Maternity leave has been historically viewed as a few months off where new mothers enjoy time with their little one. It’s evolved from perception as a luxury to a necessity. And for good reason. The reality is that having a newborn is anything but a walk in the park. Once you consider sleep deprivation alone, in addition to recovery after pregnancy and birth, caring for a new baby is not a one-person job. The old expression ‘it takes a village’ was invented for a reason.
A Swedish study found that paid leave for fathers dramatically improved postpartum health for mothers, which increases overall family health. What’s best for babies is also what’s best for both mothers and fathers. Research shows that when dads become more involved as caregivers, infants are more socially responsive. Dads who take parental leave are more likely to be actively involved in their children’s lives and can reduce behavioural and mental health challenges for children later on.
Not surprisingly, taking paternity leave is also better for marriage health. As it turns out, sharing the load is optimal for everyone involved. People don’t get married to wind up divorced and having a new baby places a tremendous amount of strain on families. Parental leave significantly reduces the risk of divorce according to thousands of American families surveyed in long-term studies.
No matter how you look at it, becoming a parent is a life altering change for both genders. You push yourself beyond your limits, learn new skills at a record pace and flex your empathy muscles. Interestingly, this sounds a lot like leadership qualities for professional success. Believe it or not, taking paternity leave can make fathers more hands-on parents while improving their career prospects.
Despite an impressive list of benefits, the reality is a little bleak. Even when paternity leave is available many dads don’t take advantage. 23% of men could be taking paternity leave but choose not to. While it seems surprising, it comes back to fears of loss and economics. Without high paying leave, some families simply cannot afford for the breadwinner to take time away from work. As a liberal choice that’s not all too common just yet, there are concerns over risk to one’s personal reputation. Changing deeply engrained stereotypes about traditional childcare roles is a slow process.
Thankfully the more men that embrace their parental leave options, the faster the pace of change will become. Balancing who takes leave will normalize the choice to do so reducing the stigma and making it easier for women to return to and thrive in the workplace. Enabling an uber productive workforce is the goal for all organizations and so it’s logical that paid maternity and paternity leave makes sense ethically, socially, and for our communities.
Global parental leave trends are showing a shift in attitudes and wider-spread adoption. Participation is growing for both companies and employees. Policies are becoming broader extending to mothers, fathers, primary caregivers and adoptive parents. Recognizing the need to attract and retain the best employees, companies are choosing to extend, top-up or create their own family leave policies where there are none. Every step towards gender parity helps make the world a better place and here at Easy Skill we’re excited to do our part.
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