A new ad for Cheerios champions stay-at-home dads:
A reader responds to a recent post on paternity leave and masculinity:
There’s nothing more manly than taking paternity leave. Any stigma around it is tied to a general misunderstanding of its purpose. Paternity leave is the very opposite of time off: it’s a cruel parody of a vacation. Far from rewarding a new dad with a couple weeks to put up his feet and light a valedictory cigar, it’s meant designed to let a bewildered, anxious new dad support his exhausted, overwhelmed, frazzled spouse as much as possible and keep her from jumping out a window. But just as important, it creates the foundation of a lifelong bond with a child that no real man would want to break. A young single friend of mine recently suggested that paternity leave was bullshit—that new dads should be real men and get back to work. I somehow controlled my rage and gently explained to him that, after spending a couple of weeks in the trenches with an incomprehensible newborn and a spouse on the edge, I couldn’t wait to get back to work, where the office world, however imperfect, was populated with adults and routine and still made some kind of familiar sense.
The Dish also addressed paternity leave back in December. Another reader:
Before you get too far arguing for paid paternity leave, can we first get a quarter of employers to offer paid maternity leave?
According to Working Mother magazine, just 16% of employers offer paid maternity leave. And frankly, women really need leave after giving birth. It is extremely hard on your body! Lack of sleep because you spend one of every three hours ’round the clock in the first weeks as The Boob. If you have a C-section you are advised not to drive for two weeks. There are other TMI-ish side effects, too.
We could go a long way towards socializing boys and young men to care for children so they are better prepared for active parenthood. My husband, who is an amazing father, spent the first four weeks of fatherhood hiding in the scary unfinished basement of our colonial-era house under the guise of “putting together an IKEA bureau.” (He was a student on holiday break, so he didn’t have a workplace to hide in.) When he couldn’t hide anymore, his default action whenever the baby cried was to hand her to me. I tried to speak his language, engineering, and put together a Baby Management Flow Chart mapping out the basics of caring for a newborn. It helped, a little.
Update from a reader:
I’m a business school professor and a long-time advocate for fathers’ work-family concerns, including paternity leave (also a proud Dish subscriber!). In fact, I recently spoke at the White House Summit on Working Fathers and the Working Families Summit to advocate for these very issues. I was also a national spokesperson for fathers to support the FAMILY Act for paid parental leave for both moms and dads. I know this may be poor form, but I recently wrote a blog post about my paternity leave experience, how it affected my family, and why it is important for more dads to have access to leave. I think it melds the personal and the policy well, and it may be of interest to Dishheads.
I wanted to mention my own experience with this, although it wasn’t paid paternity leave. When my ex and I found out she was pregnant with our first child in 2002, I was able to get permission from my company to take four weeks off – two weeks was my paid vacation, and two weeks was unpaid time off. We had 9 months worth of paychecks to save up, so I just set aside enough from each paycheck to cover the two weeks that would be unpaid.
Unfortunately, when my son was born in November of 2005, I was working for a different company, and we were evacuated to Dallas at the time due to Hurricane Katrina. It made for an extremely stressful pregnancy, particularly since no New Orleans area code phone numbers were going through, and we weren’t able to reach our OB. Luckily, the one woman I knew in Dallas was married to a a guy who was a nurse, so he was able to recommend an excellent OB for us, and everything went fine. I was only able to take two weeks off for my son’s birth, but I was probably lucky to get those, considering the conditions.
I can’t say for sure whether that time with my newborns has made us any closer, or made me a better dad. But I’m glad I was able to have it. And I’m baffled by the fact that the majority of dads I’ve asked about it say they took one or two days off, and don’t seem to think it’s that big a deal. But then I’m baffled at a lot of things some parents do.
Off topic, I’ve written you before, but I don’t think I ever told you before that I started out as a liberal as a young adult, then became a die-hard conservative for many years. And during some of those right-wing years, I actively avoided reading your site. Finally came back right around the time of the 2008 elections, and between your writing and Sarah Palin being chosen as McCain’s VP candidate, I’ve become a fairly die-hard liberal again, although hopefully a more informed one than when I was 20. Amusingly, I’m even to the left of my ex-wife now on some subjects. One of them being marijuana legalization.
So thank you for making me see the other side of a lot of issues I had my mind made up about. And I guess I should thank Sarah Palin for being bat-shit crazy, but I don’t think I will.