This one is probably obvious to most people, although the reasoning behind it might be a surprise. The days after your baby are born are amazing, energetic, frantic, sleepy, exhausting, exhilarating times. You don’t want to miss a second of it. It’s a no-brainer that you’ll want to take a week or so off work to be there for the first days of your child’s life.
But don’t stop at one week! You need to take all the vacation, sick leave, and paternity leave that you can. Because after a week or so, things start to settle down a bit. Life starts to feel a little bit normal. But when that “normal” returns, it isn’t the same normal as before. There are new rhythms and details and unspoken little habits that emerge and become part of your own private culture of parenting. If you’re not there to understand and help shape those details, then you’ll be playing catch-up for the next 12 months.
Two weeks’ leave is a minimum. Four weeks should get you well on your way. The optimum is 6 weeks (best described as “42 nights”). Or, you can do what I did and make stay-at-home fatherhood your full-time vocation. Whatever you choose, rest assured that time spent at home in the first few weeks is time well invested.