Dads Have Spoken, And They Want To Have Paternity Leave


When Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy dared to take a three-day paternity leave this past spring — on the heels of missing opening day for the birth of his son — sports commentators ridiculed him, suggesting he “hire a nurse.” But those male critics, thankfully, turned out to be in the minority, with a slew of other men jumping to Murphy’s defense. Now a new study supports that response, finding that plenty of other new dads want to be more involved at home, too — and would actually be thrilled to take up to four weeks paid paternity leave if it were offered. The findings follow the release of some notable daddy data showing a recent, marked rise in stay-at-home dads.

The study, released Monday from Boston College Center for Work & Family, is meant to illuminate the needs and desires of fathers to inform both organizational policies and legislative initiatives. It includes a survey of nearly 300 corporations and more than 1,000 American fathers (mainly educated professionals), as well as a study of paternity-leave policies at various organizations and a review of global policies and U.S. state laws regarding paternity leave. 

Key findings include:

•A whopping 99 percent of fathers surveyed believe employers should offer paid paternity leave, with 74 percent noting that two to four weeks is an appropriate amount.

•The average amount of time actually taken by fathers surveyed was two weeks, some of which consisted of a combo of paternity leave, sick days, and vacation time.

• Fathers considering a potential employer — 89 percent, in fact — say that the company’s paternity-leave policy plays an important factor in their decision.

• Most of the dads — 86 percent — said they would take some time off to be with a newborn only if they were paid at least 70 percent of their salary; 45 percent, meanwhile, said they would take their full leave only if they received their full salary.

• During their paternity leaves, fathers reported that they were knee-deep in caregiving (not “vacationing,” as sports talk-show host Mike Francesa suggested regarding the Murphy situation); more than 90 percent reported they spent time on childcare, including diaper changing; while more than 80 percent did chores like food shopping, cooking and cleaning. 

• Of the companies surveyed, 60 percent offer paid paternity leave — from three days to 12 weeks — while 40 percent don’t. Of those that do not, 63 percent cited cost as a reason. 

“Cultural changes are hard, and they take a while, but this is going along at a reasonable clip,” Fred Van Deusen, Boston College Center for Work & Family researcher and a co-author of the new study, tells Yahoo Shine. The encouraging news, he notes, is that so many fathers in the survey really care about paternity leave. Now society — including corporations — simply needs to catch up.

The recent findings on stay-at-home dads, meanwhile, come from Pew Research. It found that while most stay-at-home parents are mothers, fathers represent a growing segment — 16 percent in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1989. And though nearly a quarter of those say they are home mainly because they can’t find work, just about as many say they are home primarily to take care of family — a four-fold increase from 1989.

The studies are just the latest evidence of the changing landscape of fatherhood in the United States — where dads' thoughts on topics including primary caregiving, Prince William's fatherhood revelations, and Murphy's paternity leave are a complex mix of proud and embarrassed. “It’s the whole ‘what’s-a-man?’ kind of thing around identity, and it’s slow to change,” Van Deusen notes, regarding the tough-to-soften ideals of masculinity. “It’s just so ingrained.” 

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