Father Time: Dads and Parental Leave:

Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets has done what many fathers wish they could do – take some time off with the birth of their child.  But his decision was met with a mix of reactions.  You can see to a report on CBC’s The National here.

In the wake of Murphy’s 3 day paternity leave (which is the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball), I can’t help wondering about the implications of his decision.  I remember 17 years ago when my first daughter was born.  There was no leave for fathers.  There was not talk about support for men, about the transition to parenthood for fathers, or about what their role will be in the nurturing of their children.  Jenna was born on Friday morning.  I took the weekend off and was back at work on Monday.  With Carrie and Eryn, things were basically the same.  But have we come any further in encouraging and allowing men to be more present during those first crucial months of their babies’ lives?

Barriers for fathers taking leave still persist.  Here are a few I hear of from time to time.

  • “I didn’t know it was an option.”  We need to get some better education out there about the options for fathers.  Here is a helpful Ministry of Labour Ontario site: http://goo.gl/PZUqqj.  Guys, make sure you have all the details.
  • “My employer won’t allow it”.  Legally, an employer can’t say “no”, but I have spoken with many men who know it will be career suicide if they take leave.
  • “My buddies give me a hard time.”  Many dads hear comments like “enjoy your vacation” as they begin some leave.  But caring for a baby is anything BUT a vacation.  Just ask a mom.
  • “We can’t afford it”.  There is some disparity still between the average salaries of men and women.  Therefore it is often more financially feasible for the family if dad continues to work and mom uses the parental leave.
  • “My Dad thinks I’m crazy.”  Yes, times have changed.  What fathers are expected and allowed to do today are different than they were previously.
  • “I don’t know if I can handle it.”  Many men go into fatherhood cautiously.  They may feel like they won’t know what to do, they will be bored, or their may make mistakes.  My answer to all these: yes, those all may happen.  But no father I have spoken with has regretted taking time out of their lives for their baby.  And we dads learn pretty quick;)  Check out the 24 Hr Cribside Assistance for New Dads for some tips.
  • “She wants the whole thing!”  Many moms feel the importance of the time with their babies and how fast that time will go.  They may find it hard to share the time; and that’s OK.  Just make sure you both talk about it.

Should fathers take parental leave?  I think so.  But here are just a couple things to consider:

  • babies whose fathers take leave have a strong bond with their dads.
  • fathers who take leave never regret it and are often more hands-on fathers down the road.
  • this is an decision for you to make as a couple.  Make sure you talk about it.
  • know your legal rights and obligations around parental leave.

A dad’s role is more than to work and provide for his family.  Caring, communicating, guiding, inspiring our children – these all take time and they can all begin with birth.  So Dad, do all you can with the time you’ve got.  You won’t regret it.

— posted by Brian Russell, Provincial Coordinator of Dad Central Ontario —

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