The first glimpse of a newborn is a lifetime memory. The first hug, the first smile, the soft cry, the response of a child, makes heart yearn for more of it. The arrival also causes much flutter in the house. A child is a little bundle of joy, and at the same time, requires non-stop attention of the family. Both the partners are bound into an enduring yet sweet journey of raising a child. It is indeed an invaluable and priceless experience which nobody would want to miss. But as the working mothers are entitled to paid maternity leave barring few countries, such as, United States, the male partners often lag behind.
This raises one very important question, why paid paternity leave is overlooked by nations and organizations? This leads to another question, leave alone the payment part, do we need paternity leave at all?
For answering these questions, we need to identify and understand the role and importance of a father in child’s development. Is father’s role only that of a bread winner for the family? What about the career of a woman, when she earns more? The biological role of women in reproduction places more stress on the mothers than their male counterparts. Motherhood is presented in an exaggerated form. Since the woman carries the womb for nine months, goes through all the labor pain to give birth, so it is assumed that she is the one responsible to raise the child too. But caring for an infant requires a lot of adjustment and effort. For example, the disturbed sleeping patterns of the child and hence the parents, as the child gets used to the new environment of the world, is very tiring. Just after delivery, a mother needs somebody in close relation, to be by her side, who can take care of her and the baby during the initial phase.
Changing the nappies, engaging the infant, shopping for food and cleaning the house, preparing meals, who else better than the father can do this? A survey of 1000 professional well educated new fathers across 286 organizations by Boston College’s Centre for Work and Family [BC CWF] (2014) found that more than 80 % of the fathers actually participated in these activities during their off time. A father’s role is not limited to managing the finances of the house. He also shares equitable responsibility in the upbringing of the child.
Further, with the arrival of new member in the house, everybody needs time to adjust. The father needs time to rest and overcome the disturbed sleeping patterns. Ask a new dad how life changes after a child. On an average, fathers in US go on two weeks’ leave after birth of their children (BC CWF, 2014). It is difficult to work when you have been kept awake by the child the whole night. So, being at home full time is important. It is beneficial for the health of the child, mother, and father himself.
Here is also a case of sharing equitable benefits derived from the sweet nothings of life. We may champion for the cause of women rights, but we tend to overlook the emotional side of men as fathers, beyond being cash crunching machines. According to BC CWF (2014) survey, a staggering 92 % of the respondent fathers confirmed about the positive experience with their children during paternity leave, and 75 % wished they could spend more time with them. Fathers too need to relax and chill out with the child. Jerry Cammarata, the first father to exercise the paternity leave in US, aptly puts it in an interview for Huffington Post, “Why should a father be left behind in this equitable world?”
The initial phase of child development is crucial for bonding with the child. Counter argument may be why should the father be given full days’ leave when he can spend time with the child after returning from office? The answer is that the first few days help in building and nurturing relations with the family, which includes the child and the spouse. A father’s early active involvement in childcare, even for a brief period, leads to better family ties, reduced divorce rates and improved behavioral development and education performance of child (Institute for Women’s Policy Research [IWPR], 2013). Moreover, the time spent by fathers with the children at an early age has a direct correlation with being confident parents later in life (BC CWF, 2014). We can not rule out the importance of a father in child’s well-being, and, consequently the influence a father has on a child’s emotional and intellectual development when she grows into an adult.
With evolution of house dynamics and taking in perspective the emotional and physical needs of a child, a father and a mother, paternity leave is the requirement of the day. IWPR (2013) argues that job protected parental leave is crucial for the health and economic security of babies, pregnant women, and new mothers, and, their families. The question is why paternity leave has to be a paid one? It could be an ordinary leave. Here it would be interesting to note that bringing up a child puts pressure on finances. In US, annual expenditure on a child is estimated to be $ 11,000 in the first year alone (IWPR, 2009). This fact is resonated by the fathers as well. BC CWF (2014) found that 89 % of the fathers surveyed in US put emphasis on paid paternity leave and a large majority vowed to make use of paternity leave only when 70 % of their salaries were paid. Similarly in case of women, Ruff found that in California led paid family leave, the incidence of taking maternity leave doubled as soon as it was paid one (as cited in Pathe, 2014).
In addition to stabilizing the finances of the family, the paid paternity leave also has implications for increased productivity of the father at workplace. The satisfaction of a father for contributing his time and services to the family along with the joy of spending time with the newborn rejuvenates him. 82 % of fathers who participated in the BC CWF (2014) survey, agreed that family life made them feel happy and this motivated them to work better. The new perspectives gained by men, by taking care of their children, add to their productivity, and, it also encourages women to embark on their careers and hence add to the economic and emotional stability of the family. If the organization welcomes back the fathers with dignity after leave, it also builds a bond of mutual symbiosis, and helps organizations in retaining the talent.
The rising importance of paid paternity leave could be gauged from the fact that globally 70 countries have laid down laws for paid paternity leave till 2013 (International Labor Organization, as cited in BC CWF, 2014). In countries like United Kingdom, and Australia, the male partners can avail up to 15 days of paid paternity leave, but in case of United States, it is state specific, and, dependent on the policy of the employing organization. One third of Fortune 100 companies provide paid paternity leave (IWPR, 2009). As the men recognize the importance of family values with 95 % of dads considering flexible working arrangements at work to be important (BC CWF, 2011), even companies like Yahoo and Facebook woo the talent pool with their paid paternity leave policies (McGregor, 2013).
In spite of the so many positives, paid paternity leave is not popular even as a concept. This is also a cultural issue. There is much stigma attached to fathers going on paternity leaves. If actually paid paternity leave is integrated into policies, it remains to be seen how fathers over the globe would respond to it. Other issue regarding paid paternity leave would be, if this interferes in moving up the ranks at workplace, in case of a longer duration leave. Moreover there needs to be research on what could be the ideal duration of the leave, across different nations and cultures. Still there is a long way to go and the legislating bodies need to take care of these issues while framing policies, which have far reaching implications for nations and organizations by way of content and stable social entities called ‘families’.
Belkin, L. (Interviewer) & Cammarata, J. (Interviewee). (2013). First father to receive paternity leave speaks out: And he isn’t happy [Interview transcript]. Retrieved June 10, 2014, from The Huffington Post Website:
Hara, Y., Hegewisch, A. (2013) Maternity, paternity and adoption leave in the United States. [Briefing paper]. Retrieved from Institute for Women’s Policy Research Website:
Harrington, B., Deusen, F.V., Fraone, J.S., Eddy, S., & Haas, L. (2014). The New Dad: Take your leave. Perspectives on paternity leave from fathers, leading organizations, and global policies. [Executive Summary]. Retrieved from Boston College Center for Work and Family, Carroll School of Management Website:
Harrington, B., Deusen, F.V., & Humberd, B. (2011). The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted. Retrieved from Boston College Center for Work and Family Website: http://www.thenewdad.org/the_new_dad_research/the_new_dad_caring_committed_and_conflicted_2011
McGregor, J. (2013, June 14). Paternity leave isn’t just about dads. The Washington Post. Retrieved from:
Miller, K., Helmuth, A.S., Farabee–Siers, R. (2009). The need for paid parental leave for Federal employees: Adapting to a changing workforce. [Report]. Retrieved from Institute for Women’s Policy Research Website:
Pathe, S. (2014, January 3). How paid parental leave helps you, your newborn and the job market. Retrieved from University of Virginia Website: