Should Paternity Leave Be Mandated?
I think we can all agree that having a baby changes your life completely. There is so much focus on moms needing more paid time off from work to bond with their kids and recover from childbirth. Which is great! This needs to continue until moms have at least a year like in other developed countries.
But what about dads?
In recent years more and more organizations are recognizing the fact that dads need time off as well. It is a very old (and in my opinion wrong) mindset that still believes having a baby only affects the life of the mom. Or that the mother is solely responsible for taking care of the baby while ensuring that the household continues to run smoothly without a hitch.
Dads have become more and more involved in child rearing throughout the years. If you do a quick search online you’ll find articles that discuss how:
today’s dads spend three times as much time with their kids than previous generations.
THREE TIMES! There are more stay at home dads and responsibilities are being split between parents more than ever.
In Sweden dads are called “Latte Papas” because you’ll find them frequenting coffee shops with their littles in tow. They gather with other dads and build their own communities. They take their littles for long strolls and attend playgroups in droves. This is because they are allowed to take paid paternity leave at 80% of their salary. Parents are given a joint 16 months (SIXTEEN MONTHS) off. This time is expected to be used by both parents, not just mom. They can use this time from birth to the age of 7 which is great because we all know once those kiddos get to daycare shared germs and exposure to a new environment can cause illness. Having additional time to take when those colds and ear infections strike is helpful.
Below I’ve listed reasons why I think paid paternity leave is so important and why dads need to start asking for this benefit at work and from our government.
Nurturing partner and baby
I’m sure many of us moms can agree that we’ve relied heavily on our partners to help us through the rough times of pregnancy and labor. I can’t tell you how many times my husband stood by me while I lived through horrible morning sickness. Just having him there was so helpful. After our daughter was born and I was navigating the tricky learning curve of breastfeeding, of being woken up every 3ish hours, he was there. To make me laugh, to remind me to eat and drink, and to cuddle our daughter so I could sleep. Having him by my side was comforting and so incredibly helpful. He also did some of the mundane everyday tasks like cooking meals, doing laundry, taking care of our fur babies, etc.
Providing dads time to recuperate
Labor is no joke. Regardless of whether you have a natural birth, medicated, C-section, etc you know that it is exhausting, exhilarating, and beautiful. At the end of it you have your new bundle of joy who you now needs you. Recuperating isn’t just for the moms, while we bear most of the work and effort we do need to remember that our partners are there alongside us. Cheering, coaching, praying, and panicking. Then comes the equally exhausting task of taking care of baby and mom. Dads now have to work on getting them home, settled, and taking care of the daily things that need to get done like cooking, cleaning, caring for other kiddos etc.
If we expect dads to do all of this AND return to work without a break are we really being fair to them?
Can we really hold them accountable to their work tasks if they are just as haggard and exhausted as mom? Is it really safe to allow dads to work while half asleep and unfocused? Ask any HR person or any manager and they’ll tell you no.
When partners return to work there is greater benefit to their careers
In countries like Sweden there are studies that show paternity leave benefits the mother’s careers. How is that? Since fathers are able to care for their little ones, mothers are able to return more confidently and comfortably to work. Mothers are able to focus on their work as the do not need to worry about their children’s care, housework, cooking, etc. Studies in Sweden show that mother’s income rose 7% for every month their husband took leave.
Companies also show a higher retention rate when they offer paid paternity and maternity leave.
So, should paternity leave be mandated? Yes. We could only benefit economically and as a society by providing our dads the chance to bond with their children. Now here’s the bigger question, how do we do this? There are two great places to start. First, write to your elected officials. Tell them that we need the laws to be changed on state and federal level so that fathers are guaranteed time off. Even better if they start providing more paid time off for both parents! Second, bring the idea up to your Human Resources department at work. Let them know that this benefit could provide more stability to their work force in the long run and would be an amazing stay incentive.
Does your company offer paternity leave? Tell us about it! Also, what are your thoughts on paternity leave?