Fathers want to bond with their newborn babies — and it would be easier if society didn’t make it so hard to do so.
Peer pressure, financial demands and societal expectations all conspire to keep men away from what Ethan Gologor, chairman of the CUNY psychology department, termed “one of the most profound moments of your life.”
A dad taking time to bond with his new baby is transcendently important, Gologor said. But, he added, “just as women have been kept out of the locker rooms and the boardrooms, men have been kept out of the playgrounds,” he said.
Murphy, who was vilified by some fans and sports commentators for missing two games to be at the delivery of his son, Noah, and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins — who just took time off to attend the birth of his second child – represent a “cultural shift” in the macho world of team sports, said Manhattan employment lawyer David S. Rich.
“Just 10 years ago, it was unheard of for a baseball player to leave the season for a couple days because his wife was giving birth,” but paternity leave clauses in sports contracts is an increasingly common practice, Rich said. Many other men would also love such a contract but “most employees in the U.S. have considerably less leverage than professional baseball players,” in negotiating time away from work, Rich said.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles covered employees to take off 12 weeks in any 12-month period for the birth of a child or care of a newborn, it does not provide that the time be paid, as it is in many other developed countries.
More than three quarters of men surveyed in 2011 by Boston College reported that they took off one week or less and 16% reported taking no time off at all following the birth of their most recent child.
Only 20% of employees work for a company offering any paid paternity leave, according to an FMLA 2012 survey. Job security, ranked as a paramount concern by dads in the Boston survey, and financial worries, often trumps time at home. When Gerry Iorio of New Jersey had his 3-year-old and 18-month-old children, he took off one week from work and spent another week working from home each time. But when his wife had another baby two months ago, he took off only two days because someone had just left the asset management firm where he works and he was needed at the office.
“I don’t think it’s fair that men get less time than women, but it’s a cultural thing in America. Everyone is chasing the dollar, so they have to worry,” about how colleagues and superiors will perceive the absence, Iorio said.
Iorio considers himself lucky, noting hourly workers often get no paid time off at all.
Many employers are increasingly tolerant of men taking time off to bond with a new child, said Peter Mangione, co-director of the WestEd Center for Child and Family Studies in San Francisco. But “our country hasn’t made it a matter of public policy to support this early period of life. We haven’t caught up with what the research says benefits babies and parents,” said Mangione. In many other developed countries, parents are given up to a year of parental leave. “It’s paid, and it’s left up to the couples to figure out,” said Mangione.
“There should be at least be a set amount of paid paternity leave time for everyone,” said Brian Joosten, 39, a North Jersey dad who used his vacation time to spend a week with his wife and child four years ago. “Whether it’s your first kid or your third, you need that time,” said Joosten.
Experts said that some men don’t have a drive to be with their kids in their early “pre verbal” months, but it’s still important to bond with a baby – and to support the mother of their new born child. “Wake up, men! Wake up commentators!” said Gologor.
(with Shawn McCreesh and Michael Wang)