Why new dads can and should take paternity leave


Dear Adele,

My husband and I are expecting our first child shortly. While I plan to take a generous maternity leave, I think my husband should also take some paternity leave, and share the load, so to speak. He, on the other hand, sees no reason for him to take any leave, because it is me having the baby and needing to recover. What do you think on this subject?

Mom- to- be


Dear Mom-to-be,

Congratulations on your pregnancy and new pending roles as mom and dad.

You are not alone Mom-to-be with this quandary, as child care has traditionally been seen as the role of the mother, and culturally, men as equal partners in child care, has not been fully accepted, although we are making a lot of progress in this area.

A 2021 global research paper by McKinsey and Company, studied 130 heterosexual couples who had dual professions, college education, financial stability, and lived in 10 countries. They discovered that 90 out of 187 countries offer statutory paid paternity leave, but that no matter the cultural acceptance or employer support, less than 50 per cent of men took all the leave permitted. The dads who did take paternity leave were 100 per cent pleased that they did, but 20 per cent felt that vocational setbacks were the main negative feature.

A 2016 Pew Research Centre study found that almost 70 per cent of Americans believe in paid paternity leave yet most American males only take a couple of days off on the birth or adoption of a child. Studies suggest two major reasons, the first being access to paid family leave and the second being the fear that the professional reputation will be marred and the earning potential affected. Dr. Rebecca Glauber of the University of New Hampshire states that, “men who take paternity leave do tend to be stigmatized and viewed as less committed employees.” A Forbes article entitled ‘Men should take parental leave- Here’s Why’ concurs and states that, “men may be hesitant to take parental leave due to stigma or fear of being penalized at work.”

A Dad Central article entitled ‘Paternity Leave in Canada’, reports that kids with involved fathers experience many benefits including better mental and physical development, greater confidence, stronger leadership abilities, increased risk management abilities, more pro-social behaviour, better emotional self-regulation, augmented emotional stability, and less depression and anxiety. One of the best ways to create an involved father is to start at the beginning with paternity leave.

We know that fathers who take parental leave experience a closer bond with their children, are more confident parents and report better relationships with their kids. A New York Times article by Nathaniel Popper entitled ‘Paternity Leave has Long-lasting Benefits, So Why Don’t More American Men Take It?’, reports that research shows men who take paternity leave are more likely to stay married and have stronger relationships with their partners. There are fewer fights and resentments between the partners, and reduced stress on the wife. Dr. Richard Petts of Ball State University and Dr. Chris Knoester of Ohio State University, studied thousands of American families, and also found that “paternity leave provides lasting benefits not only to relationships between fathers and their children, but also to mothers and to relationships between parents.”

European research on parental leave has found that men are more likely to remain involved in parenting and to share household tasks in child rearing demands if they take parental leave. Swedish research suggests that mothers experience the need for antibiotics and anti-anxiety medication much less in the first year after childbirth if her partner has taken parental leave. Dr. Anika Patniak researched men in Québec who had taken parental leave and found that there was increased participation in household tasks up to three years later, and that the wives were 7 per cent more likely to be employed full-time.

A Globe and Mail article entitled ‘Real men take paternity leave’, summarized the benefits of paternity leave extremely well by stating that “according to a report from the Nordic Council of Ministers, fathers who take leave do more household work and domestic chores, communicate better with their partners about the needs of their children and have a better understanding of their children and partner’s daily life. Studies from all over the world, including Denmark, also shows that involved fatherhood improves their health status.”

In Canada, since March, 2019, all parents have a right to 40 weeks of parental leave, five of which are meant for fathers to enjoy time caring and bonding to their new child. Checkout Service Canada’s Parental Benefits Information website for details on this.

So, Mom- to- be the jury is in on this one! Paternity leave benefits everyone: dad mom and little ones. May I suggest you show your husband this column and have a discussion about the benefits of paternity leave, the kind of dad and partner he wants to be, and how he can reach his objectives. Hopefully, he will come to see that sharing the parental leave with you is clearly in the interests of his family, presently and longer-term.

I will conclude with a few inspiring quotations about fathers:

“Your family should clearly know your time with them is the most important part of your day.” — Mike Lovato

“For unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.”     — Theodore Roosevelt

“Children of the new millennium, when change is likely to continue and stress will be inevitable, are going to need, more than ever, the mentoring of an available father.”— Ian Grant

Best wishes Mom-to-be

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at maryadeleblair@gmail.com and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.

Sincerely, Adele

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