Is living in the United States making it harder to raise a family? Many parents say yes due no standard for paid leave. Under federal law, new parents– moms and dads– have access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Companies can choose to offer paid leave, but the federal government doesn’t guarantee time away from work to raise young children.
Nearly every other country on the planet understands the importance of paid family leave. Countries that don’t offer paid leave include the U.S., New Guinea, Suriname, and some island countries in the South Pacific.
The situation becomes even worse when you look at paternity leave. Only five states (California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington) and D.C. have laws that require private companies to offer paid family leave. As a result, fathers don’t have the opportunity to help their partners during this crucial time.
We talked about the importance of leave on a podcast episode and now let’s look at how paid paternity leave can benefit mothers, children, fathers, and families as a whole.
Paid Paternity Leave Improves Parental Relationships
When fathers go to work, mothers often feel overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. Even though their partners may need to work to earn money, mothers feel like they bear the brunt of raising families.
Not surprisingly, women report more happiness when their partners stay home for at least a few weeks to help raise newborns. Women also say that their romantic relationships remain stable when their partners stay home for two weeks to three months.
Paid paternity leave, in other words, improves the relationship between mom and dad.
Paternity Leave Helps Moms Return to Work Sooner
Only a third of fathers offered paid leave take time off from work. Many of them worry that taking time away from work will stunt their careers, which will make it harder to provide for their families.
Interestingly, in countries that offer paid paternity leave, mothers return to work sooner than they do in countries without paid leave. Paid leave may cost companies some money up front, but they save money through lower turnover.
Paternity leave could also help eliminate the gender pay gap. Women without children earn about the same amount of money as men. Women with children suffer because they must stay home, which means missing promotions and other opportunities. These findings suggest that the careers of women improve when men take paternity leave.
Making Paid Paternity Leave Accepted
The U.S. faces two major challenges when it comes to paid paternity leave. First, the country doesn’t have any laws that force employers to offer any paid leave. Second, the culture expects men to continue working after having children.
Men and women can help make paid paternity leave more accepted by writing their elected officials and encouraging them to pass laws that support families. People working for companies that offer paid family leave can also encourage their coworkers to take advantage of the benefit instead of returning to work immediately after having a child.
When men have the chance to stay home, everyone benefits. It’s time to make the choice acceptable and affordable!