Paternity Leave Is Just a Practical Joke on Moms

sleeping dad with babyI hate to slam something that is such a great perk in theory, but the fact is that paternity leave rarely delivers what it should: Dads helping out with childcare duties. Instead, it seems new fathers seem to use it to help themselves to a few days of R&R with a diaper change here or there thrown in, or as a way to advance their career, or they just don't take it at all.

I've seen it happen time and again with my friends and my own husband, and now my unofficial annoyance has been backed up by an official study. In an article titled, "Does Paternity Leave Hurt Women?" The Wall Street Journal highlighted a recent study of professors that found when female professors took maternity leave, they actually took care of the baby as the leave is intended; when men took paternity leave, they instead used it as time to work on research and publishing papers. 

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So basically, while mom's career is taking a hit because she's absent from work, dad is out boosting his. Yet another blow for women in the workplace.

Even though all the couples said they believe both partners should share duties equally when it comes to child rearing, only three of 109 male professors in the study said they did half or more of the work. At least they're honest, but these are professors, educated men you would think might be a bit more enlightened than most.

The study did say that this may be because women "like" doing it more, but I doubt you can show me a woman who also wouldn't "like" a little more help from her husband.

My husband didn't even take his full paternity leave when my daughter was born. I think he took two weeks with a promise that he'd take the other two weeks later. He was and is a big help when it comes to childcare, but still my daughter is 3 now, and he's yet to collect the rest of that paid time off that I'm sure has long since expired. My friends recount similar stories. Can you imagine a woman ever passing up paid maternity leave? The guilt! Perhaps there are a few, but I certainly don't know any.

Of course, not every company offers paid paternity leave, so it's hard to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. Still, if men aren't going to use it as they're supposed to, maybe they could think about adding it on to women's maternity leave instead.

Did your husband use paternity leave to help with childcare or for other purposes?


Images via jessicafm/Flickr

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