I want you to meet Rich who works on our Workplace Solutions
team, providing Care.com as an employee benefit to companies. As a father of
two girls, Rich has a great opinion on paternity leave – and how companies
should handle it. What do you think?
Did you or your spouse take paternity leave?
When my first daughter was born, I took two vacation days from work. And you know what? They were filled with work calls and business activities interrupting the amazing event that had just taken place.
That was 11 years ago. I don’t work at that company anymore. But I also don’t hear much about dads taking significant non-vacation time off to bond with their newborns.
That was until Prince William took two weeks after the birth of his son, George. Now let’s be honest, the future King of England can probably do what he wants when his child is born. I doubt it was much of the "career risk" other dads feel. But I was still pleasantly surprised to see him take this stand.
It takes a leader to make changes in company culture. And putting your family first for one week, two weeks – or more (Yahoo! gives dads 8 paid weeks), is the struggle many parents face. As providers and supporters of our families, we need to keep our jobs. And we need to show our bosses that we’re the best person for our position. Today’s dads still have it ingrained in their heads that family-issues can be a liability to their career.
That’s why paternity leave should be mandatory. Not a choice. If a woman takes her 8 paid weeks (measly compared to most other countries), but chooses to stay home for 4 more at half-pay, is she thought less of? No. Twelve weeks off has become expected.
But the fact is that many companies offer paternity leave – and their employees pass it up. In fact, a 2012 study by the University of Virginia and University of Connecticut found that only 12% of dads with this benefit used it.
So what do we do about that? We know that we as dads are evolving. The Mad Men era when moms bared the brunt of household responsibilities is looked down upon. My own father took a half-day off when I was born, and my grandfather didn’t see the birth of most of his children. Today, you’ll find more SAHDs and Dads who are with their kids because it’s their favorite job –not because they’re "babysitting." But in a weak economy and for those less-established employees who are trying to make their way within their company – we often don’t ask HR for the benefits we want (including childcare). So this is what needs to happen: HR and Managers need to step in. They need to say, "You get ___ weeks off when your baby is born. You need to take it." And if they don’t? Those dads shouldn’t be workplace martyrs. They should be viewed as caring more about their career than their families.
Keep in mind that I say this as someone who took 2 days off and worked the entire time. No one in my company had asked for more leave and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to start. This is why a shift in company culture needs to take place. And I thank Prince William for starting something that we can buzz about.
Having a child typically only happens 1 to 3 times in one’s life. It is miraculous. The first week can be chaos, but it’s beautiful chaos. And as someone who missed it – who only got to bond with my daughters on weekends and post-working hours – I feel it’s one of my biggest regrets. Today, spending time with my wife and daughters is my favorite activity in life. But before I know it, they’ll be on their way to college. I just wish I could go back to the first few weeks of their lives. I’d physically show my wife that I was her partner through all the hard work. And I’d hold each daughter without a phone in my hand or a computer by my side. I’d show them that they are my first priority. And always will be.