Stories from the news: Dads taking parental leave


According to an article titled "Where are the dads? Parental leave for men remains low" (March 4th 2016): 

Just one in fifty Australian men takes parental leave, according to a new research paper from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that looks at the issue across member countries. Australia's result compares with 40 per cent or more of men taking parental leave in some Nordic countries, and also Portugal.

It's important to distinguish between father or partner leave - leave a father or same-sex partner takes when a newborn arrives - with parental leave; a longer period of job-protected leave.

Fathers, or partners, who care for their kids are more likely to stay engaged in that relationship as their children grow, the OECD research shows.  And children with dads who participate more in family life also have better emotional outcomes and mental health. Dads benefit too: they have greater satisfaction with their lives, and better physical and mental health.  And parental leave also allows women to return to work and gain a greater measure of economic independence.  In countries like Sweden, which is introducing a third year of a generous paid parental leave, two months are set aside only for dads (who are called "latte pappas").

Are you a supporter of men taking time off to be at home with their young children, or should their only stick to their traditional role of  bread-winner?

I personally think it is a great thing and as it is beneficial to both the child and the father, why not. Women should not hog parenting as if they are the only ones that can do the best job, they aren’t. Nor should women assume they make the best carers of children, the best nurturers.  In doing so we are denying men this wonderful experience —an experience we women think is very important, so why not make it as important for our husbands.  In most incidences, we are only talking about 3 to 4 months, not a very long time, but precious to both a new dad and his children.

Will McCann took three months paid parental leave to care for his two young sons, Eddie and Leo, when his wife Mel returned to work. The time was a gift. Each morning McCann would give Eddie, then 11 months, breakfast while chatting to toddler Leo. Then they might go to the park, or for a coffee. There was no rush. None of the usual morning bedlam; juggling baby socks and nappy bags while rushing for the Williamstown train to the city, where Mr McCann works in policy at ANZ.

There is often the argument that women just do it better when it comes to caring for children.  However, this study says something different — Bar Ilan University last year showed that there’s nothing inherent about women that makes them better parents. Women who are the primary caregivers develop neural pathways in their brains that make them more responsive to emotional cues in their children, but, according to the study, the same pathways developed in fathers who were the primary caregiver.  It’s not about a hardwired maternal instinct, in other words. The amount of time spent alone caring for a child is what enables men and women to become instinctively great parents. (source)

What do you think? Sadly the media (and in most films) has a tendency of portraying men as hapless when it comes to caring for babies and toddlers creating an imagine that men really aren’t capable to doing the job as well as women. Of course they can when given the opportunity, sadly many aren't because too many women think it is "their department". Of the men I work with who have young children — they are all very good at caring for their children including dressing, bathing, cooking and one particular guy was great at doing his daughters hair.  We need to share parenting and caring for our children, especially when they are young, dads need to active in their lives and that includes caring for the very young. 

Don’t deny your husband these precious times and instead allow him to be hands one and if he can take parental leave — encourage it. And don’t treat him as if he is a child and incapable of caring for his own children on his own. He is. Plus knowing that the interaction is very beneficial for dads should give us greater reason to encourage our husbands as much time as they can give caring for their children.

I once read a blog comment by a woman who shared the care of their child ½ ½ with her husband (both parents worked part-time). They seemed to have worked it out so the child always had a parent and it sounded as if it was working wonderfully. If mum can’t be home all the time (and I am a realist on this, life isn’t perfect and it isn’t always possible and I completely understand this) then this is a wonderful and creative way of providing care.  We need to think outside the box when it comes to caring for our children and whilst it is always great if mum can be full time homemaker, dad should always play a major role in caring and if mum can’t be at home, then why not dad. Or sharing if thats a possibility. 



Comments

  1. I'm still out with my verdict. I'm not sure if I agree with you about dad's staying home. BUT... (don't you just love when you know the BUT is coming!),
    our son is home with our grand daughter. In fact he took two weeks off and on is working part time, for six months. He has a great employer.

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    1. Just remember that parental leave is only for a few months and not long term and the dads in this article are only doing it for that short time. However if mum and dad have an arrangement-i.e. Dad is home one day a week ( which a few of my male colleagues do) and it avoids childcare I think it's great. It's all about providing the best possible care for the child. My dad use to look after me when mum was doing causal teaching (I was 4), I loved it. I use to go out on the farm with him and sit in the apple crates with all my toys!! Of course it isn't for every family or dad.

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  2. Mmm... I'm not entirely sure on this one. Certainly the Biblical model is that women were the ones who were at home with the children, women were the home keepers and the Proverbs 31 woman obviously was the one doing most of the home management etc - and there are other Biblical examples that show the same of women and children.
    Certainly, fathers need to take an intentional and active role in their children's lives (hence the advice given to fathers and men regarding children in the Scriptures). But the Bible indicates that he is the one who should work - "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Timothy 5:8) and "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." (2 Thess 3:10)
    Eve was given the role of mother, whereas Adam was told he would have to toil & sweat over work... And so on. I guess that's how I form my opinion that it is for a man to work and a woman to look after the children - but definitely, men should play an integral part in their children's lives one way or another - it is good for him and it is good for his children. :)

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    1. How about the parental leave which allows men to take a few months off (more in some countries) to spend time at home - this isn't a permanent arrangement, temporary - I think its a great idea, however as the article points out, not many men do.

      Most men don't stay at home - in fact, they are see as doing something unusual and it can be a disadvantage when they go for a promotion etc - but we have a number of men my work that work 4 day weeks or 9 day fortnights and spend that extra day at home with their young one. I don't have any problems with this - it shows that they (as a family unit) are working together in the best interest of their children and if it keeps their marriage strong and their children happy, I think its a positive step. This of course, is not the same as the wife working full time and the husband at home.

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  3. I kind of agree with Clara. I do think men need to take active roles in the lives of their children especially when it concerns their faith but as a whole I am not for men getting parental leave for an extended time. I can see a week perhaps two but no when it gets longer than that. I feel God put our roles for a purpose and society no matter how good it sounds is trying to change those roles. Just my humble opinion. Very good post though.

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    1. Many men still see themselves as the main provider of their families (most earn more than their wives and are the biggest contributor to their superannuation fund/retirement fund) and this doesn’t change when they take a few months off for paternity leave. They still consider themselves as the main provider of the family.

      It’s interesting to read the comments on this one — because if I had written about husband/father take a month’s leave using their recreational/vocational/long service leave it would have been accepted by most (as all men take some form of holiday and many stay at home at that time), but taking a month’s parental leave as part of his entitlement not considered acceptable. Both are only temporary and then he returns to his full time employment. Men also love being at home catching up on things just like women whether that be when they take holidays or other forms of leave.

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  4. I'm not sure where I stand with it either - if a dad can be home to spend time and help his family, then what a blessing. However, I know that will never happen in our life (I'd be blessed if my husband got two days off after each baby I have had). He is self employed - therefore, no parental leaves apply for him. Honestly, when we hear that our friends have husbands that take a year off, it seems strange - almost like a paid vacation for a year? That does not seem right to me, especially if the mother is already at home. I feel like a week would be fine, as Lee Ann said, but any longer than that does seem a bit extreme. Men are created to be providers - I don't think they find fulfillment in being a homemaker.

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    1. You are right, anyone who is self-employed usually can’t afford to take this sort of leave. However, I think if you can access it, then its not a bad thing to do. Many men probably use the time to do other things such as study or house renovations which is an excellent use of the time. And in doing these things he is still providing for his family and taking care of them.

      My dad is home full-time (he is in his 80s - a retired farmer) and lives on his own (my mother is in a nursing home) and he loves to potter about the house and garden. He cooks, cleans, buys his own food and takes great care of himself. He does a wonderful job. I find it interesting when he tries out new recipes or buys something new he hasn't tried before. He also buys my mothers clothes and visits her every day. We shouldn’t be surprised that men can do these things if they need to - women aren’t the only ones that can take care of a home.

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  5. I completely agree with you on the importance of dads connecting more to their children and the benefits of parental leave. With our older son (who will be 3 in July) my husband took three years of parental leave, to be home more often, while he was also going back to university. During that time I also was on parental leave (still am, as our younger son was born January 19th) and I really enjoyed the family dynamics of "dad being home" with the entire family. Staying home doesn't mean dads don't provide for their families - my husband worked on Fridays and Saturdays during that time. Now, for financial reasons, he has to temporarily go back to his old work place until I can go back to my job (I'm a pastor here in Germany, and will work again part time, teaching at a school, so there's enough time to take care of our four children). Eventually, we plan for both of us to work part time. Since there is no daycare that will take our younger son before he is 2 1/2, my husband will take another year of parental leave when I start first working again and I am very thankful that he considers that. I guess a lot of dads don't stay on parental leave for a longer period of time, partly because of the financial situation of the family (husband always want to provide, as I can see that, and they should - in one way or another. For example, my husband makes all the firewood we need for our family, but he also sells firewood to make money, while on parental leave), but also - I can see that clearly now with my husband going back to his old job - because they are not up to date any more, which is very important in amany jobs these days. My husband worked in IT before his parental leave, he's out of it since 2013, and in IT terms, these 3 years are billions of light years. He has to start all over again. Yet, since IT isn't his dream job, my going back to work hopefully will allow him to finish university and do something he really loves (psychology, theology). It's a different concept and some people think we're doing the wrong thing, but we mainly see the advantages for this concept, and a big one is dad being there for his kids. Dads just do things differently, and as long as you work it out as a family, it's for the better, I think. So, I'm really pro dads taking parental leave. :)

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    1. Parental leave in Europe and Scandinavian is far more generous to Australia and the USA and as a result viewed very differently. When I looked at the different options, it is almost a given in some countries that dad will take an extended amount of time off to bond and spend time with his children and I think this is great and a very positive move. It is also important to note that this is only temporary and then dad goes back to his job as (in many cases) the primary provider.

      Families are not all the same and your family arrangement, like the one I mentioned in the blog post sounds positive and working for you and in the end, that is what matters. As long as your children are getting maximum attention, love and nurturing from both parents — the way you arrange your home, your work, your finances is completely up to you. And as Christians, through prayer and faith in God in making decisions in your family.

      Well done for your husband following his areas of interest and for you supporting him along the way - isn’t that what marriages are all about.

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  6. I am from Sweden :-)
    My husband had parental leave for 6 months with our youngest daughter until she was 18 months old. I got back to work at the daycare center when she was 12 months, and wasn't breastfeeding her anymore. So he took over and stayed at home with her and our then 5 year old for 6 months. We pay for this every month with our tax money.
    Our older daughter was born in south america and we moved home to Sweden when she was 8 months old. Then i had to start working to be able to support us, and my husband studied swedish and took care of our daughter. He met with other fathers on parental leave, and they took their babies to baby swimming and other activities, it was very sweet.

    After a couple of months he got his first job, and by then she was at the daycare center. The hardest part for me was actually not leaving the girls with my husband. Of course i missed them, and the first day at work without my youngest i cried, being surrounded by other 1 year old babies certainly didn't help, by my baby was happy at home napping and playing with her adoring daddy. The hard part really was when HE got back to work and we had to leave her at the daycare center for what I felt were to long days. I felt that she needed a less hectic life, and started to question the whole system and life that many live with houses, cars, and material things that make people have to work many more hours and missing out on their children. So we downshifted a bit and i started working a bit less, so that our daughters could have shorter days in daycare.
    Letting our girls and my husband being with each other has been a gift for both of them. The get their own routines and the Bond between them grows stronger, i don't regret it, i got to stay at home the first important months, i got to breastfeed them, and heal after the births. As i read before, i missed my babies a great deal when i got back to work, but they were in the peace and quiet of our home with their father, who is a great father to them <3

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    1. I was hoping you would write a comment on this one (!!) as Sweden has one of the best scheme available to fathers and its also being going the longest. And as you say, it is part of what you pay in taxes so it is fully funded and part of the social system of your country. Swedes are also (from what I have read) far more accepting and considered quite normal for men to take parental leave and encouraged by employers. I think it might take a long while for it to be considered normal here (and in the USA) which is sad as children are missing out on this wonderful opportunity with their dads.

      I am so glad the arrangement has worked well for you and everyone is doing well. Just the way it should be.

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  7. Dear Jo, I just had to jump in :-)
    Yes, it is considered normal for father to take parental leave, and as well as there are mothers groups that see each other regularly to do activities such as singing with their babies, there are also daddy-groups that see each other together with their babies, it is so cute (I hope my husband doesn't read this :-D
    To me it is a gift for both the baby and the daddy, since the daddy will not only grow closer to his baby, also understand the hard work that it can be to stay at home with children. Now he is back at work since 4 years, but we still have days to take out for our youngest so now he has Mondays "off", although in reality it is from the parental leave days, we may use the resting days until she is 8 years old, and she is almost 5 now. So every Monday she sleeps in and stays at home with daddy, and I come home at 2pm, when takes our oldest to her ballet class and I stay home with the little one, I am so thankful for this, and more than willing to pay tax money for other parents to be able to spend more time with their children, mothers as well as fathers <3

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    1. It sounds wonderful :))) I just can't imagine a daddy group for dad and bub here in Australia - it is unheard of - but what a great idea. Many mothers think these things are only for mum and so many dads are excluded - they shouldn't be.

      Have a wonderful weekend :)

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  8. Very interesting subject.
    I definitely think that it's important for fathers (or father figures) to play a part of their child's life. However, perhaps I'm old school, but I do think that God made women better carers of little people. The bible often mentions the woman being the one who cares for the home (husband included) whilst the husband is responsible for being the primary bread-winner and also the spiritual head of the home. And being someone who is BIG on breastfeeding, I think that's another reason why women should be the primary carer of young babies. It's just not possible for men to do that role and the benefits of breastfeeding numerous. Also the ill-effects from bottle feeding can have very long-term effects on a childs (who turns into an adult) health.
    Also, in this society - I don't know too many fathers who could afford to take a decent chunk of parental leave, sure there is a job to go back to, but let's remember that often that time off isn't paid.

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    1. In Australia - in some workplaces it is 4 weeks, others it is less (which is why people find it a strange idea), however, in some countries in Europe it is much longer, months (in fact they pay higher taxes to cover this sort of leave and are strongly encouraged to take the leave making it normal and socially acceptable). Some take it in conjunction with their wives, or they take it afterwards.

      I was referring to paid leave and not unpaid, as you are right most couldn't afford to take unpaid leave, but I think if it is paid and part of the conditions of employment, I think its harmless and in fact beneficial to the family (and once over, dad returns to his job as normal). My husband took three days off and that was really bad, I was in Darwin with no family around and he couldn't afford to take any further leave - I found it very difficult especially when I had two children. I would have love him at home much longer.

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  9. I want to let you know that I thought this post was very insightful, so I’ve included it in my Riveting Reads post (http://ofthehearth.com/riveting-reads-march-and-april-2016/) for March and April 2016.

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    1. Thankyou - I too was surprised at the comments. I wish my husband had taken time off, when my first was born I was in a location a long way from family and I was on my own and I felt very alone. If my husband had been able to take a month off, it would have been wonderful and less stressful. I loved the other articles you selected.

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