By Gail Fero
It is widely agreed that maternity leave is important for newborns, but the matter of paternity leave is still under debate. With new fathers getting little to no paid time off to care for a new child, many find it difficult to take time off at all. On average, dads are taking only three to four days of paternity leave, primarily because they are worried about finances and damage to their careers.
Whether it’s your first child or your fourth, parental leave is important for both the mother and the father. Taking time to bond as a new family should be among your priorities. Studies of fathers who took leave show the long-term effect of bonding, with their children doing better in school, daughters in particular. Though maternity leave is often recognized as necessary, both by employers and society, paternity leave is often neglected. Fathers need the chance to adjust to their new addition just as much as mothers. They should also be given the chance to watch their new child grow, even if only for a few weeks.
New babies have a lot of requirements, and when you’re still adjusting to the addition to your family, the first few weeks of settling in are challenging. This is compounded by work and other concerns that distract you from the new baby, who should be your focus. Paternity leave would help the two of you make it through the first few weeks with less stress and more sleep.
Only three states have started paid parental leave programs: California, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Businesses have stated that such programs have helped with retention rates as these companies are seen to be more invested in their employees. In California, surveys say that 91 percent of employers found parental leave to benefit profitability or have a neutral effect. Studies show a similar result in New Jersey, where it shows no negative impact on finances or productivity. This begs the question as to why parental leave is not required in the United States.
Though many families operate with two working parents, in a patriarchal society, the majority of the child care usually falls on mothers. Paternity leave is an excellent opportunity for fathers to be a primary caregiver and to understand the challenges of the role. Paternity leave can also change the dynamics of the household; fathers who take leave become more involved in raising their children, allowing women to boost their own careers. In Sweden, a study showed an increase of 7 percent for a mother’s income for every month her partner took off.
There are a multitude of reasons paternity leave should be granted, and taken. Yet the U.S. does not have laws mandating parental leave, including maternity leave, and is only one of two countries that are part of the U.N. that don’t offer parental leave. Without this support, paternity leave suffers even more, despite it being important for families, individuals and society as a whole. The significance of allowing families the chance to bond, and of giving the child a stable environment with two involved parents, shouldn’t be overlooked. And neither should paternity leave.