Parental Leave – A Preview Into Early Retirement?

A few weeks ago our second daughter was born. When her older sister was born 4 years ago, I was pretty new at my job so I didn’t get any parental leave benefits. Back then, I just took a couple of vacation weeks and went right back to work. This time around, I’m senior enough to get 16 weeks of parental leave (yay!).

Enjoying parental leave

Now, I won’t take all 16 weeks in just one go. We are trying to keep the girls home as long as possible so I’ll be splitting the 16 weeks into three chunks. Still, this is the longest I have been off from work since I started working full time. Long enough to let go of the thought of work in a way that is just not possible during a 2-week vacation. Here, I’m just reflecting on the experience and hopefully create something I can look back on to make early retirement even better.

The good that I hope to keep

  • No alarm clock (unless a crying new born counts as an alarm clock? 🙂 )
  • No pressure to have to be somewhere or do something by a certain time
  • Unlimited play time with daughters
More of this, please.
  • Uncrowded places during the week – It’s amazing how great it is to be almost the only person on playgrounds, biking trails, grocery stores, etc. (especially during a pandemic)
We were the only ones at this cool playground by the beach on a Thursday

What I hope to change

  • Too much mindless browsing on my phone
  • Procrastination – when you feel you have all the time in the world, you just keep pushing things off. I need to figure out a way to get more done without falling too far on the other side and stressing myself out.
  • Presence – I need to get better at just being in the present moment and not thinking too much about the future or the past. Easier said than done, and probably something that I will have to work on constantly.

What I hope changes (but don’t have much control over)

  • Travel – the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously taken a massive dump on this one. I’m extremely lucky my in laws were able to come here to meet the baby and spend some time with us, so I’m not complaining. I just miss traveling to see friends, family, and cool places.
Pre COVID-19 adventures I hope to resume soon

What will naturally change (both good and bad)

  • No paycheck – my parental leave is paid so cash is still being regularly deposited on my bank account. The wife’s leave is only 50% paid so we are seeing a bit of a hit there (since we live far below our means this is not a problem at all). Still, when we quit work altogether, the paychecks will stop completely. While I know that the 4% rule is robust and I will likely have a little income (tennis lessons, consulting), it will still be hard to switch from accumulation to living off of our assets.
Cutting off the paychecks – scary stuff
  • Daughters will be older – when we pull the trigger in 3-5 years, one daughter will be in school and the other will be about to start. So while we spend much of our time on them these days, when we no longer need to work they will be way more independent, which will probably leave us with much more time for ourselves. This has a few implications:
    – We need to find a meaningful way to fill our time (hobbies, volunteering, fun projects, etc.). From talking to early retirees, this is something that will likely present itself naturally so no need to stress about it. Still, it is worth some pondering ahead of time.
    – Traveling will be easier and more fun as the girls will be more independent and will remember and cherish the experiences.
  • While this big break from work has been great. I know I still have to go back eventually. I know the feeling of never having to go back will be pretty sweet (and possibly terrifying too).
  • The world will change, maybe dramatically, and I don’t know exactly how (climate change, technological innovations, social and political unrest, etc.) – 2020 was a great reminder that things don’t always work out as expected. Nobody knows what the world will look like 3-5 years from now, let alone 20 or 30. So, it’s not worth it to spend a lot of mental energy on this one. This bullet point is mostly a reminder that change happens (good and bad) and that we should remain flexible and adaptable.

Am I missing anything? Any lessons you would like to share from not working for an extended period of time?

1 thought on “Parental Leave – A Preview Into Early Retirement?”

  1. Man, I wish I had 16 weeks parental leave…
    Congrats on the new baby!

    I took a 4 month “sabbatical” after being laid off a few years ago. I traveled through South America for most of it so never felt bored or restless. So I don’t have any great advice other than maybe start with a few months of traveling!

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