I just received a notice from the National Postdoc Association detailing a postdoc's guide to paternity leave, and I was forced to reflect back to my experiences and ask a few questions.
My first child was born during my last year in grad school. Not the best timing, but occasionally a goal slips by the keeper... In any case, my adviser was.... well let's just say less than supportive. Expletives ensued as well as me answering why "this always happened to them." By the end of the discussion I talked them off of the metaphoric ledge they were about to jump from, mainly by mentioning that I had plans to graduate and this wouldn't change anything (other than me being a lot more tired). Flash forward 6-9 months to me writing my thesis at 4am with a baby strapped to my chest, screaming hysterically (he started teething at 4 months). This was the period where I discovered that drinking whiskey was not just something for "really old people" to do and I learned to sleep while standing up on a moving subway train. I took all of two weeks off (I was entitled to 6 months).
Second child was much better. I was in a different lab with a very different family vibe. I still only took a couple of weeks off, but I knew that my schedule could be as flexible as needed. I got emails and phone calls making sure my wife and the baby were OK. And I was told NOT to come to work. I still didn't get much sleep, but it seemed much easier with the second, until he got older. #2 is now a hell-raiser and I don't think my wife or I could handle another child, but I think that's a different discussion entirely.
My questions are as follows:
1) What are people's perceptions of paternity leave? A sign of weakness in the current generation or a sign of parental involvement? I'd argue for the latter, but I'd like to hear the opinion of others.
2) How much time would you take off? In my case I only took 2 weeks both times, but I was entitled to 6 months (paid) at both institutions. On the flip side, I know my father's generation had to go to work ASAP, but I'd also argue that his generation was much less involved in parenting and raising a baby than I was.
3) Was I a sucker for not taking what I was entitled? I'd argue that taking it as a postdoc would be problematic (my publication record is weak as it is), but it probably wouldn't have hurt anything as a grad student (assuming that my relationship with my PI was not forever ruined).