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Craig Melvin’s Blog: Staying Present During My Paternity Leave

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Courtesy Craig Melvin

Please welcome guest blogger Craig Melvin!

Melvin is a current NBC News Correspondent who began his career as a local news anchor in his home state of South Carolina before joining the well-known network — first via Washington, D.C.-based station WRC, before moving to MSNBC in 2011.

Now, Melvin serves as an MSNBC anchor, contributing news reports to TODAY as well as hosting MSNBC Live on the weekends and Weekend TODAY.

Already parents to 2½-year-old son Delano “Del, Melvin and his wife, SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak, welcomed daughter Sybil “Sibby” Ann on Nov. 5.

You can find Melvin on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @craigmelvin.

Aside from it being one of the best days of my life, something else I’ll always recall about my daughter’s birth will be standing there helplessly while my wife Lindsay masterfully employed those breathing techniques and we both gazed at the Today show on the television that Saturday.

Just a few hours before, I’d called to let them know because of a water break, I wouldn’t be on the desk that morning.

Now, America’s favorite news program had been reduced to background noise and a soundtrack of sorts for the labor. Despite wretched discomfort (clearly written by a dude), we did a double take and smiled when my friends and co-hosts wished us well and cheered on Linds.

Sybil Ann Melvin came into the world a few hours later and, minus hosting my 10 a.m. hour on MSNBC on election day and the day after, I’ve stayed away from the news ever since.

Sitting out one of the biggest stories of our lifetime hasn’t been easy, and not just because I’m a news junkie who’s been obsessed with politics since the second Reagan administration. Like most in our business, breaking news gives us the kind of adrenaline rush few people outside our industry can get their heads around, but covering the twists and turns of an impending Trump presidency pales in comparison to holding the most adorable angel you’ve likely ever seen. (Sure, your kid is cute, but wait until you meet her.)

I’m competitive and don’t like getting beaten on the big story much less missing it altogether, but the bond paternity leave creates between father and child is far more important than any news story will ever be.

Courtesy Craig Melvin

When my son was born in 2014, I took the two weeks of paid leave Comcast provides and tacked on some additional vacation time. I was able to be there for the earliest of memories and learn how to change diapers, burp and feed, but was also able to tag out my wife who, despite superhuman powers, still likes the occasional nap or shower.

This time around, it’s been a blessing of a different sort. I spend a lot of my time making sure our son knows there’s enough love in this house for two children. A friend who has twins admitted months ago one of her great fears was, “Would I have enough to give to two children? How would I divide?”

Turns out she was right. There’s no division — you multiply. Sure I haven’t changed as many diapers this time around or helped with as many newborn feeds, but I’ve discovered I’m valuable in a whole new way. I can piece together a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle with my eyes closed, rush to the grocery store to stock up on “yo yo” (A.K.A overpriced squeeze yogurts) and fruit snacks (overpriced gummy bunnies), negotiate nap times or night-nights and run a shuttle service for a 2-year-old whose play-date and school schedule rivals a cable and network news anchor’s work day.

On more than 14 occasions, I’ve thought, “Man, this is exponentially harder than my hardest day at 30 Rock.”

Paternity leave has also given me the chance to reflect on priorities. Like many of you, one of life’s greatest challenges  for me has become unplugging from the noise that consumes so much of our lives. Resisting the urge to check a timeline, news feed, clever tweet or email even while on paternity leave has been difficult, but I’ve actually been proud of my ability to stay present. Not every day or all day, but certainly better than when I’m on the clock.

I’m thankful I work somewhere that doesn’t just see the value in allowing fathers to spend time with their newborns, but a company that pays you while you’re doing it. It would just seem to make sense if every workplace did it.

Can you imagine a world where every dad had the experience I’m having and every child reaped the benefits?

Spending this precious time with my wife, son and new daughter has also forced me to again consider how I’m doing at that work/life-balance thing. It’s just so hard to try being good at what you do, devoting sufficient time to your favorite people and not letting something slip through the cracks.

But for a few more days, I’m not worried about that. There’s more than enough to occupy my time. My puzzle buddy is calling for me right now, actually. Seriously.