According to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (summarized here), only 2% of fathers with children under age 1 are on paternity leave, compared to 14% of women. Paid family leave was introduced for the first time in the United States in California, which increased the length of time fathers take for paternity leave, which may close the gender wage gap.
Meet five fathers who have chosen the nontraditional path of being the primary care giver in their family, either through an extended paternity leave, working from home or being a full-time (stay-at-home) dad.
"My wife, Allie, was able to negotiate for 12 weeks of leave, but she worked from home while she was technically on leave. She took off 12 weeks for our second child, also. She was, however, literally taking work calls the day she got home from the hospital.
"Sometimes I get "Oh, you're helping mom today!" Or assuming I need help I'm a dad. I did once get called a babysitter by friends of my parents. It is not just about child care. Between my wife and I, I am the person more suited to caring for the kids. She's a helluva lot better at bringing home the bacon. As the primary caregiver, it's my job to care for my entire family."
-Dave Lesser, 37, Stay-at-Home Dad, Jersey City, New Jersey
"For all 3 of our children, my wife Karen took 12 weeks of maternity leave. For the two, I had no paternity leave so I took one week of vacation each. Several months after our second child, I quit work to stay at home. It was during this period that our third child was born.
"There's still a cultural perception the father should be the "bread winner." However, I never experienced any backlash when I told people I was a stay-at-home-dad. But there was a lack of activities that included men. Everywhere I went with the kids, I would be surrounded by mothers. I always felt a little out of place."
-Barry Scott Will, 49, Technology Director, Richmond, Virginia
"My wife took the first 3 months, then I did the same. After that, Ann's company gave her 4.5 months of personal unpaid leave. When that was over, I took 2.5 months of personal unpaid leave. Then I decided to quit and stay home full time. I feel that it's an amazing gift for us to be able to do this.
"I've been asked if my son was sick when people found out that I was taking extra time off. As if he had to be dying in order for me to want to spend time with him. I've had to change Remy's diaper on my truck tailgate many times because the men's bathroom didn't have a changing table."
-Hung Cao, 36, Stay-at-Home Dad, San Diego, California
"My wife Jen, a teacher, had 6 weeks off. She took the maximum amount she was able to have without having to resign. I had 3 months off officially. Everyone was super supportive at Betterment.
"Lots of stuff for babies/parents is heavily marketed to just moms. Many social support groups for new parents are just for moms. It's just small polite bias, but you notice it. All that said, it's not actually that tough to be a dad care giver. More guys should endeavor to hit 50/50 support. Not just to support their wives' careers, but also so they have a fuller relationship with their kids."
-Daniel Eagen, 35, Director of Investment, New York City, New York
"I took two weeks paid leave when my first child was born. It was a small firm, so I had to get back in order to keep the place running. When my second child was born, I had been taking a leave, so I ended up going back to work in order to afford having the baby.
"I took a few years off for my kids. I usually told people I was self employed which wasn't a lie. I think most men probably would rather be at work than deal with the stress of a newborn."
-Wade Black, 41, Investment Banker, Brooklyn, New York