I’m not entirely sure how regular my posting will be for the next couple of weeks. Both because I’ve become pretty busy/tired, but also because I feel like I’m not going to have tons of insight to add until after the big day, which is now something like 18 days away.

My main source of exhaustion is work, actually, and not the impending infant. Part of the master plan for me here at work is that I need to be training up my three subordinates to be able to handle some of my more company-wide tasks and create a general infrastructure that will allow requests that would normally require my input to be routed to various locations that can provide solutions in my stead.

May 1, I started to let those tasks be handled by the techs in my group. The idea was that I would be largely sitting on my laurels, waiting for requests for clarification. What happened was that the hole in my schedule was immediately flooded by new tasks, and I’ve ended up with just as much work, if not more, than when I was just handling everything all myself. This leads to two simultaneous concerns you would expect to be mutually exclusive: Will work implode without me? Will work learn that it can get along just fine without me?

I think this is an overlooked stress in conversations about pregnant couples. This may be due to the overwhelming focus on the mother in literature about pregnancy and birth and the gender roles everyone tends to assume, but that feels exceedingly out of date to me. In a breastfeeding class Janelle and I attended with something like 15 different mothers, 14 raised their hands to indicate that they would be returning to work after their baby was born. The notion of Dad as a sole provider is a fairly outmoded paradigm now and it’s nice to have that bit of stress as a temporary thing (there will be a period where Janelle’s still off work full-time and income from her will be lessened)—but it doesn’t feel like the subject gets much treatment at all in the available literature.

The chance of anyone being fired simply because they are taking time off to spend with their child is reasonably isolated, and if the case was that clear-cut, there are plenty of chances for legal recourse. More likely, though, is that the workplace will change and morph while you are gone and perhaps your cog doesn’t fit so well in the machine anymore. Making that scenario all the more tragic is the fact that, in all likelihood, you were the person who prepared your workplace for life without you. Succeeding at that venture runs the risk of proving you can be done without, but failing at it doesn’t necessarily imply you are indispensable; it means you didn’t plan well.

When you have people working under you, the problem is intensified. When you are gone, they need to report somewhere still, and so you appoint a second. Suppose that individual has a different view than you do about how your employees perform? Or what if your employees begin to see that figure as more of an authority than you? Synapses can be formed that bypass your involvement.

I’m not too worried about Janelle’s job, despite the fact that she will be away from work for months longer than I will be. As soon as she went on leave, they hired a temp to cover her work. That, to me, seems to be best case scenario. It’s an immediate acknowledgment from her employers that they cannot be without her for that long. That fact is so much true that they are paying to sub in an inferior version of her just to keep things on pace. Plus, her workplace has made a show of showering her with accolades a couple of times now.

On the outside, I’m not terribly worried about my job either. But when I dig deeper, I’m less sure. I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve laid a few foundations for things while I’ve been here, but life has been moving fast lately. I’m teaching underlings how to do the things that I do on a day-to-day basis. I’m prepping the world for my absence. At the same time, we’re introducing new systems and changing the way we did something for the last decade every week or two. The topology could be very different here when I return. Plus, rewards and accolades don’t really exist around here. My boss is so busy he never pays attention to what I’m doing (which is its own form of a compliment), but by and large that also means that my own sense of my success is just that: my own sense.

What’s my advice for handling this scenario? I plan on popping in and out of my job more than perhaps I had initially intended to after the baby arrives. Originally, I had planned on being away for a solid month, but that’s been pared down. At this point, I’m figuring that for two weeks, the length of a healthy vacation that many employees will take from time to time, I’ll be offline. I can be reached, but only via text message (phone calls are no good, as I don’t care to be fielding calls from random vendors calling my office line while I’m at home). After that, I’ll begin to work from home or pull half days a few days a week. The plan is to appear just enough to be a bit of a wild-card and a bit of a savior. Maybe there will be less slacking off if surprise visits will happen… and maybe there will be less than total independence if I appear in the nick of time to answer a tricky question.

If you really want to cover your bases, though, it doesn’t hurt to shop a resume around while Mom handles feeding the kid for a bit.

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