My wife and I were planning for the birth of our second child in 2002. I wanted to take more than a week off for paternity leave. Because I worked for a large company, the law allowed 12 weeks. But I couldn’t take three months off without pay.
When my first child was born, I took only a week off to be with my wife and our baby girl. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was relatively new. It was the first national law in U.S. history that granted unpaid, job-protected leave to moms and dads to care for their newborn kids. But the law only allowed leave for moms and dads working in companies with 50 or more employees. The company I worked for then was smaller.
I wanted to do things different for our second child. My wife and I talked it over. We looked at the paid time off I’d accrued, and the balance in our savings account. I could afford to take three weeks off.
I might have been able to add on a couple more weeks, but I felt nervous about being away from work longer. I didn’t want my boss to think I wasn’t a devoted employee.
I wouldn’t feel so anxious now. My priorities and perspective have changed. I’ve worked in the corporate world long enough to see many highly regarded employees cut loose at a moment’s notice. Most company employees can be replaced. When it comes to families, dads aren’t a disposable asset. The positive impact a dad has at home will likely last a lot longer than the positive impact he can have at his workplace.
[pullquote align=”normal”]According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nine out of 10 dads take maternity leave. Only three out of 10 who take leave take more than 10 days. [/pullquote]
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nine out of 10 dads take maternity leave. Only three out of 10 who take leave take more than 10 days.
Dads expecting a newborn who have access to paternity leave need to consider how they can use it to invest in the well-being of their growing family. Taking leave requires planning, and may require negotiating and creative thinking. Paid leave for moms and dads is still rare in the U.S.
In addition to immediate financial concerns, questions about leave duration and job security may need to be discussed with the boss or with human resources. If leave isn’t part of the job’s benefit package, an employer may allow a new dad to flex hours or cut back on hours to allow longer stretches of time at home.
Dads who are self-employed may be able to create space for paternity leave with careful planning. That may require cutting unnecessary spending to put away some extra savings. If it’s not possible to step away from work completely, cutting back hours to spend more time at home might be an option.
If you’re weighing the pros and cons of taking paternity leave, consider these benefits reported in the June 2016 issue of Healthcare.
1. You’ll Be a Better Parent
The longer period of leave dads take for a new child, the more involved they are with their newborn child and spouse. They can talk to, hold and bathe their child. And, yes, they can change diapers. These dads also tend to live longer.
Dads who stay home with their wife and child can also offer support that may decrease the risk of mom having postpartum depression. He can listen to her when she’s struggling with the duties of motherhood, take on household chores, and care for older children.
2. Your Child May Be Smarter
Children whose fathers are more involved after birth tend to have stronger brains, than those whose fathers are busy at work. This translates to better performance in school.
3. Your Child May Be Healthier
Infants whose dads are more involved tend to have better health than those whose dads have little involvement. In addition to better physical health, these children also tended to have better long-term emotional and psychological health.
If this post was helpful, please share it. Are you a dad that took paternity leave? What benefits did you experience? Are you a mom with a husband who took paternity leave? How did you benefit? Share your experience with a comment below, or send me your comments privately with the Voice Mail, Facebook Messenger or Contact Me tab.
The post also appeared on LifeZette.com.