Working moms take maternity leave, but it's still unusual for a new father to take paternity leave. Here's why it's good for both new parents when a dad stays home for a while with baby
As moms, we know that our hubbies are just as anxious about our impending water breakage as we are. And at home, we know that they are working overtime to prepare for this baby — graciously painting the nursery and packing our hospital bags, to name a few. But at work? Well, that’s outside our jurisdiction. So here’s what us moms think dads could (read: should) do to get the most out of their way-too-short paternity leave.
1. Take a Leave. The first step to a great paternity leave is to actually take one. According to a 2012 survey of new dads, more than half did not take a leave. And among those who did, the majority took less than a week. This time is more precious than we even realize. Yeah, it will be hard financially — about 16 percent of U.S. employers offer paid paternity leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. But us moms are willing to do whatever it takes so we can get to know our new baby — together.
2. Communicate. It’s inevitable that new dads will end up playing a mediator role between their office and us. We both need our men. Dads need to make sure that they’re communicating early, often and honestly to both parties. In the office, men should make it well known how much time they intend to take off. The boss’ open-ended “take as much time as you need” shpeal means “see you in 4 days.” Conversely, don’t tell us moms what we want to hear. Our guys need to give it to us straight — you’re realistically able to only take 5 days. Honesty will help our already fragile emotional state deal with the circumstances.
3. You're Manly. While it’s assumed that mothers will take maternity leave — be it paid or unpaid — workplace pressures can actually discourage men from taking paternity leave, calling them unmanly, unmotivated and unprofessional. Last time we checked, our husbands are half this team and their life changed just as much as ours when we ran out screaming with a positive pregnancy test. We think it’s sexy and manly to stay home with us for a while.
4. We're with Papua New Guinea. According to a Harvard University report, the U.S., Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and Liberia are the only 4 industrialized countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. Depressing. And while the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allowed 14 percent of men and 18 percent of women in 2012 to take up to 12 weeks unpaid after baby comes, it only covers people who work for companies with more than 50 employees. All these numbers mean that we have to make the most of our way-too-short leaves — or we should move to Sweden where parents are given 480 days per child.
5. Know How Much We Need You. No stats needed here. Us moms need our guys the first few months (err, years) of babydom. We’re healing both physically and emotionally. We’re adjusting to our new roles, our new bodies and our new schedules. Having our partner in crime around comforts and helps us more than we can say in our sleep-deprived state.