Nikhil Kehair, a father from Mumbai, is among the few who took paternity leave after his twin children were born last year. On Father’s Day 2019, the father-to-two told Express Parenting why he took paternity leave and in what ways it helped the mother and babies.
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‘My wife and I took parental leaves together’
“I took my paternity leave in October, 2018. My twins were born on October 6 and I took leave after that. My company, Johnson & Johnson offers eight weeks of paternity leave but I took approximately four weeks of leave then and thought of taking the rest when my wife rejoins work after her maternity leave. Kids needs time to adjust to their surroundings so we had to be there with them. That’s why I split my leave.
We are very lucky that we got twins. But initially, we were very clear that we were going to go through this once. And while reading about parenthood, one of the things I realised was that the first month after childbirth, your physical presence and being there for your family makes a huge difference. There were a lot of studies around that.
Secondly, the twins were premature. No one other than parents could give them the right care, I believe. The third and more practical reason was that we had to manage two newborns and we were first-time parents.”
‘Nothing can really prepare you, unless you experience things first-hand’
“I was totally scared about how things would turn out. The kids were 2.2 kg when they were born and we were hoping they would not have to go to the ICU. And as first-time parents, we really did not know how to take care and what was needed. We did a lot of research to begin with, from things to be done when my wife goes to the hospital to the technique to swaddle, feed, understanding a good latch, giving the kids a bath, bowel movements, and so on. We tried to read on everything we could think of. But honestly speaking, nothing really prepares you. Yes, the information was helpful but the fact that you have to stay up all night, be attentive and manage are things that can be understood only when you experience them.”
‘We shared responsibilities during my paternity leave’
“During the first few days, the kids were feeding every hour-and-a-half hour. Besides, cleaning after poop and sponging the babies were my responsibilities. The babies were not synced and so we would pretty much be awake all through the night. And then, to expect a woman to breastfeed two babies frequently is functionally little difficult and puts a lot of pressure. So, we started them on formula milk also and I shared the feeding responsibilities. At the same time, we split other responsibilities too like putting the babies to sleep. Thankfully, the sleep cycle gradually improved. One of us would sleep for two hours and then the other would sleep because it was physically very exhausting in the first two months.
I was working from home, meanwhile. I tried to answer all calls and replies to my mails at one particular time of the day. All I can say is, if you plan well, you can manage.”
‘A mother needs some time to relax’
“I don’t think the mother is comfortable with any other person holding the child other than the father. It brings a lot of peace of mind and happiness. Also, the mother gets some time to relax which I think is very important. My decision of taking paternity leave was welcomed by my family members. Although, there were some older people who were shocked but that’s because they obviously were not used to this scenario.”
‘After going back to work…’
“Even after going back to work, I made sure I was there for all their vaccinations and doctor visits, among other things. It is heartening to see the babies look at you and smile and you don’t feel like leaving them. Till now, we take turns at nights because they still don’t sleep for more than three hours at a stretch. The kids are very different from one another. So, yes, it continues to be a little bit of a struggle but you need to enjoy it. This is pretty much going to last a couple of years and then things will be much better.”