Typically, people expect the birth of a baby to be followed by some time off work -- for the mother, that is. Because despite all the workplace-related progress we've made in recent decades, when we think of newborn-related employment leave, it's still of the maternal variety. Exhibit A: Most people still use the term "maternity leave" as a catch-all.
Of course, moms need time to physically recover from the grueling physical activity that is labor, but most women who have had children will tell you that the first few weeks (or even months) home with a new baby is in its own way nearly as difficult as giving birth. In many families, around-the-clock infant care -- including middle-of-the-night feedings, soothing and diapering -- is undertaken by equally exhausted fathers. So why do we still send new dads off to work after their infants' arrival as though nothing in their lives is changed?
Taking some leave is beneficial for the whole family -- as well as dads' employers. Below, we list the top five reasons both workplaces and new fathers should take some time off.
1) Employers will attract and keep better talent
Bosses worried they'll lose their top guys if they offer paternity leave should worry more about what will happen if they don't offer it. Millennials, many of whom are now becoming parents, overwhelmingly reported being more likely to gravitate toward a company offering paternity leave than toward a company not offering it, according to a recent study by Ernst & Young. The same study also found men are more likely than women to switch jobs or careers to take positions that allow for more family time.
2) You'll be more likely to be involved later
Make no mistake, those first few weeks set many precedents -- among them that of the level of fathers' involvement in children's lives. Working fathers who took at least two weeks off following the births of their babies were far more likely to continue to help care for their children than those fathers who took less time off, according to a study.
3) You'll help shift perceptions -- and perhaps the pay gap
It says something significant about our society that many people (and employers) still consider only mothers capable of being 'primary caregivers.' That may be in part due to the fact that many men don't take offered paternity leave. Or it may be that the latter contributes to the former. Either way, taking paternity leave or finding work that values and respects time off for the birth or adoption of a child can play a role in changing the status quo.
"As working fatherhood becomes normalized, women are less often penalized for the ways they seek flexible work arrangements to handle childbirth and child care," University of Edinburgh Professor Alison Koslowski wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review. "Because of this, firms with strong policies and cultures supporting working parents should see their gender pay gaps lessen."
4) You'll give Mom some relief
Being home alone with a newborn, particularly a first baby, can be physically exhausting, not to mention emotionally terrifying. Having one's spouse at home to help can make a huge difference -- not just in the ease of care of the newborn, but for the mother's emotional state. In households where fathers took time off following a baby's birth, the mothers reported feeling better than those in households where the father did not take time off, according to one U.K. study. In another study, women whose male partners were able to take on more of the care of their new babies as a result of leave from work experienced less postpartum depression.
5) You'll form a better bond with baby
Unlike mothers, for whom pregnancy and labor produce caregiving instincts, fathers require time with their little ones in order to start 'feeling' like dads, according to Paul Raeburn, author of "Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked." And studies have found that the bonding that happens during paternity leave sets the stage for a father's ability to care for his child later in life.
Are you a new dad? Maybe you're starting your own work venture -- one that allows for more time with your baby. If so, you'll want flexible, affordable office space available when and where you need it. Metro Offices, the leader in shared, temporary and virtual office space in and around Washington, D.C., has you covered. Browse our locations today.