American Men Want Paternity Leave — It’s Just a Matter of Getting It


Good news for dads and moms alike: support for paternity leave continues to grow among American men. This might not surprise anyone aware of the brouhaha surrounding Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy taking a couple games off after his wife’s C-section, but a recent study by the Boston College Center for Work and Family provides hard data proving the popularity of paternity leave. Take a look:

Most men would take paternity leave if their company offered it.

An overwhelming 89 percent of the almost 3,000 men Boston College surveyed said it was important that an employer provide paid paternity or parental leave, and 86 percent said they would take that leave as long as the company provided them at least 70 percent of their normal salary. (The men were mostly married, employed, and highly educated.)

The majority of men think that paternity leave should be two to four weeks long.

While some wanted the time off right after the child’s birth, more than 75 percent wanted the option to decide when to take it within some specified time frame (like, say, the first six months of the child’s life). This way, they could spread the days around as they saw need.

While on paternity leave, dads take an active role in childcare and housework.

Researchers focused on 49 fathers who took paternity leave to find out what they did while at home. More than 90 percent of the fathers spent time caring for their new children and changing diapers, and over 80 percent helped out with household chores such as shopping, cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry. When the fathers had multiple children, they also spent time with their older kids.

Paternity leave is surely to grow more popular in the years to come.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the study found young men (Millennials and Gen X-ers) value paternity leave more than their Baby Boomer elders. It will hopefully only be a matter of time until more companies are offering paternity leave and, eventually, social pressure leads to federal mandates requiring it.

Furthermore, as an article in The Atlantic makes clear, there is a social snowball effect in regards to paternity leave. Men who take it make their brothers 15 percent more likely to do the same, and their coworkers 11 percent more likely to do so as well. These numbers are based on a study released in this month’s American Economic Review, which also finds that a boss or manager taking paternity influences his employees three times as much as when a non-manager does the same. In other words: when men see their bosses, friends, and family taking time off work to help care for a new child, they’re likely to take time off too.

All of this shows that paternity leave is no longer a foreign idea for men in the United States, which makes good emotional sense, and social sense as well. Women will not be able to be as present in the workplace after giving birth if men are not able to take time off to help care for newborns. The stigma against working mothers will not recede until the burden of caring for a new child is shared by both mothers and fathers.

The U.S. is not currently one of the 70 countries that mandates paid leave for fathers, but then again, it doesn’t provide salaried leave for mothers either. (The Family Medical Leave Act dictates that employers provide 12 weeks unpaid leave to new moms, though the President has expressed a desire to change this.) I think its high time that such a change happens. As this data shows, both men and women would like to be able to have both a family and a professional life. In the first months of our child’s life, we shouldn’t have to choose between spending time at the office or spending time at home with a newborn.

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