Years ago it was almost unheard of for a dad to stay at home with the children while the mother went back to work.
Today, many families are using paternity leave to allow for both parents to stay at home and raise their children.
Red Deer family Scott and Sarah Malo, along with their children Sadie, 3 and Clarke, eight months old, have taken advantage of this option.
Scott, 32, took four months of paternity leave but was actually off work for five months as he cared for Sadie when she was born in 2007.
Sarah, 33, went back to work after taking leave for eight months after having their daughter.
Before her maternity leave was up, Sarah, who was going to school and was also a nursing instructor at Red Deer College, was anxious to get back to work.
“I was also getting a little bored with one baby but we didn’t want Sadie to go into daycare, so this was a great option,” she said. “I just asked Scott if he would consider going on paternity leave and he thought it would be great.”
Before Sarah went back to work at RDC, she used some of her vacation time and spent it with Scott and Sadie at home.
“We took care of Sadie together for two weeks and I thought ‘Wow I can actually do this’,” said Scott.
Sarah said there were many benefits to her family’s new routine once she headed back to the office.
“The benefits for us were really for Scott to understand Sadie’s schedule and to really be directly involved,” said Sarah. “If Scott wouldn’t have taken pat leave I don’t know he would have ventured out on his own with Sadie as early as he did.”
Three weeks after Scott began his leave, the family went on a trip to Manitoba.
“It was a totally different trip being home with our parents with Scott knowing her routine,” said Sarah. “He could tell when she was due for a nap or hungry. It was interesting with our parents because they were going to him for all the questions about Sadie.”
Scott said paternity leave also gave him more confidence as a father.
“A dad’s role has changed over the years and I was always involved, but it was different being home all day with her,” he said. “I remember my first outing with Sadie was to Walmart and you load up the stroller and the diaper bag – it’s a lot of stuff,” he added with a laugh.
By taking paternity leave, Scott also gained new respect for his wife and other mothers.
“It gave me a huge perspective on what staying home with the kids means and what Sarah does,” said Scott. “I had a huge respect change actually watching her go through having Sadie and then once Sadie was here, watching her care for her.
“I used to think ‘Well what do you do all day?’ Well, what don’t you do all day? There’s cleaning, dishes, spit-up and diapers and all that fun stuff.”
With their son Clarke, the Malos have decided that Sarah will take 12 months of maternity leave and Scott will cut his hours back once she returns to work in September.
“We did that when we had Sadie – Scott cut his hours back when I went to work and it was great, so we’ve just decided that we’ll do it again,” said Sarah.
“We have a lot of friends who are stay-at-home moms and I’m not sure I could do that. This just worked out so we could find that balance between still raising your children and working.”
Both Scott and Sarah said they encourage other families to look at the option of having the father stay home for part of the paternity leave.
“I am certain I will look back at the time our kids were young and think this was the best decision we made,” said Scott. “You choose to live lean financially but to be at home with your kids and to get to know them like I have has really been amazing.”
The Malos added they feel lucky to have been able to both take time off to raise their daughter.
“For many guys, they might want to do that but it’s not a feasible option. I think we were very lucky that Scott was able to take a leave of five months and then return to his job part-time,” said Sarah. “It kind of just fell into place with us.”
Scott said if he had to do it all over again, he would definitely take paternity leave.
“It was amazing to be at home with Sadie,” said Scott. “It was really great to get to stay at home and know your baby – especially as a guy.”