I have a lot to celebrate this Father's Day, as my husband and I just welcomed our fourth daughter in four years. This is a season of joy and chaos for both of us, as we manage our growing family along with our growing careers. We've been navigating the demands of pregnancy and early childhood while earning promotions and, in my case, launching a new business-- The Riveter-- that took on a life of its own, growing from an idea to 75 employees within two years.
I am often asked-- more often than my husband-- how we "make it all work." Any success we have is rooted in a promise we made to one another: we will parent together, on equal terms. I was raised by parents who took this same approach, and I wish that all who wanted to take this route could.
But the fact remains that they cannot. As a recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted, only 15 percent of American civilian workers have access to paid family leave-- and this leave still skews toward mothers. Even today, only 14 percent of fathers who take leave use more than two weeks.
Both my own experience and the numbers tell us that we would all be better off if the world looked different and paternity leave was both offered and taken as routine course of business. We'd have more money at home, better retention in the workplace and, most importantly, better outcomes for our children.
Paternity leave leads to more money at home
Paternity leave provides immediate and concrete savings for families. Many families, where both parents take parental leave-- including those profiled in the recent WSJ article-- do so one after the other, offsetting childcare costs for longer.
In New York City, for example, full time infant care costs over $16,000 per year. Delaying these payments even one or two months is meaningful for families. And, of course, there are long term benefits, too. A recent Department of Labor policy brief shows an increase in "the ability of mothers to engage in paid work, with a positive effect on female labor force participation and wages" as a result of fathers taking paternity leave.
More money for mothers is good for everyone in the home. It isn't a stretch to imagine how widespread paternity leave could shift the systemic bias against mothers in corporate America, manifested in outcomes like the staggering wage gap.
If men were taking on an equal share of parenting, would corporations move toward a world of equal pay? The question is worth asking. (Maybe then my husband would also face the endless "how do you juggle it all!" parade that I face regularly. And he should, because he is often the one keeping the balls in the air.)
More parental leave leads to better retention and stronger corporate revenue.
This one is easy. Paid parental leave provides clear economic benefit to businesses. States that have instituted paid family leave requirements, like California and New York, generate cost savings for businesses due largely to reduced turnover. This is unsurprising given that the very large, very employed millennial generation places a new value on parental leave.
In fact, 83 percent of American millennials reported that they would be more likely to join a company offering such benefits, and 38 percent even said they would move out of the country to find better leave policies.
More paternity leave leads to better outcomes for children.
During my childhood, my father did what were considered at the time as "mom jobs": he packed every lunch, showed up at every swim race, and did all the laundry. He also worked, just like my mom did.
It wasn't until many years later that I understood how unusual my parents' arrangement was in the 1980s, when traditional gender roles were even more prevalent. I also didn't understand until I became a parent myself how very lucky I was to have the time to bond with my father and to be raised with strong role models of all genders.
Paternity leave can and should be the foundation for this type of relationship. Study after study concludes that father-and-baby bonding during paternity leave improves a father's ability to care for children over the long term, and leads to more engaged, involved parents. This can lead to everything from improved performance at school to better mental health outcomes. This all matters, immensely.
The only thing I can't figure out about paternity leave? A downside. Why wouldn't we all-- employers, employees, and government-- want to play a part in creating more wealth, breaking down gender bias, and creating better futures for our children?
If you can convince me there is another side to the argument, I'm all ears. But only after I finish celebrating my own family, especially my amazing father and my incredible husband, this weekend.