Should New Dads Take Paternity Leave?

baby Feb 06, 2020
Should New Dads Take Paternity Leave

As a new dad, you’re about to embark on one of the most fulfilling journeys of your life. 

However, at the start of the journey are numerous responsibilities that come with being a new dad. Often, these will get in the way of work, meaning you might need to take paternity leave. 

So therein lies the question: Should you take paternity leave? At Dad University, we’d err on the side of “yes!”

However, as we all know, things aren’t always that simple. 

Let’s dive into whether or not you should take paternity leave and what to consider as you make your decision. By the end of this article, you’ll be in a better spot to make an informed decision about taking paternity leave. 

The Truth About Taking Paternity Leave in the US

Imagine that you’re a new dad, and you’re chomping at the bit to take time off work to spend time with your new bundle of joy. However, as you plan to take a break from work, you find out that your company doesn’t offer paid paternity leave. 

The lack of paid paternity leave opportunities is one of the biggest obstacles for many dads. According to a UNICEF report, only about 20% of dads are able to take paternity leave. The remainder either don’t take any or cut their leave short, fearful that extended time off can damage a career. 

There’s also the issue of not being able to make an income. Because not all employers offer paid paternity leave, dads who choose to take time off may only be able to do so at the expense of a paycheck. 

As a result, new dads often find themselves between a rock and a hard place when choosing between spending time with their newborns and providing for the family. 

Yes, we have the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Nevertheless, without all states getting on board, we’ve got a long way to go before new dads in the country can take paternity leave with ease. 

The Benefits of Taking Paternity Leave

Despite the challenges associated with taking paternity leave, doing so is still a great idea if you’re a new dad. Here are some of the reasons why. 

Bonding Opportunities With Your Newborn

Taking paternity leave gives you numerous opportunities to connect with your newborn, from skin-to-skin contact to mastering the delicate art of soothing your baby. By taking a break from work, you’ll deepen your connection with your baby as you’ll be around during the first few weeks of life.  

The benefits of early bonding aren’t just anecdotal. Research shows that early newborn bonding creates emotional connections better than late-stage bonding, especially if the dad was involved in the pregnancy process. 

Supporting Your Partner

Parenthood is a team effort, and paternity leave enables fathers to actively support their partners during the demanding postpartum period. 

By shouldering the responsibilities of childcare and household tasks, you’ll not only lighten the load for your partner but also demonstrate solidarity. This support is an essential part of strengthening the relationship between you. 

From late-night feedings to diaper changes, sharing parental duties with Mom fosters a sense of shared responsibility and mutual respect, laying the groundwork for a strong and resilient family unit.

Enhancing Your Child’s Development

Believe it or not, you’re also improving your baby’s development when you take paternity leave. By engaging in early caregiving activities, you’re giving your newborn the necessary sensory and cognitive stimuli for brain development. 

The developmental advantages of taking your paternal leave don’t stop there. 

As you spend more time with your newborn, your baby is likely to grow and develop better emotional resilience and self-esteem. The prolonged presence of an involved father figure has been linked to higher levels of self-esteem.

Some Critical Considerations Before You Take Paternity Leave

By now, it’s clear that taking paternity leave engenders a range of benefits for you, your newborn, and your partner. 

However, we understand if you’re still on the fence about taking some time off, especially amidst the challenges surrounding paternity leave in the U.S. 

While we at Dad University recommend that you take paternity leave if you can, we also recommend taking stock of the following factors before you make your decision. 

Your Finances

As we’ve mentioned earlier, not every company offers paid paternity leave. With this unfortunate truth in mind, you should make sure your family is financially secure (at least for the duration of your paternity leave) before you decide to take yours.  

If you can afford to take a few weeks or months off, then paternity leave is a viable option. On the other hand, you may want to put it off until you’ve amassed enough savings that you’re comfortable putting work on the back burner for a few weeks. 

Your Workplace Policies

Your workplace may have different policies for paternity leave. Included in these policies are your eligibility, the duration of time off you can take, and whether or not the leave is paid. 

Take all these factors into consideration before you decide to take paternity leave. 

Support System

Let’s assume that you can’t take paternity leave. If it comes to this, you’ll have to evaluate your support system at home. By support system, we mean other people who can help attend to your newborn’s and partner’s needs. 

Family and friends are essential sources of support when you have a newborn. If your partner also works and can’t take time off, then these people should be high on your list of potential support persons. 

Taking Paternity Leave: It’s Not an Either/Or Question

Beneath the discussions about whether or not you should take time off is the assumption that you can’t be a provider and a caregiver at the same time, which we believe is untrue. 

While we do recommend taking paternity leave, we also know that it’s just not in the cards for everyone. If this is the case for you, know that you don’t need to take paternity leave to be a good dad to your newborn and a good partner to Mom.

It may be hard at first, but you can work and spend time with your newborn when you get home. Recognize this, and you’ll no longer have to choose between taking time off and risking your livelihood.

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