Over at The Atlantic this week, there is a daily discussion of paternity leave and a father's role in the home.
The "Daddy Wars" series covers a range of perspectives from 'We don't know what to do with babies because we don't have the boob aka the ultimate infant secret weapon' to 'I always stayed home with my kid but don't applaud me.' The most interesting is how states like California are leading the country in modern paternity leave, and how that practice affects roles in the home and in the workplace. Naturally, I'm all for non-gendered baby time because, what person wouldn't want help with diapers and bottles?
According to writer Liza Mundy, when men and women stay home to raise their new baby, the practice of sharing the responsibility of raising their child is more likely to become routine. When the baby cries at night, perhaps both mom and dad are getting up to see what's wrong. Lengthy dual maternity and paternity leave is also helpful to women in the workplace because if both genders are coming home for baby, it reverses the idea that women are expendable and the only ones that can "afford" maternity leave. Paternity leave also puts women on more equal footing at home and in the office because the maternity/paternity leave is no longer gendered, but rather just something that "parents" do.
Countries like Finland and Iceland are literally making men paternity leave offers that they can't refuse. Some are giving men more money to go home with baby, while others present a "use it or lose it" situation, "granting each family a total amount of leave, a certain portion of which could be used only by fathers. The brilliance of “daddy days,” as this solution came to be known, is that, rather than feeling stigmatized for taking time off from their jobs, many men now feel stigmatized if they don’t."
A buddy of mine lives in Germany and received something like 14 months of maternity leave, since the country is trying to encourage more people to have kids because their birth rate is low. That is one year and two months, people, of full to nearly-full pay to care for her new infant at her house. Doesn't that sound like a dream when most people get about 14 days of paid vacation time each year to reclaim their out-of-office sanity?
Here's to maternity and paternity leave, gender equality is for the kids, yo.