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Wondering what to get for dad this Father’s Day? Tired of another boring tie? How about something he really wants?
Get him parental leave.
That’s right. It’s the best gift you could get for dad.
In the US, only 40% of workers–men or women–have access to, and can afford to take, unpaid leave guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).
Compare that with Sweden, Norway, or Iceland, where every parent has access to over a year of paid parental leave, and well over 90% of eligible men take some portion of that time.
Why the gap? Too often, we think it’s because men don’t want to take parental leave, that they’re either too committed to their jobs or traditional gender roles that exempt them from the diaper-changing realities of parenthood.
But according to recent research by the think tank Promundo, in partnership with Dove Men+Care, nearly 3 of 5 dads say they would be willing to change jobs if it meant they could be involved in the early weeks or months of caring for a new child. Fathers strongly agree that both genders should make taking all their parental leave a top priority.
And the payoff is great. When men do take parental leave, they’re happier, their partners are happier, and their children are happier too. Nearly 9 out of 10 dads (87%) report being more satisfied with their lives–including their sex lives–when they can be the kind of caregivers they want to be. Everybody wins!
WHY AREN’T MORE DADS TAKING LEAVE?
So it’s not really the case that fathers don’t want parental leave. It’s not a “demand” question. The demand is there. So why don’t they take it?
In many cases, it’s a “supply” question. For far too many men, parental leave isn’t even available. Nearly three-fourths of the men surveyed (73%) agreed that there is little workplace support for fathers.
And remember that we have no national policy of paid parental leave–not even for women. The U.S. is one of only four countries in the world that offer no paid parental leave to anyone. (The other three, in case you’re curious, are Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.) And let’s face it: For most workers, unpaid leave is synonymous with no leave at all. As a result, three-fourths of men, and just over half of all women, said they’d have to work at least part time during parental leave.
In the absence of a national policy of paid parental leave, some municipalities and states are stepping up to offer parental leave to their municipal employees, matching some private corporations that are also developing parental leave policies.
Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis all now offer paid parental leave. If we preach about family values, we have to practice valuing families by putting resources in place to support them.
But even where parental leave is available, men still face tremendous pressure not to take it–from other men. When I interviewed dozens of men a few years ago for the Harvard Business Review, many told me stories of wanting to avail themselves of a policy their company offered, only to face colleagues who questioned their commitments to their jobs, or supervisors who said things like, “We’ll put you on the daddy track,” and, “Well, you’ll never make partner.”
Men who seek to truly balance work and family face a barrage of disapproval based on negative and antiquated stereotypes.