Phil Smith, UX/UI Designer in Vancouver, BC
philsmith.me
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Endless Summer

I recently took parental leave and have been calling it Endless Summer. Obviously the name is nonsense — every summer ends. Time, like a river, stops for no one. Time flows ever forward. All good things must end, including my 15 weeks of parental leave. The name Endless Summer came out of a desire to soak up every moment of it; perhaps to linger where the current is less swift.

Canada is a new experience for my family and me. We moved here two years ago from the U.S. One stark difference is the Canadian culture’s actions towards new parents. When my son was born in the States, I had to work continuously and my wife the mother was only able to take 7 weeks off, with zero compensation. Contrast that with our Canadian experience: I, the father, received 15 weeks off with full compensation. I didn’t even do any of the hard labour of bearing a child! We are overwhelmed with gratitude for ACL providing this 15 week top-up period, available to both new moms and dads. (If you are not familiar, the Canadian government basically offers a year of parental leave for new mums and dads, but limits it to 50% of your salary. Some employers then choose to ‘top up’ and pay the remainder of the salary for a period of time.)

I will share a little bit more personally how this benefit positively affected my family. My wife is a culinary professional (server, bartender, and chef) but stays home with the kids at the moment. For years, she has struggled with chronic fatigue. It seemed to be getting to a tipping point, where day-to-day life is shrouded in a mental fog. A four-year-old and infant will tire even the most energetic amongst us, but every day had become a struggle. Then, my parental leave started. I was able to step in and give some much needed assistance. The fog began to dissipate.

Life with two young children is no cakewalk. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… There is bliss, and there is misery. Nevertheless, it is an incredible gift to have so much time together. Parents throughout the ages have said that they grow up fast. There is no doubt about that. One hundred and five full days together let us relish in being little, in exploring our big world, in noticing the little things, in moving more slowly. What a gift.

As I get back to work, it feels as if I have woken up from a dream. Was that real? It seems to have vanished. My work feels like a continuation of where I left off. Was I sleeping? The feeling is nearly identical to waking in the morning and grasping at a blissful dream while it vanishes before your mind’s eye.

And wake up I do, returning to normal life, getting up for work every day. But I return with a full heart. I return refreshed; more ready than ever to tackle my design challenges. I will never forget my Endless Summer, though the river of time has taken me downstream. I am beyond thankful and overflowing with gratitude; thank you, thank you, thank you ACL!