Paternity leave, good or bad? Recent studies show positive outcomes to the father-child relationships, during and after paternity leave. Although most fathers are aware that the leave is healthy for their relationship, many do not take one after their new bundle of joy comes into the world, for many different reasons. Some fathers feel ashamed to take a leave; it makes them feel like the mother and father roles are reversed and emasculates them. Also the fathers’ job may not pay for paternity leave which some families can not afford financially. Mother’s receive paid maternity leave if the place of employment offers it, but why not fathers? If a father is a primary caregiver, he should also be allowed paid paternity leave when his newborn is born.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year (Leave Benefits). Now although the FMLA isn’t gender specific, and men could benefit from this Act, many don’t. Even though FMLA provides job-protected leave, some employers do not follow this. Some men who have taken leave after a child birth, had long term effects on his career, like lower pay, or even being passed over for promotions just because he took his legal leave of absence (Miller). With that being said, many new fathers fear to loose out on job opportunities, so decide to take very little, or no leave at all. So the challenge is not only to persuade employers to offer the pay with no disciplinary action, but also to persuade men to take it.
Some companies, like Ernst & Young, offer six weeks paid paternity leave. A certain man, Todd Bedrick, took the full amount to his advantage. He says that within those six weeks, he learned numerous things about caring for a newborn (Miller). He learned to lull the baby to sleep on his chest and develop a system to thaw his wife’s frozen breast milk to feed his little one. He states, “The best part was forming a bond. Had I not had that time with her, I don’t think I’d feel as close to her as I do today.” Social scientists have said that men who take an early, hands on, role in their children’s lives are more likely to be involved for years to come and that their children would be healthier (Miller). The genius of paternity leave is that it shapes domestic and parenting habits as they are forming (Mundy). With all of the amazing outcomes that appear when father’s take a paternity leave, and how involved the fathers get with their child, the government should be allowing paid leave, and possibly more father’s would take the leave.
Fathers who take a paternity leave would also benefit mothers. Studies showed that when the father took the leave, the mother’s were more likely to receive increased career earnings and decreased chance of postpartum depression, which many mothers suffer with (Miller). Mothers who go to work, still have the same responsibilities as a mother who doesn’t return to work after their leave, but they feel less stressed out about it all. Taking care of a newborn is a lot of time and energy, and most importantly patience. Mother’s who can share the responsibilities with the father make it that much less stressful on her. The only way this can happen is if father’s take the paternity leave that their job supplies to them. Making the paternity leave paid, would not only help out the family, but persuade men to take it. Evolving roles of men and women could eventually change workplace culture. If more women play the breadwinner role, and more men ask for family-friendly policies, it could become harder for employers to treat them differently based on gender (Miller).
Even with the FMLA set in stone, most employers discourage men to take leave. Ernst & Young is a company that is the exact opposite. In 2004 they changed their paid paternity leave from two weeks to six weeks (Miller). Not all companies are like that though. About 1/3 of men report that they had no option to take a leave, paid or not, for the birth of a child (Miller). Even with the Act in the handbook, men were still given a hard time to take paternity leave. In 2002, California became the first U.S. state to guarantee six weeks of paid leave for both mothers and fathers, with New Jersey and Rhode Island to follow (Mundy). Some states are already taking the lead to making leave paid. In 2007, a study found that 60% of professional women who had to stop working reported that they were largely motiviated by their husbands who couldn’t share the housework and child care, because they never had their bonding time they should have had when their child was born (Mundy). Other than the United States, countries like Sweden and Germany have, at times, offered women more than a year of maternity leave because of the fact that men couldn’t handle the father role (Mundy). Knowing this, Norway, Ireland, Germany and many other countries offered a variety of incentives to nudge men to take leave. Some offered more money, which made men feel that they were financially supporting their families even when they were at home (Mundy). If only the United States would follow in their foot steps.
Seeing all the various outcomes from having fathers take a paternity leave, companies should be offering paid paternity leave. It not only helps out the new families but also creates an amazing bond between the newborn and father, which many father’s lack. The stereotype “dead beat dad” could be wiped out of existence after all fathers were able to take a paid paternity leave and bond with their child.
Miller, Claire Cain. “Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Nov. 2014. Web. 02 May 2015.
“Leave Benefits.” U.S. Department of Labor. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2015.
Mundy, Liza. “Daddy Track: The Case for Paternity Leave.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 22 Dec. 2013. Web. 01 May 2015.