Working women who choose to have children know that maternity leave is in the future, as they take a few weeks or months to take care of their infant and get back on their feet.
However, more companies are starting to recognize something just as valuable to employees — paternity leave.
Though most fathers don't plan on taking more than a few days to stay home from work after a baby is born, it has been pointed out that this can be valuable for work environments and at home.
Rikki Rogers, a columnist for themuse.com, writes about some of the advantages in family relationships that come from using paternity leave, as shared by Liza Mundy in The Atlantic.
"Mundy points out that fathers who take paternity leave and play an equal role in the difficult first few weeks with a newborn tend to stay more active in the child’s life as he or she grows up, creating a more even distribution of household and baby responsibilities and avoiding the 'second shift' paradox (when working mothers do most of the household work, even though they work full time)," Rogers said.
Unfortunately, most companies still don't offer paternity leave to their employees. According to a Boston College Center for Work and Family study conducted in 2014, only 20 percent of employees in the U.S. have the option of paternity leave.
The study also found that most fathers who do take paternity leave only take about one day for every month the typical mother takes for maternity leave, Forbes reported.
"The status quo for the last several decades is that men don't take paternity leave even when it is available to them, because they are afraid — rightfully so — that it will be held against them," Cynthia Calvert, president of Workforce 21C and senior advisor to the Center for WorkLife Law, told Forbes.
Companies expect women to take maternity leave and because of this, there is often an "unconscious bias" against them that impacts advancement and other opportunities at work, Calvert said.
But if men were to take more paternity leave, this could even the playing field, making it not only a positive for women within the family and in relationships with their husbands, but also could also help in the workforce.
"While paid paternity leave may feel like an unexpected gift, the biggest beneficiaries aren’t men, or even babies. In the long run, the true beneficiaries of paternity leave are women, and the companies and nations that benefit when women advance," Mundy said in her Atlantic article.
Though some may not have the option, there are many fathers who could choose to take more time with their wives and newborns, to help in family and at work.
Rogers shares five tips to help parents prepare for both maternity and paternity leave:
- Start planning early. Preparing for projects to be worked on before or after leave can help with less stress during, and after it ends, as well as preparing for unexpected things to take place while gone.
- Work until the absolute last minute. Babies can come later than expected, and sitting around stressing about it, when more preparation for leave could be done is useless. Maximize the time spent on leave by working to the last minute.
- Be available, but don't work. It's OK to answer some calls or emails, because it might be too stressful to go cold-turkey from work. But be with family, the baby and others during a rare time of leave.
- Consider alternative schedules. Mundy found in her study that "some men who took paternity leave weren't taking consecutive weeks but were spreading their leave over several months to make the mother's transition back to work less stressful."
- Set the record straight. Many people will be overly impressed with a father who chooses to take paternity leave, but it is mostly expressed as expected and unfortunate for working women to have to do it. By men setting the record straight and considering it to be a normal part of life, it can "ensure that paternity leave transforms into a right, not a luxury," Rogers said.
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