What about Dad?: How Parental Leave Benefits the Whole Family

                                photo courtesy of @nategunn_ via instagram   

                                photo courtesy of @nategunn_ via instagram

 

With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, at Mama Said we are paying extra attention to fatherhood this week. Recently, we’ve been inspired by some newsmaking dads who have decided to take advantage of parental leave policies or career flexibility in order to spend time at home with their new childen. Even better, the choices made by these dads are proving to be beneficial for mamas and babies, too.

Tomer London: Founder, Gusto

 Tomer London decided to take two months of paid parental leave following the birth of his daughter. London believes that both parents should have the ability to adjust to life as a new parents and bond with their infant, and is (rightfully) unhappy with the fact that the U.S. is “the only developed country where parents aren’t guaranteed to stay on payroll when they have a child.” London also  hopes that his choice to take time off will serve as an example for his employees. In an article written for the Huffington Post, London said, “One of the biggest reasons I’m going on paternity leave is to signal to my team that this is normal, expected behavior. It shouldn’t make you feel guilty, or as if you’re not as committed to your work.” London’s startup company, Gusto, has gone even further than offering two months of paid paternal leave for employees, also offering four months of paid maternity leave and services including food delivery, house cleaning and sleep coaching for parents employees.

Ryan Park: Former Clerk, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s former clerk, Ryan Park, is another example of a father making the choice to take time off following his entrance into fatherhood. In an article that he wrote for The Atlantic, Park recounts his decision to take a period of leave following his clerkship for RBG while his wife completed her pediatric residency.  Park believed his time spent with his daughter was far more meaningful than that spent at the office, even citing the statistic that “nearly half of fathers report dissatisfaction with the amount of time they are able to spend with their children.” In his piece, Park points out the that the “gender-equality debate” typically fails to account for fathers that feel as if they are missing out on time with their children due to societal pressure to work. Park channeled the gender-equality beliefs of his former superior (RBG has spoken out against “gender lines in the law” in the past) as he noted, “when home is mentioned at all,  the emphasis is usually on equalizing burdens—not on equalizing the opportunity for men, as well as women, to be there.”

                       photo courtesy of ryan park via time.com   

                       photo courtesy of ryan park via time.com

 

Park believed his time spent with his daughter was far more meaningful than that spent at the office, citing the statistic that ‘nearly half of father report dissatisfaction with the amount of time they are able to spend with their children.’

Crunching the Numbers

As noted by Park, the number of stay at home dads in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the last 20 years, with 1.1 million fathers staying home in 1989 and 2 million doing the same in 2012. With this increase, there have been instances (much like the example of London’s company) of improved parental leave policies that grant paid paternal leave. Even in the past few years, great changes have taken place in regards to parental leave, particularly when it comes to tech companies. According fastcompany.com, “In 2015, nearly half of Fatherly’s 50 Best Places To Work For New Dads offered between one and two weeks of paid leave to fathers. This year’s survey finds that the average is up to 7.5 weeks.” Though Pennsylavania law does not require employers (of 50 or more employees) to offer more than 12 weeks of unpaid leave to new parents, some employers in Philadelphia have also developed policies to offer better parental leave options for their employees. According to The Philly Voice, employees of the City Government of Philadelphia receive four weeks of paid leave within a year of having or adopting a new child, and Pricewaterhousecoopers grants employees six weeks of paid parental leave, and two additional weeks if their new children are multiples.

While the improvements are great for dads wanting to take time off to be with their children, there is still room for improvement in regards to these policies, particularly in regards to flexibility in when to take their leave. Fatherly.com found that 75% of fathers would like leave schedule flexibility in order to better share new-baby responsibilities with their spouse.

As for spouses, it should be noted that paternal leave has been found to be beneficial to all new mamas, not just those looking to complete a residency like Park’s wife. Park cites a statistic  that says, “mothers’ incomes rise about 7 percent for each month that a father spends at home with the children.” Research has also confirmed that children benefit from having present and engaged fathers (made possible in part by having flexible work schedules) in regards to emotional balance and socialization.

At Mama Said, we are proponents of paid parental leave, particularly as it benefits new parents and babies while allowing new moms and dads the opportunity to feel fulfilled in work and at home. This father’s day week, we hope for the continued improvement of parental leave policies in Philadelphia and beyond.