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Dads Take Over — Why Paternity Leave Matters

Paternity Leave Dad Takeover NashvilleMomsBlog

{To honor Father’s Day, we are handing over our computers to the men in our lives and turning this little piece of the world wide web into Nashville Dads Blog!  Read along with their joys and struggles, and find out why we are so very thankful to have these awesome dads in our lives.}

Paternity Leave—is that really an employee benefit?

​Most of us have heard of and know about maternity leave. There is no doubt that the mother needs time off from work after the birth of the baby. Mom just went through a very physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding experience and needs the time to recover and adjust. But what about dad? Doesn’t dad need time off? The dad was there to help provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support to mom. And doesn’t Dad need bonding time with the new little one (and possibly some time to adjust)?

​The United States does provide for mothers and fathers to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave as a part of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It is up to each individual employer to decide if they are going to pay their employee while they are out on this type of leave. My wife worked for a public school system in a metropolitan city, and they did not pay for one day of maternity leave. I work for a top 15 financial institution that paid me for 4 weeks off at 100% pay. If I wanted to take longer, I could use my vacation time to continue to get paid at 100%. ​It is hard to believe that the United States is so drastically behind other major parts of the world. For example, the United Kingdom requires employers to pay both the new mother and father for 280 days of leave. The countries that provide pay for both mothers and fathers for 90 days or longer include: Brazil, China, France, Indonesia, Netherlands, and Spain.

I truly believe employers should add this benefit to their list of benefits for attracting employees. If employers want to attract quality employees then they should be drafting, implementing, and promoting paid paternity (and maternity) leave benefits. Dads we need to start demanding this benefit when we are negotiating contracts of terms for being hired. We negotiate salary, vacation time, and other benefits, but it is time that we add parental leave to that list. When we are starting our careers, we are excited to get a good job at a good pay rate and start the ground work for our families. Parental leave is a benefit that we need to make sure is a part of that preparation, so that when we are ready to start our families we have the ability to stay home and contribute, support, and bond.
You will never regret that you took the time to be with your new child and were there with your wife as both of you adjusted to the change in your family. There are so many advantages to Dad being at home the first several weeks that help the entire family grow together. Dad gets to bond with the new little one, and the new child gets to know their dad. Mom will be resting and recovering from the delivery, so Dad being there to spend time with the baby is a huge help to Mom. Also, there will always be visitors to see the baby. Your neighbors, church family, in-laws, and your own family will want to come by to meet the new bundle of joy. Our church family and in-laws were awesome and very helpful; however, Dad needs to play the host for the visitors. If you are at work, then Mom is left to help visitors get drinks, find a towel, and take care of any other needs while in your home.

​The time that my wife needed me the most was when it was just the two of us. My wife pumps to feed our son, and every time my wife would get the breast pump started, it seemed like that’s when our little guy would start crying and screaming. While she was pumping every 2 or 3 hours, I was getting up 3 or 4 times a night feeding and changing baby. I was so glad that I got that time with our new baby, that my wife knew she could count on me, and the next morning I didn’t have to worry about getting up and getting ready to go to work. This also laid the ground work for my morning routine with our baby. After I went back to work, I would get up with him at 5:30 in the morning and spend an hour or so with him before getting ready and heading to work. I would change his diaper, feed him, and rock him back to sleep. Four months later, those are still some great times.
​I realize that not everyone works for a company that can pay them while they take time for parental leave. However, every company is required to hold your job for you up to 12 weeks. During the time you are planning for the new addition to your family, I strongly encourage you to add “take parental leave” to that list. Figure out what it would cost you to be off for the amount of time that you want to be off work. You can save and take off the time that you have saved up for—even just two weeks provides beneficial time for your new family. Another option might be to get short term disability insurance on Mom so there would be some income along with money saved.
Being off with my wife and son is time that I am so thankful I had. I always wanted to be a husband and dad. When I found out that we were expecting this little bundle of joy, I couldn’t wait for him to get here. I didn’t know how much impact spending time with my family without the distractions of life would have on me and our new family dynamic. Hopefully, more and more dads will realize how important this time is for both mom and dad. We need to fight for this country to reevaluate parental leave policy in regard to pay as well as learn from some of our other industrial country peers so we can become a leader in this area instead of continuing to fall way behind.

-Tony Koester


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