A recent article that I've highlighted below, from the NYTimes: Upshot, covers the topic of paternity leave. Being an airline pilot, the only stigma that comes from taking extended leave is the reduction in flying hours (experience) and the potential of losing currency which would require a simple proficiency check.1 I decided early on that my family comes first and with that, those two side effects didn't worry me. Hence, I took the full 90 days of Family Leave when our daughter was born and it was the best time of my life2; getting to learn how to care for a newborn, new mother and bond together as a new family. I loved every moment of it and would never trade it for anything.
Five months after Todd Bedrick’s daughter was born, he took some time off from his job as an accountant. The company he works for, Ernst & Young, offered paid paternity leave, and he decided to take six weeks — the maximum amount — when his wife, Sarah, went back to teaching. He learned how to lull the fitful baby to sleep on his chest and then to sit very still for an hour to avoid waking her. He developed an elaborate system for freezing and thawing his wife’s pumped breast milk. And each day at lunchtime, he drove his daughter to the elementary school where Sarah teaches so she could nurse. When she came home at the end of the day, he handed over the baby and collapsed on the couch.
“The best part was just forming the bond with her,” said Mr. Bedrick, who lives in Portland, Ore., and went back to work in June. “Had I not had that time with her, I don’t think I’d feel as close to her as I do today.”
And of course, this comes without surprise. My daughter and I are tight and I love that I can read her and “feel” her emotions. I love her and my wife so much!
Social scientists who study families and work say that men like Mr. Bedrick, who take an early hands-on role in their children’s lives, are likely to be more involved for years to come and that their children will be healthier. Even their wives could benefit, as women whose husbands take paternity leave have increased career earnings and have a decreased chance of depression in the nine months after childbirth. But researchers also have a more ominous message. Taking time off for family obligations, including paternity leave, could have long-term negative effects on a man’s career — like lower pay or being passed over for promotions.
“Part of the rationale for paternity leave is if men are able to be very involved early on in the care of their children, they’re going to be more involved ever after, and it will translate to more equal sharing and equal roles,” said Ms. Waldfogel, the professor of social work. Though men who want to be more involved fathers are probably more likely to take leave in the first place, she found that even after controlling for fathers’ commitment levels, those who took significant leaves were more likely to do hands-on child care later.
Mr. Bedrick added, “I definitely would not have done anything differently.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
Cultural messages tend to reinforce the stigma. Last spring, Daniel Murphy, a second baseman for the New York Mets, was criticized when he took the three days of paternity leave allowed by Major League Baseball. “I would have said: ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day,’ ” Boomer Esiason, a radio talk show host and former professional football player, said on his program. (He would later apologize for the remarks.) Mike Francesa, another radio talk show host, added: “You’re a Major League Baseball player; you can hire a nurse.” Men often receive subtle or not-so-subtle messages that leave is unacceptable, even if it’s in the employee handbook.
If you remember a few months ago in April, the sports media went a little crazy about criticizing Daniel Murphy and I too was enraged. It’s all about spending as much time as you can, no matter how rich or who you are, with your new family. Period. There is no higher calling. Baseball??? Dumb that in our society, we'd put these material things above that.
There’s also quite a few articles that have touched upon this highly important topic in the last year. One of my favorites was published a few months ago in The Atlantic and there’s also the 5 Reasons Dads Should Take Paternity Leave. Read them both and if you can afford it, max out your paternity leave!
note: with my daughter in school, and with a new one on the way, finances are stretching and unfortunately, I will NOT be able to take the full time off unpaid when my son arrives around Christmas time. However, if it was a paid leave, I would be all for it.