Kris and I have spent a lot time talking about his paternity leave because despite not having one, he still must submit a formal schedule at his workplace. So it basically comes down to how much of his vacation and sick leave we want to use for this earth-shattering, life-altering period of our family’s life.
Things are pretty dire out there if you’d like to stay home and take care of your new child for a little while. The United States is now the only industrialized country that doesn’t require employers to offer paid time off to new parents.
Some findings which alarm:
- According to research by economists Sara Markowitz and Pinka Chatterji and published in 2008 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, women who return to work soon after the birth of a child are more likely to get depressed than other mothers. They’re also less healthy: According to the study, longer maternity leaves are associated with improvements in mothers’ overall health.
- Mothers who went back to work before the six-month mark were less likely to tickle, play with or cuddle their infants than those who returned between six and nine months after giving birth, according to a 2006 nationwide study by Child Trends, a research group.
- In an article published in the The Economic Journal in 2005, researchers found that infants whose mothers had 12 weeks of maternity leave or fewer had lower cognitive test scores and higher rates of behavior problems at age four than children whose mothers had longer leaves.
- Research shows that “ten-week paid maternity leave was associated with a reduction in infant mortality rates of 1–2 percent; a twenty-week leave, with a 2–4 percent reduction; and a thirty-week leave, with a 7–9 percent reduction.”
Though I am at home, Kris also deserves to be with his family (and support his hobbling, hemorrhaging, hormonal wife) during this time. Parental leave is something everyone should enjoy/endure.
Something brilliant from Ann Friedman for New York Magazine:
“So here’s a radical idea: The only way for both women and men to get ahead is to make parental leave not just paid, but mandatory. That’s the only way to fully destigmatize it. Sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out. In countries where workers must take a certain number of days off per year, vacation time is expected. Normalized. There are no social penalties for taking advantage of the policy, and it applies to all workers — not just those lucky enough to have forward-thinking employers who have read the studies about how vacation time improves worker productivity. Mandatory parental leave wouldn’t just make life easier on moms and dads, it would improve health outcomes for babies.
Expanding access to paid parental leave would help, sure. But given the professional pressures at the top and the economic pressures at the bottom, it’s not going to drastically improve the situation for parents. We need a reset button. Have a kid? You’re automatically off the job and collecting a standard amount of parental leave, whether you’re a father or a mother, a biological parent or an adopter. I know it sounds like a pipe dream. But, as Mayer put it, successful people like to “stay in the rhythm of things.” The best way to ensure all working parents can do that is to change the rhythm.”
I like pipe dreams.