which is very difficult to do when your newborn is preventing you from sleeping.
No support for new parents
All too often, companies are doing the bare minimum when it comes to providing new parents with the tools and resources they need to support their newborn children. Moms are lucky to get more than six weeks paid maternity leave, while dads are typically an afterthought, often getting no dedicated time off. My wife and I found ourselves in this situation with the birth of our first daughter. My wife was off for a mere six weeks, while my job at the time gave me only two weeks.
As any new parent can attest, two weeks is not even close to enough time to adjust to such a huge lifestyle change. My wife was still physically recovering. I had barely gotten everything put together at home, and I hadn’t been able to spend the quality time with my wife and daughter I so desperately longed for. This left me distracted at work and unable to give 100% to my projects. Most of the time I was in the office, I was thinking about my wife and daughter and what I still needed to do to get them settled into our new life.
A new member of the herd
Flash forward a couple of years — my wife was pregnant again. This time, we had all the same responsibilities and now, even more, to prepare for as a soon-to-be family of four. The difference this time was that now I worked at The Zebra which had just revamped its parental leave policy, and I was one of the first employees to utilize it.
Under this new policy, as a secondary caregiver, I was going to be given four MONTHS of paid leave which could be split up and taken anytime during the first year of my daughter’s life. I really can’t emphasize enough how massive this is, especially for a demographic (dads) that are usually minimized or overlooked. Knowing I had the ability to take all of this time off immediately made the entire situation less stressful. There was no rush once the baby was born to get home and make sure everything was in order before I returned to work. Instead of cramming in last-minute changes to the baby’s room and running to the store to make some final purchases, I was able to relax with my kids and watch my oldest play with and nurture my youngest.
A culture of caring
Coupled with the already laid-back and accommodating culture The Zebra is known for, this four-month window was truly a blessing. I chose to take 10 weeks right after the birth and then alternated two weeks on and two weeks off until the rest of the time was used up. My team planned ahead for my absence. There was no obligation to work insane hours to try and get four months ahead. We simply built my time off into the timelines of future work and adjusted accordingly. All that was required of me was that I continue to show up and do my normal work up until my time off.
Now, here’s where the parental leave policy really begins to separate itself from other companies pretending to care about parents’ well-being. The day my second daughter was born, I was given a $5,000 stipend from the company, no questions asked.
Anyone who has recently gone through the hospital birthing process will tell you that they absolutely nickel and dime you for every ounce of treatment you get during the whole ordeal. Most parents don’t have a built-in fund for paying for the actual birth — there are far too many other things to purchase for a newborn that the hospital stay itself often gets forgotten. I can tell you unequivocally that babies do not care one iota for what you have planned for. My newborn daughter certainly didn’t care that my wife and I did not plan for an unexpected c-section and the costs that came with it. (Almost two years later, I can tell you she still does not care what we plan, she will do things her own way regardless!) However, since we had that $5,000 stipend, what could have been an absolute financial nightmare ended up just being an easily overcome stumbling block in bringing our daughter home.
Without The Zebra’s generous support for new parents, I’m not sure my family would be in the position we are in today. If you’re ever asking the question, “What do companies who really care about parents look like,” I’d argue you need to look no further than right here at The Zebra.