The Two Sides of Paternity Leave

A recent piece by Claire Cain Miller on The New York Times "The Upshot" blog takes a good, thorough look at the two sides of paternity leave: the benefits it brings to a family, and the damage it can do to a Dad's career.

The article, "Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma," offers an in-depth look at the topic, and is absolutely worth the read. However, for those of you with tight schedules (or attention spans like my own), here are some highlights.

• Paid paternity leave is not required by law in the US. Today, only 14% of companies provide it, and that number is declining.

• Some of the companies that encourage paid paternity leave include Ernst & Young, Facebook and Yahoo!.

• The Bright Side: Research has identified numerous benefits of Dads caring for babies in their first months. Dads who take paternity leave longer than two weeks tend to be more involved in their kids' lives in the years down the road. Kids tend to be healthier, but the big winner, not surprisingly, is Mom. Balancing the division of baby labor between parents helps make Moms less vulnerable to post-partum depression, and can even lead to increased earnings for her.

• The Dark Side: Dads who take extended paternity leave are suffering the male version of the "motherhood penalty." There is a serious stigma to paternity leave, and Dads who take it suffer reduced wages, lower job evaluations and are perceived to be weak and uncertain.

• As a result, a lot of men, even in European countries, who are eligible for paternal leave just don't take it.

It takes a long time to slay stigma and change public perception, especially on such a deeply ingrained and emotional issue. But if changing beliefs can benefit families, it's time to put the Old School Thinking on paternity leave to bed.