Submitted by Kirk Hetherington
I'm one of those career-oriented people who approaches work seriously. Early in my career I did non-profit work, and I think that's at least part of the reason I expect to derive meaning and satisfaction from my work.
After our first two children were born, I only took a few days off from work, because I wanted to save my vacation days for ... vacations. But by the time my wife and I were expecting our third child, and I was working at the director level, expectations were starting to change. In fact, I will never forget an email I received during that time, in 2018, from my company, Danaher. The message announced a new parental leave policy; eight weeks of paid time off for all new parents.
While I was thrilled when the announcement was made, and I was excited about the idea of being able to spend significant time with our new baby, I found that even though I hadn't been shy about sharing the news that my wife was expecting with my management and co-workers, I was concerned that asking to use this new benefit might not be well-received. I wondered if a request to spend time with my new baby might be perceived as a lack of commitment to my career, even though nothing could have been farther from truth.
So I was pleasantly surprised, but also a little apprehensive, when my manager, the VP of marketing, asked if I was planning to take a parental leave. After I danced around the question a bit by telling him that I thought it was a great opportunity, that I was glad the company was offering the benefit, but that I was seriously focused on delivering strong results and progressing in my career, my manager came right out and said, "I hope you take all eight weeks." I immediately responded, "I'll do it." And I did.
When our son Zack was born, I took two full weeks off, and then I came back into the office just to check on things. After concluding that the organization could survive without me (ha), I went back home and took the remaining six weeks off. While I really do like to work hard, being able to step out during this time and focus on family exclusively, was incredibly meaningful and impactful. It alleviated some tension that might have existed otherwise.
I consider myself an "all in" kind of guy who loved my work before the parental leave, and I love my work now. Taking the leave didn't change my commitment to my career, but it did cause me to appreciate my company, Danaher, even more. Of the many wonderful things that Danaher has given me in the last nine years, nothing has been more meaningful.
It's also worth noting that throughout my parental leave the company leadership and my co-workers were super supportive. That time with my family was incredibly impactful, and I cherish that time to this day.
Note: Danaher parental leave policies vary by country.