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8 Stories From Two-Dad Families On Their Experiences With Parental Leave

"It was the hardest time of our lives and you need each other, you need that time."

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For gay, bi, and trans dads who may already have a long journey to fatherhood, trying to arrange paternity leave can be an added stress.

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The US is one of a handful of nations that doesn't mandate paid parental leave — and when employers do provide these benefits, new dads are often left out. Adoptive parents of any gender often get less leave than a parent who gives birth.

Under a federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers over a certain size have to offer new parents 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave — though not all employees qualify. New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island provide paid leave.

We asked fathers from the LGBT BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their personal experiences with paternity leave after welcoming a child into their family. Here are their stories:

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1. "I don't know how parents who don't have this luxury are able to take their very small children to a daycare right away."

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Ryan: "I was given up to 12 weeks of leave at 60% of my salary. I only chose to take 6 weeks because that was all we could afford financially. We were lucky to have my mother-in-law come for two months following my leave.

Marc: "I took 1 week of fully paid leave. Ryan stayed home with Liam following my week."

"Spending time with Liam following his birth was essential for us all to adjust to our new reality. We would have loved to take more time — in fact, our Polish friends were shocked to find out this wasn't an automatic benefit. Sadly, it wasn't possible for us. It was difficult to go back to work, but we were very fortunate to have Marc's mom live with us for two months following Ryan's FMLA. I don't know how parents who don't have this luxury are able to take their very small children to a daycare right away."

— Ryan, 38, hotel sales and Mark, 35, HR for an oil and gas company

2. "My conversation with my new boss went something like, 'I know when you hired me you didn't think I would get pregnant, but my husband and I have been matched for adoption and instead of 9 months, the baby's due date is in three months.'"

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"As it turns out, we beat the odds and were matched with a couple in Florida for adoption just three months into my new job. My conversation with my new boss went something like, 'I know when you hired me you didn't think I would get pregnant, but my husband and I have been matched for adoption and instead of 9 months, the baby's due date is in three months.' The organization had over 50 employees and so was required by the state of Philadelphia — where the organization had its headquarters — to provide six weeks of paternity leave.

Mike used a combination of vacation and sick leave that he accrued over a long time to cover the period where he was home.

Today our son is good natured three-year-old, with a larger than average vocabulary, who seems well-adjusted and adaptable to each new challenge. Mike and I credit a lot of this to the daily time and attention we've given him since birth, ensuring he feels loved and nurtured."

—"DJ" Johnson, 39, Nonprofit Vice-President and Mike Stirratt, 47, Federal Government Program Officer, Washington, DC

3. "We had a rough adjustment period with Gage and I ended up taking an additional 4 weeks of unpaid leave. We utilized a portion of our savings to cover the last 10 weeks financially."

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"I work for a caring, progressive company that allowed me to take 6 weeks of vacation when we first adopted Gage in early 2014. After the 6 weeks, I took an additional 6 weeks of family leave with partial pay. We had a rough adjustment period with Gage and I ended up taking an additional 4 weeks of unpaid leave. We utilized a portion of our savings to cover the last 10 weeks financially.

All of this time of leave was extremely crucial for our family. We had a very young son who came from a past of drugs and neglect so it took extreme efforts and all of that time to build trust with him and for him to know he was in a safe secure home.

I was able to take leave, but personally do not feel it was long enough to just take 6 weeks and I'm extremely grateful for the total of16 weeks that I was able to take. We used that time to bond, build a relationship with our son, provide him time to adjust to us, and provide us the time to adjust with him. After that time, I was ready to get back to work and have adult conversations."

— Casey Babcock, 34, renewable energy sales and partner Brent Uranga-Babcock, 30, Nurse

4. "My partner and I come from traditional families, so we spent a lot of time simply learning how to care for a child — the basics like cleaning, changing a diaper."

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'We adopted our children about 18 years ago, so things have changed quite a bit. With our first child, the only option in Kentucky at the time was working with a private adoption agency. My partner had adoption benefits, but my company did not — remember this was in 1999. So my partner was the adoptive parent and he received reimbursement from his employer, General Electric. Our second child was adopted a year later and we took the same course.

My partner was able to take as much time as he needed while I took some unpaid leave. We both work for employers now that offer paid time off for birth or adoptions. My partner and I come from traditional families, so we spent a lot of time simply learning how to care for a child — the basics like cleaning, changing a diaper. If you're not there with your child I don't know how you would learn all the cues and little things you need to know.

You want to bond with your child in those early weeks, but you also actually can't find a daycare that will take newborns. A lot of time, you have no choice, you need time off to care for your child. It's not an option.

— Greg Bourke, 59, Data Analytics Application Consultant

5. "Only two weeks was allowed for an adoption."

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"We both took 6 weeks to work through the adoption out-of-state and get adjusted together as a family. It was me and husband that co-parented. Taking 6 weeks was not easy — work was accommodating, but this was new territory and it took most pf our vacation and sick time to cover everything. Only two weeks was allowed for an adoption."

— Jason Holling-Karas,42, works in Information Technology

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6. "I know that we are one of the very few LGBT couples who have been able to adopt with such ease and I wish that wasn't the case."

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"My husband and I were very lucky to have been able to adopt so quickly. The parents were young and unprepared so we went ahead with a closed adoption and there haven't been many legal problems at all.

My job is very flexible with hours because I am able to work from home if I have to. When we first adopted I took about three months of paid leave. Technically it wasn't a full leave because I continued to do work from home and stopped into the office a couple times to check up on everything.

I will never regret my decision to take a leave from work. It gave me time to bond with my two amazing children who even as newborns were thriving. My husband took a leave as well but he started his in the middle of mine so when I went back to work he had his own time with the kids. It was the best decision we have ever made.

I know that we are one of the very few LGBT couples who have been able to adopt with such ease and I wish that wasn't the case."

—Andrew, 35, head of marketing

7. "Getting only 25% of my salary was an adjustment, but the time I was able to spend with my son and bond was priceless."

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"I'm a teacher, so I get the summers off and my school district gives dads the same leave as moms: 89 working days. During those days, I was only paid twenty-five percent of my salary but I was able to be with my son for his first seven months of life. It was, by far, the best chapter of my life!

My husband only was given 2 weeks paid time off to be with our newborn son, so it was very important for me to take full advantage of my own paternity leave. Getting only twenty-five percent of my salary was an adjustment, but the time I was able to spend with my son and bond was priceless. I was able to spend time visiting daycares and preschools, and before my leave was up we had already signed up for an in-home daycare to start at 7 months AND a preschool that he would start at two years old. I will never forget all of the joys of my paternity leave.

Every day we would go on a new adventure. I had a stroller bucket list that I worked through all the way until my final day of paternity leave. The paternity leave is actually why I switched to work in my new school district the year before I became a dad.

— Nick Williams, 34, elementary school teacher

8. "Most people can't go without pay for so long. I don't know what we would have done if we didn't have that time."

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"We conceived via a surrogate and so needed to take several days off leading up to the birth. At my job, I was given 4 weeks paid leave and then I combined vacation and comp time for a total of 12 weeks. My partner took the first 2 weeks off after our son's birth and then he took 4 weeks off, later on, using vacation days. He had no paid leave or anything like that.

Most people can't go without pay for so long. I don't know what we would have done if we didn't have that time. We don't have family nearby and can't exactly rely on friends.

It was the hardest time of our lives and you need each other, you need that time."

—Justin, 40, Non-Profit, Corporate Relations

Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

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