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Benefits of Paternity Leave

In Western culture, the benefits of maternity leave are well established.  Both medically and psychologically, the new mother needs time away from work to rest and recuperate.  Her body has just gone through (and is still going through) major events.  Her life is changing; she is trying to adapt, to cope.  Her self-image may be changing.  Her relationship with her spouse or significant other may be changing.  Meanwhile, the new mother is likely sleep deprived as her new baby likely awakens multiple times nightly needing to be fed or have a diaper changed.  In addition to these medical and psychological reasons related to the new mother, there is an equally compelling reason for maternity leave:  to nurture the new relationship between mother and child.  What about the new father, then?  What are the benefits of paternity leave?

Like a new mother, a new father has psychological reasons to support paternity leave.  His life is changing; he is trying to adapt, to cope.  His self-image may be changing.  His relationship with his spouse or significant other may be changing.  He is likely sleep deprived as his new baby likely awakens multiple times nightly needing to be fed or have a diaper changed.

In addition to these psychological reasons related to the new father, there is an equally (if not more so) compelling reason for paternity leave:  to nurture the new relationship between father and child.  In Western culture, it is common for fathers to perceive that their primary role in the lives of their children is that of breadwinner.  Our culture has taught fathers that their involvement as nurturer and caregiver of children is less important than the mother’s involvement as nurturer and caregiver of children, and many fathers have internalized that lesson.  This is a tragedy for fathers, mothers, children, and society.  To overcome the message transmitted by our culture, a new father can take paternity leave: taking time away from work to nurture the new father-child relationship, getting up in the middle of the night to comfort his crying infant, changing diapers, taking the time to cuddle his baby, and sharing the responsibility for his child’s care and nurturing.  By taking paternity leave to foster this new relationship, a new father can deepen his emotional bond with his child, a bond which can endure for his lifetime and be mutually beneficial for father and child.  As added benefit, when the new father shares in the care and nurturing of his child, the new mother senses his love for their child and his assumption of some of the caregiving responsibility, her stress level moderates, and the couple’s relationship can be deepened.

Paternity leave, then, has many benefits.  New fathers are encouraged to consider these many benefits and use available paternity leave upon the births of their children.

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