Having experienced the politics and the payoffs, 15 fathers make a case for paternity leave.
It’s no secret that the United States ranks last among developed countries in measures of family policy. We’re the only one that offers zero paid weeks of leave to new mothers and fathers, and while our current policy, the Family and Medical Leave Act signed into law by then-president Clinton in 1993, allows for 12 unpaid weeks of leave, it doesn’t even apply to nearly 40 percent of American workers (it only covers employees of more than one year at a company of at least 50 workers).
Accordingly, new moms and dads face financial and career-related challenges to taking time off following the birth of a child. Fathers in particular come up against antiquated gender stereotypes when hoping to take paternity leave, as they are miscast in the family role of breadwinner, rather than that of caregiver. “The idea of men needing to have time off when their kids are born is an idea that is still taking root in our society, and a number of our employers don’t really support that idea through their paternity leave policies,” says Dr. Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at Families and Work Institute.
New dads also face public criticism when taking time off to be with their families. Recall the dustup that followed Mets player Daniel Murphy’s decision to miss the first two games of the 2014 baseball season following the birth of his son.
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