There’s been buzz in the news about paid paternity leave mostly due to Toms Shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie, writing about it in Glamour magazine. He writes about the benefits that his paternity leave had on him personally and in turn professionally (and creatively) upon returning to work. He also writes about encouraging the same to his employees and how the company offers paid paternity leave. Their employees are more productive and centered when they return.
I think this is great. I really do. It would be fantastic for both parents to have the ability to take the time to spend with their newborn child. To start that child’s life together working hand in hand. Or even to be able to save on child care costs and increase bonding by the baby getting to spend 6 full months at home (3 months with each parent separately). I hope that we do see more companies doing this in the coming years.
BUT, and maybe it’s not such a big but, we should first focus on getting paid maternity leave for mothers (unless it’s a dad only household). The fact that in most companies in this country maternity leave is unpaid, just goes to show how little regard we still have for women being a substantial breadwinner for her family.
Take out the single mother scenario for now. The assumption that the family can get by with only one salary for 12 weeks, with the addition of an expensive new family member, is assuming that the husband is the primary breadwinner and that the lack of the wife’s salary won’t make too big of an impact. This is not the case with many families where both spouses make similar incomes or where the parent who gave birth might be making more.
Now add back in the single mother scenario. It takes a lot of planning to ensure that you’ll be able to manage not only an increase in expenses, but also 12 weeks without pay. Even with FMLA, most companies ask that you use any accrued vacation, personal or sick time towards those 12 weeks. This way, when you do come back to work and your child gets sick, you have no sick time! I’ve obviously been thinking about this a lot more now and it’s hard for me to imagine how many people squeak by without help from others.
I’m telling you all of this from someone who works at a company where we don’t give paid leave. From the business side I see the struggle for the added expense of paying an employee who is not working. I see the financial burden to the company who might need to bring a temp in the meantime to cover the role and therefore be paying more. But from a personal stand point I see what it could mean to a parent to be able to focus on the new baby without the extreme stress of having less/no money coming in during that time. I can see that probably 80% of the employees coming back from a paid leave would feel grateful and would come back bringing new perspective into their work.
All of this is basically to say that before we start picketing for paid paternity leave, let’s work on paid “1 parent leave.” I don’t know what the best way to put it is, but I want to be inclusive of a 2 dad or single dad household. If we can at least get 1 parent per household to get paid leave, then we can work further on getting that for both parents.
I think there are great benefits to providing both the maternity and paternity leave. I’m not angry about all the talk going on for paternity leave, but it would be wonderful if we don’t lose sight of the fact that most mother’s aren’t getting paid for their leaves either.