There’s no place like home for a growing number of new dads.
Census Bureau data shows that the number of fathers taking paternity leave has soared from 5,800 per month in 1994 to 22,000 per month in 2015.
The new findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health.
The benefits of fathers spending time with their newborns are numerous and long-lasting. A study of working fathers by the U.S. Department of Labor found that dads who took leaves of two weeks or longer “were much more likely to be actively involved in their child’s care nine months after birth.”
That involvement included feeding, changing diapers and getting up at night.
Children with involved dads exhibit fewer behavioral problems and improved mental health outcomes, as well as higher cognitive test scores. New moms benefit, too, by being able to enjoy a more equitable adult partnership, and freedom from worry on the work front — or at least, freedom from over-worrying.
Yet, while study author Jay Zagorsky of Ohio State University noted encouraging progress for fathers, he also uncovered a few facts with a strong diaper smell.
The number of women benefiting from parental leave remained largely stagnant over the same period, even as the number of births rose and fell. In addition, Zagorsky found that men were “far more likely” to be paid during their parental leave than were women.
Unmarried and younger women, women of color and women with less than a high school education — in other words, those who could use paid time off from their employers more than anybody — were far less likely to get parental leave, compared with older moms, white women and women with some college education.
And, despite the promising news, few dads even get two weeks. The Department of Labor found that while 90 percent of U.S. fathers take some time off for the birth or adoption of a child, most take 10 days or fewer. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, also has found the total number of days men take is typically few. She even wondered if some new fathers are, in fact, taking vacation or personal time, and not actual paternity leave, something the study did not track.
It is well past time for change. More than 80 percent of Americans say they believe women should receive some kind of paid parenting leave. Nearly 70 percent believe that men should receive some leave, too.
Casual Fridays and doughnut Mondays are swell. But American companies that want to give Dad (and, in the process, his family) a real Father’s Day gift should tell him to get lost — in the exhausting, exhilarating world of parenting, for several weeks, at least.
And make sure he knows that, while he’ll lose sleep, he won’t lose income.