“How much time do you have off?” It’s a question I ask new families as I help them in the first few crucial weeks of life. The answers typically range from a few days to a few weeks for the father. I am still surprised when I hear of men who are able to take off 3 months or more to be with their growing family. The reason I am surprised is the American culture. We expect Dads to be working soon after their children are born. It’s been this way for decades, but that does not make it right. We need to change our attitude when it comes to paternity leaves, our babies, and their mothers depend on it.
“No matter how much a couple plans to share the workload, the first few weeks of a baby’s life reshape everything. If the mother is breast-feeding, she already has primary responsibility for the child, and months of solo diaper-changing and baby-soothing duty during maternity leave set lifelong patterns.” Claire Cain Miller
In many European countries paternity leaves and maternity leaves are much longer than ours. And it would seem that in those countries, businesses still thrive. Is it because people feel more valued because of their time with their family? Is it because mothers are more likely to breastfeed and they do not have the burden of sick children to take care of? I realize this is making a presumption, but it is worth some consideration.
The numbers of two parent working families continues to rise largely due to cost of living increases. We need to create policies to help support this reality. It does take a village to raise a child.
For additional information see Claire Can Miller’s article in the New York Times.