Looking for the hot scoop on paternity leave? We encourage dads to put down their pens and Blackberrys in exchange for diapers and bottles—at least for a little while.
More and more families are opting to take part in the new form of “bring your daddy to work day,” and in this case, the conference room becomes the kitchen and the copy center morphs into a nursery. Although paternity leave is generally a short-term answer to the sharing of parental duties, it helps both parents rest and adjust to their lives and responsibilities with a new baby.
After all, whether it’s mom or dad who has to wake up and head to work in the morning, both partners are continually dealing with the issues that come along with being a new parent—including a serious lack of sleep.Late-night feedings and pediatric appointments can take the focus away from office-work, and can result in a preoccupied, tired employee. Employers are becoming increasingly aware of this distraction, and many are accommodating new dads in the same ways only new mothers have experienced in the past.
How it works
Paternity leave isn’t a new idea to the rest of the world. In Sweden, a new mother and father get up to 18 months of paid leave to welcome their little bundle of joy into this world. Although American companies are becoming more family-minded, you’ll find very few with such an open-wallet interpretation of parental leave. In fact, most abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which, barring a few exceptions, requires the allowance of 12 full weeks of unpaid leave for employees.
Yes, that’s 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
There are several progressive companies scattered about the U.S. that fully support new fathers by providing them with paid time off to be with their new family. Full salary is rare, though, and many dads find themselves taking off a few days or weeks by using a mix of sick days, vacation and unpaid leave. Obviously, this isn’t an optimal situation.
Although everyone wants daddy around the first few weeks of baby’s life, few families can afford for both parents to be out of work,especially with a new mouth to feed and a dirty bottom to diaper. The good news is that the FMLA guarantees that you’ll still receive benefits and your same job upon your return to the workforce.
Generally, you are required to request paternity leave at least 30 days before your scheduled time off; however, it would probably be in your best interest to discuss the situation with your employer long before that point. The only way to find out your company’s specific policies is to talk to your HR department. They will know the ins and outs (or the existence) of paternity leave within your company.
Afterwards, present the idea to your boss, offering solutions as to how your work will be completed, and how long you plan to be away.You’ll probably get a much better reaction if you come forward with a plan,rather than with a slew of problems.
Why it works
Another reason paternity leave is becoming all the more relevant is because mothers are finding themselves in situations of shortened maternity leave. According to women’s rights attorney and founding partner of Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, LLP, Jack Tuckner: “Paternity leave is on the rise for the simple fact that women are demanding that their men take an active part in early child rearing, partly so that they may shorten their own maternity leaves in order to stay career-competitive.”
Many families depend on a mother’s career—especially in situations where the woman is paid equally or more than her partner—so when a parental hiatus becomes a necessity, the family hurts financially and the mother’s career suffers. “The fact that women have historically stayed home with the baby for three months while men have taken only one or two days off is implicated in all ‘mommy track’ workplace issues, i.e., the loss of momentum of women in their careers while they are out of the sight and minds of their corporate managers while out on an extended leave,” notes Jack.
Even if you’re not in a demanding career path, most mothers find solace in the idea of their partner sharing in the joys and burdens that early child-rearing can bring. It has long been said that the influence of a father figure on a child is immensely important. “Having dad home for the baby is essential for both baby and father and the more significant issue is the burden-sharing of child care so that women are not the sole care-givers when it should be a ‘family responsibility’ issue, not an exclusive female province concern,” says Jack.
This isn’t to say that the lack thereof will negatively affect your child, but a baby’s bond with his father is certainly valuable. And on that note, so is a mother’s sanity. Sharing duties allows time for each parent to bond with their new kiddo, and it also keeps nerves calm and quells arguments that arise from one parent being overworked and unappreciated.