While maternity leave is a common topic in the news, dads and paternity leave often get overlooked. But more and more men are starting to look at parental leave as valuable time that can benefit their family -- and even their employer and career.
But paving the way is never easy. Here, we'll dive into five reasons why new dads need paid parental leave.
It Improves the Mom-Dad Relationship
Kenneth Matos, co-author of “The New Male Mystique” and senior director of research at the Families and Work Institute, believes that paternity leave bolsters connection and communication between partners. “When one person is at home with a new baby and the other remains at work, they can start living in different worlds and have less to talk about. The stay-at-home mom wants to discuss the baby's milestones and the working dad, while interested, misses their dinner conversations about the workplace. If parents can afford to take maternity and paternity leave simultaneously, it can benefit their relationship.”
It Benefits the Workplace
Currently, not all companies are up to speed about family leave issues, and not all businesses are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides eligible workers (both moms and dads), with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs after the birth or adoption of a child. But many dads are hesitant to approach their employers about this option.
Vincent DiCaro, vice president of development and communications for the National Fatherhood Initiative would like to see that change. “Research indicates that companies willing to provide this type of benefit, as well as more flexibility overall, have more loyal employees, better staff retention and higher productivity levels,” he says.
Men have concerns that requesting family leave time will kibosh all of their hard work and hurt their careers. But as companies become more attuned to what it takes to run a successful business, this is becoming less and less likely.
“The workplace does not suffer from this type of arrangement,” says Matos. “These kinds of bumps make for stronger businesses because, in real life, these types of situations are going to happen.”
It Lets Dads Like Being Dads
Multiple studies report that missing time that could be spent with infants, babies and children has an adverse effect on dads, who regret not enjoying those valuable moments. However, when men were able to spend time with their infants, they felt overall well-being, satisfaction and fulfillment.
One such dad is former teacher and current stay-at-home father, Matt Schneider. Schneider, co-founder of the NYC Dads Group, had planned on taking a one-year leave prior to the birth of his first child and, eight years later, is still caring for his children full time. “Our Type A friends were struggling to make it all fit. We struggled too,” he says. “But the focus we had on our family helped even out all of the details. Being home from the beginning helped me to have that type of focus. My kids know I prioritize their well-being before that of my career, and I feel good about that.”
It Benefits Kids Early on and for Life
“Kids whose dads took paternity leave have been shown to become more social as they grow up, perform better in school and even have higher IQs,” says fatherhood expert, Armin Brott. This father of three feels that parental is an absolute essential for guys to take. “The earlier that dads get involved in actively taking care of their kids, the more involved they will be in the long haul,” he says.
Children also benefit from observing their mother’s and father’s different styles of parenting, says Matos. Those benefits may even extend well into adulthood, with girls having lower teen pregnancy rates and boys having a powerful father figure to emulate in their own female relationships.
It Gives Mom Time for a Nap
Whether you’re a family of three, four or more, new moms typically report extreme fatigue and exhaustion when caring for infants. But when dads take leave, moms benefit from the lightening of this workload, as well as from the clear creation of a unified front in the home. New research from Boston College's Center for Work and Family has shown the majority dads who take parental leave spend that time caring for their children and performing household tasks.
“When dads don’t take paternity leave, moms may become trapped in the primary caregiver role, whether they like it or not,” says Matos. When men feel connected as dads from the very beginning, moms may also feel more comfortable relinquishing control to this equal partner who knows how to do it just as well as she does.
Times are changing and so are moms and dads. As more men acquire the courage to opt in for paternity leave, businesses will reap the benefits of this new, loyal and balanced workforce. If you're in HR, take a look at your parental leave policies. Is there anything you can do to improve them?