Paid maternity leave is hard to come by in the United States. Paid paternity leave is even rarer. I once worked for a company where I was eligible for one-week paternity leave—so I know it exists.
I am now self-employed, which means that I have no traditional benefits from an employer. Instead, I have to pay for all of my own benefits. That includes any leave I want to take. So can a self-employed man actually take paid paternity leave?
If you’re a self-employed man and want to take paternity leave when your child arrives, you need to plan ahead. There are a few different ways you can take paternity leave, so you’ll have to decide which option works best for your situation.
You can save for paternity leave in advance, draw down your savings, work ahead, temporarily reduce your workload, or take intermittent paternity leave.
For any of these options to work, you will need to work closely with your clients to make sure that the time off will not disrupt your clients’ businesses in any major way. If there will be a disruption, you’ll need to find a temporary solution that works for everyone. Without a solution, you could easily lose a regular client by leaving them high and dry while you take time off to welcome your child into the world.
Save in Advance for Self-Employed Paternity Leave
Once you know your family will be welcoming a baby into the world, you should start saving for paternity leave. Even if you have no savings right now, it’s easy to figure out how much you need to save from now on. Figure out how long you want to take off for the birth of your new child.
Next, calculate how much income you’ll need to replace during that time period. Finally, divide the total savings you need by the number of weeks until your baby is due. That’s how much extra post-tax income you need to earn each week. Alternatively, you can reduce your expenses to increase your savings.
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Use Your Existing Savings
Having a well-stocked savings account is a necessity for a self-employed person. Thankfully, my wife and I have managed to build a savings account that could pay for my paternity leave if we wanted.
Unfortunately, drawing down savings means that you’ll have to refill those savings at some point.
Thankfully, you can slowly refill your account over an extended period of time, if you wish. Personally, we decided not to draw down our savings. We relied on the following methods instead.
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One way that I made my paternity leave a reality is by working ahead. My business requires me to write both for my own personal ventures and for my clients. For some clients, I was able to get writing assignments in advance and work ahead. I have also worked ahead for my business.
If you can do this without disrupting your clients’ businesses, putting in some extra hours in the months leading up to your child’s birth will pay off when you get to spend a few weeks bonding with your new family member.
Temporarily Reduce Your Workload
If you can afford to get by on a temporarily lower income, reducing your workload for a short time may be the perfect solution for a modified paternity leave.
Rather than continuing to seek out new work, I decided to just work with my regular clients for a few weeks after our child was born. Thankfully, we spend much less than we earn, so a smaller income won’t be a huge hit to our financial picture.
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Take Intermittent Paternity Leave
If your business won’t allow you to take multiple weeks of paternity leave at once, you still have another option. Rather than taking all of your paternity leave at the same time, you can take a week off here and there over the first few months of your child’s life — whatever your and your clients’ schedules allow.
This can also spread out the financial impact of not earning since we all know self-employed people don’t get paid if they aren’t working.
If you’ve decided that you want to take self-employed paternity leave, you can make it work. It just takes a lot of planning and a bit of cooperation on the part of your clients, and your partner. Start planning as soon as possible!