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Paternity Leave

In the United States, many new fathers do not take paternity leave upon the births of their children.  The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows fathers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave, subject to certain qualifications, but how many fathers can afford 12 weeks of unpaid leave?  In much of Europe, taking paternity leave is common practice; many European countries have laws that require employers to offer paid paternity leave.  This prompts the question: what are the advantages of taking paternity leave?

  • Fathers have time to form the initial bond with their newborns.
  • Fathers and mothers can share the time-consuming responsibilities of caring for newborns.  This not only reinforces the father-newborn bond, but can also reinforce the father-mother bond.
  • Fathers can provide assistance and care-giving for mothers who are recovering from a significant medical event (pregnancy and birth).  Again, this can reinforce the father-mother bond.
  • Fathers can reinforce and enhance their awareness of their pivotal role in their families.
  • Fathers can ensure that, when they return to work, they will be less sleep-deprived than they would have been if they returned to work immediately following the baby’s birth.  Sleep-deprivation can affect concentration, attention to detail, mood, and other elements of work performance.   Therefore, paternity leave can play a role in ensuring that fathers’ supervisors continue to esteem their work highly.

In sum, taking paternity leave benefits not only fathers, but also mothers, newborns, and even fathers’ employers.

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