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Paternity leave: The Front Line of the New 'Daddy Wars'

biblicone for flickr

Like many American women welcoming new babies into the world, I took off a couple of months after birth. Like many American men, my husband took about a week. (It probably would have only been a couple of days had we not had twins.)

While moms stay home bonding with their babies doing the “traditional” female thing, men, for the most part, are expected to fulfill their “traditional” role of family financial provider.

But as 21-century dads are opening their minds to expanding their role as caregiver, more and more are asking (and fighting) for the right to nurture their families — and keep their jobs at the same time.

Leading the charge in the first battle is Ariel Ayanna, a dad who is suing his law-firm employer, accusing them of withholding work and firing him after he took time off under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for his second child. His complaint says partners at his firm bragged about how little time they spent on family obligations.

 “I've talked to people who were called wusses for asking for part time or taking leave,” Joan C. Williams, author of Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, told when discussing Ayanna’s case.

Of U.S. employers, only 13 percent offer paid paternal leave, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. In those companies, only 58 percent of men actually use it.

While the whole life balance thing is old-hat to moms, it’s brand new to fathers — and America’s not quite sure what to make of it. Some dads encounter outright hostility from bosses and co-workers (of both genders) if they dare suggest taking time off with a new baby. Others experience guilt that they’re not living up to their role as breadwinner.

Looks like Dads have their very own version of the “mommy wars.” Which side are you on?