“All New Dads Should Be Able to Take Paternity Leave — Here’s How” originally appeared on The Good Men Project, and was reprinted with permission.
A C-section was never the plan for me and my son.
I was fully prepared for labor and the process of giving birth, but our little one had other plans. He was turned face-up making labor even more difficult and painful. To make matters worse, his heart rate dropped lower and lower by the minute.
After 30 hours of labor, a C-section seemed to be the best option.
My husband had always planned on taking paternity leave, but I don’t think I would have appreciated it nearly as much if I didn’t have a C-section. The major abdominal surgery puts the mother out of commission for weeks. Moms who have C-sections can’t lift anything other than their baby. I had trouble climbing in and out of bed, standing, walking, sitting, and driving. I felt helpless. Thankfully, my husband stayed home for a couple of weeks and stepped into his role of fatherhood seamlessly. He drove me places, he rocked the baby to sleep when my body hurt too much to sit, and he managed our household while I rested and recovered from surgery.
Why it’s important to take paternity leave
Cesarean sections aren’t the only reason dads should take paternity leave. Paternity leave can empower men as fathers. Allowing a father to stay home with his child for a few weeks means that father is able to get to know his newborn child. Some dads who can’t take paternity leave can feel left out as the mother takes over and knows the child intimately. Paternity leave gives dads the chance to know the ins and outs of parenthood and understand their child’s likes, dislikes, and habits as he or she grows.
Paternity leave also gives men a well-deserved break from work without taking vacation time. Men work hard all year long to provide for their family. Adding a baby to the family gives those fathers more motivation to keep up the hard work, but employers should celebrate the role of fatherhood by allowing time off after the baby is born. It’s important for employers to keep all of their employees happy.
Another perk to paternity leave is showing your older kids what it means to be a father. New big brothers and sisters will appreciate their dad taking time off of work to care for them, their new sibling, and their mother. Stereotypically, being a man has meant making money, working late hours, and being generally disconnected from the wife and children. But being a man is so much more than that. Men can be strong and compassionate. They can work hard and still parent effectively. Boys will see their dads caring for the family, cooking, and cleaning, and they will begin to realize that being a father encompasses so many different responsibilities. Men who take paternity leave show their kids how to be great parents.
Why businesses and companies should get involved
Unfortunately, as important as paternity leave is, it’s often not offered if the individual worked for less than a year. If paternity leave is offered, it’s very often unpaid. Men are certainly able to take the time off for parental leave if they want, however, they must have worked for a minimum 1,250 hours at a business that has at least 50 employees. Even after all of those prerequisites, the federal government still won’t guarantee that the leave will be paid. Most families can’t afford unpaid leave for several weeks, so sadly, the paternity leave is unused.
However, same state and city governments see the desire for fathers to stay home with a new child and they are working to make paid paternity leave a reality. San Francisco recently became the first city in the United States to pass a law mandating that all new parents be entitled to fully paid parental leave — beginning next year. This opens up a whole new world of opportunities for new moms and dads. Dads especially won’t feel the pressure to provide the money their family needs to survive.
Since an incredible 83 percent of Americans are in favor of increasing parental leave, businesses and companies should do their best to meet their employees’ needs. According to a report in 2013, only 15 percent of employers offer paid paternity leave, so the U.S. has a long way to go when it comes to meeting the needs and expectations of new fathers. More fathers should take paternity leave. If paternity leave becomes the norm, more and more businesses may start to offer paid leave for new fathers and, hopefully, this positive trend will continue.
How to approach your employer about paternity leave
You might be convinced now that paternity leave is the right move for you. However, your employer might not be so enthusiastic. It’s important to carefully approach the subject of paternity leave with your boss. Consider all of the questions they might have for you and do your best to assure them that paternity leave won’t affect your performance at work. In fact, you might even work harder knowing that you will have some time off!
First think about who can cover for you while you’re gone. Ask around at work and see who can take over a project you’re working on. Perhaps if you’re working on something that is especially time-consuming, try splitting up responsibilities between multiple coworkers. Come into your meeting with the boss, fortified with the knowledge that your job will be well-covered while you’re away.
Also, come into the discussion with a set number of weeks in mind. Be ready to answer your supervisor when asked how long of a leave you would like. Be honest, but also be prepared to compromise a little bit.
Know what your rights are. You may be qualified for paid paternity leave. Just make sure your employer or the human resources department is on board. Confirm that you will be paid. You don’t want to go home on paternity leave and leave that issue unresolved. If you are unqualified for paid leave, consider using vacation time. This is an important season of life for you! You should be at home with your wife and new baby!
No parent should feel like they must work after the life-changing birth of their child. It takes time to settle into a new routine, manage a household, and get to know your newborn. Consider taking paternity leave. You won’t regret the bond you’ll form with the newest member of your family!
More from The Good Men Project:
- Confronting the cynical, this mom believes in paternity leave and abolishing double standards
- Why dads should take paternity leave
- Get back to work: The paternity leave dilemma