You are on page 1of 5

Megan Naude December 12, 2011 English 202A Section 10 The Push for Paternity Leave in the United

States Citizens of the United States pride themselves on living in a country where they are free to make decisions about how to live their lives. When parents have children, they must make the significant decision about how to raise their family. However, the lack of parental leave policies that apply to men severely limits this choice. Many fathers are forced to return to work immediately following the birth of a new child or sacrifice their salaries to stay home and help mothers care for the baby. Given the benefits for children and their families, laws that create parental leave policies allotting time off for new fathers should be implemented in the United States. Many researchers have explored the ways in which children are affected by parental involvement, and they have found that increased involvement of both parents leads to positive outcomes for the child. Bonds between parents and children are formed from birth; consequently, children whose fathers must return to work immediately due to a lack of parental leave policies are at a disadvantage. Engstrom, Kolm, and Liang (2009) found that many parental leave policies are skewed toward mothers and that these policies can have negative effects on the relationship between fathers and their children. Mothers experience significantly less stress when the father helps out with the new baby at home. Women must recover from the physical strains of child labor, so fathers taking care of household duties such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands can help the recovery process. Data collected by Duvander and Andersson (2005) support this conclusion; they found that when a father takes time off from work to care for a new baby, couples are more likely to have more children. This study presents strong evidence that taking care of a

baby is much easier and less stressful when two parents are at home to share the duties. Parental leave policies allowing men to take paid time off from work would give fathers more time to bond with their new baby and help the mother with the responsibility of caring for a newborn. When creating parental leave policies for men, the United States can look at Sweden as an example. Swedish fathers are given two months of paid leave, and policies allot another eleven months during which mothers and fathers can decide which parent should take paid leave. Gender roles in Swedish culture have subsequently been revolutionized. Many Swedish men take their two months and continue to stay home through the additional months, allowing mothers to return to work. Taking care of children has come to be seen as a characteristic of manliness, and men happily take on the role as stay-at-home dads (Bennhold, 2010). The outcomes of the Swedish parental leave system serve as evidence that these policies can be well-received in the United States as well. Furthermore, Americans can look at examples of parental leave policies within their own country. In 2004, California implemented the Paid Family Leave program, giving mothers and fathers six weeks of paid leave to bond with their new child. Since the implementation of the program, parents and businesses in California have reportedly reaped the benefits. Fathers who take leave are more involved in their babies lives and are more likely to help take care of the newborn. Furthermore, businesses have not experienced many significant negative effects of men and women taking paid leave. In fact, many businesses report lower turnover and higher employee satisfaction (Gomby & Pei, 2009). If one state has successfully implemented paid parental leave policies that include men, the other 49 states should be able to follow suit and experience the same positive effects.

Detractors of parental leave for men argue that the policies can be a burden on businesses, especially small companies. Despite the initial financial burden, these family-friendly benefits should eventually be worth the cost. Without paternity leave policies, high quality workers may choose not to work at certain small companies since they are not covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If the policies were implemented, these superior workers would no longer discriminate against small businesses based on this factor. Additionally, allowing fathers to help out at home can reduce mothers stress, making them more productive and effective when they return to work. Furthermore, having less stressed workers would reduce companies healthcare costs, as stress is related to numerous illnesses and health issues. The California Paid Family Leave program shows that businesses can experience higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover as a result of parental leave policies (Gomby & Pei, 2009). Although businesses may initially suffer from the financial burden of parental leave policies, the leave policies will lead to healthier and more productive workers. Further arguments suggest that the government should not have the power to tell parents how to raise their families. While this is a valid point, parental leave does not have to be made mandatory. Giving men the option to take paid leave would give families more options and freedom to make choices regarding how to raise their children. By not offering policies that give men paid leave, the government severely limits families options since many fathers cannot afford to take the unpaid leave granted to them by the Family Medical Leave Act. Implementing such laws would open more opportunities for couples to decide how best to achieve a work-life balance. In order to ensure that these parental leave policies for men are implemented in the United Sates, Americans must take action to push for laws. They should support political candidates who advocate parental leave for men and vote in important elections. Men should make it known that

they want to help out at home and bond with their new babies. The more attention and support that this issue receives, the closer Americans will get to having the laws passed. Additionally, workplace attitudes about parental leave for men need to shift in order for the policies to be effective. Research has shown that men are strongly affected by the actions of their coworkers when it comes to taking leave. When a workplace environment is not supportive of men taking leave, many male employees will not take their entitled leave (Kelly, 2010). Furthermore, men who consider taking leave often receive pressure from their superiors who fear that the business will suffer. Employers need to recognize that if their employees are eligible to take leave, they must allow them this opportunity without exception, and they should not coerce employees to give up their rights and continue to come to work. The realization that family must sometimes come before business will create a positive environment for the implementation of parental leave policies. Men serve multiple roles in life, and for many the role of father is among the most important. When a family welcomes a new baby, their lives change and suddenly men care less about getting ahead at work and more about experiencing their childs first words or steps. Policies in the United States need to be implemented in order to best fit new fathers needs and desires. Paid parental leave is necessary for men to have the option of choosing to stay home and bond with their new babies. These policies are in the best interest of families, and men across America will benefit from them.

Works Cited Bennhold, K. (2010, June 9). In Sweden, men can have it all. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10iht-sweden.html Duvander, A., & Andersson, G. (2005). Gender equality and fertility in Sweden: a study on the impact of the father's uptake of parental leave on continued childbearing. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. Retrieved from http://www.demogr.mpg.de/Papers/Working/wp-2005-013.pdf Engstrom, P., Kolm, A., & Liang, C. (2009). Maternal-biased parental leave. Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(4), 583-590. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2009.04.002 Gomby, D. S., & Pei, D. J. (2009). Newborn family leave: Effects on children, parents, and business. The David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.packard.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/NFLA_fullreport_final.pdf Kelly, J. (2010, August 10). The politics of paternity leave. BBC News Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11086630