Equally Shared Parenting - Half the Work ... All the Fun

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Here's where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions, work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of what's in the news.

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Equality Blog

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Take It or Leave It

Babble has an informative article this week on why men don't tend to take paternity leave - especially in proportion to the leave that new mothers do. Of course the fact that only 13% of American workplaces offer paid paternity leave options has something to do with this discrepancy. But it is way more than that. Only 58% of the men who actually have such a juicy tidbit dangled in front of them even take it. Free time off to bond with their baby and a full 42% turn it down! And less than 10% of all American men take more than 2 weeks off when they become fathers.

The article features a few men who bucked the trend and loved it. We've found the same thing in our research for our forthcoming book - that men who screw up their courage to ask and then take extended paternity leave time don't regret it and feel grateful for having had the opportunity to do something so amazing, fleeting, and yet that lasts forever in the strength of their bond to their kids.

Why do most men not jump at such a chance? The answers are complex, including the pressure at work to climb higher without pause (why?), the fear that their absence will cause co-workers to do just fine without them (sounds like a mark of a well-planned leave to me!), the social stigma of caretaking as women's work (get over it!), the pressure to provide-provide-provide when there are now more mouths to feed (that's what your wife's job is for - half of that providing). Maybe even the feeling that our partners are better at the babycare than we are, so why bring in the second-string help (of course, this is self-prophecy - if we never get good at handling a crying baby, we'll never be good at handling a crying baby)?

These are crazy reasons to miss out on one of the top wonders of the modern world. Did I miss anything more valid?

Millions of American families - with our pathetic corporate parental leave policies - sacrifice good money to keep mothers home way past any paid leave so that they can be with their babies for 3, 6, 9, 12+ months. What would happen if we allocated some of this (even half!) to these babies' fathers instead? How would this change our marital landscape a year down the road - or 3 years, 6 years, 9 years, 12 years later?

Such possibilities!


Anonymous Michael said...

I would argue that "most men" don't jump at the chance simply because they don't have it. I believe that you would find, if you conducted an informal poll, that if given any amount of paid time off after the birth of their child - "most men" absolutely would do it. I also believe that "most men" would take unpaid time off to such a degree that making ends-meet would not be jeopardized.

I'm inclined to believe that many aggressive, corporate "go-getters" may be disinclined under similar circumstances for many of the reasons you write in your post - but they don't comprise "most men."

Good article.

For the record, I took off for a full week, burning vacation time after the birth of both children and worked split shifts for another week or so after that in each case.

There is no paid leave I wouldn't take, if offered, to be home with the children.

11:27 AM  

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