Paid Paternity Leave Benefits Everyone, and May Reduce Family Sizes
May 16, 2019 8:44 PM   Subscribe

In Scotland, despite increased opportunities, fathers remain reluctant to take full advantage of work-provided parental leave and support, despite professing to want to be equal partners with mothers in child care, to the possible detriment of their workplaces (Harvard Business Review). Mandatory parental leave for fathers is good for business, as it would level the playing field for women at work and home (Forbes). And after men in Spain got paternity leave, they wanted fewer kids, while women started showing preferences for slightly larger families (Quartz).
posted by filthy light thief (31 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 


I don't think that mandatory parental leave would help much. Businesses will continue to invisibly punish their employees for having children (women far more than men of course) - this would just shift the moment at which the punishment becomes active from when parental leave is requested to when the business becomes aware that a child is on the way.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:18 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Hahaha actually cis women who are perceived to be of childbearing age are often and insidiously ‘mommy tracked’ aka punished with plausible deniability whether any intention of becoming pregnant is ever expressed. Women who openly do not sleep with cis men get mommy tracked. And then when you’re child bearing years are ‘over’ the risk of getting aged out of good projects/hiring/promotion is also terrible.

What we also know is that behavior seems to be able to shape our thoughts. We are certainly seeing men expressing an interest in fewer children, and women expressing an interest in more children where leave taking is more equitable. This may indicate that women feel not only that the labor at home is shared more equitably but also women may feel more confident in their ability to receive fair(er) treatment at work if and when they return to the paid workforce.
posted by bilabial at 9:43 PM on May 16 [32 favorites]


And to be clear many businesses are aware of what they’re doing. It’s easier to invisibly punish all women than it is to punish pregnant women.
posted by bilabial at 9:44 PM on May 16 [13 favorites]


That both makes a lot of sense and is also extremely depressing. Perhaps mandatory leave would, by passing some of the child-having penalty to the father, increase pressure for companies to turn down the level of their anti-human policies.
Or we could have a revolution. That's probably better.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:52 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Hahaha actually cis women who are perceived to be of childbearing age are often and insidiously ‘mommy tracked’ aka punished with plausible deniability whether any intention of becoming pregnant is ever expressed. Women who openly do not sleep with cis men get mommy tracked. And then when you’re child bearing years are ‘over’ the risk of getting aged out of good projects/hiring/promotion is also terrible.

This is what Title VII is for. Not that it should be necessary. But a company clearly engaging in that pattern will not want to litigate it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:10 PM on May 16


. But a company clearly engaging in that pattern will not want to litigate it

What if they are a law firm? Besides, advocating for equal leave is better than settling some lawsuit that no one can ever discuss again
posted by eustatic at 10:59 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


Could go either way at a law firm. Depends on the evidence, the partners and their insurer.

Absolutely equal leave is better, but women who have been mommy tracked at a company that is plainly discriminating should be aware of their rights, and the fact that most of those cases are settled.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:04 PM on May 16


i feel like?? idk?? i guess i should feel bad? about how unimaginably fucking hilarious i think it is that men, when given the opportunity to spend more time with their children, decided they didn't want any more of them?? but i don't and i am c a c k l i n g.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:03 AM on May 17 [83 favorites]


I'm sure I read a much more charitable interpretation of a similar outcome in Denmark as being "quality over quantity" ie. given more time with the one child, the fathers felt less need to make up for a lack of time together by having extra kids. Of course evaluations of the credibility of this reading vs the simple horror and exhaustion of childcare may vary.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:14 AM on May 17 [9 favorites]


The best thing for women (and men and children) would be universal mandatory leave and universal free daycare, so all parents (CEOs and cleaners alike) would get an equal amount of time off (even if they didn't want it) and would have someone to watch their children when they went back to work. (Have a required minimum number of daycare spaces near workplaces, like many places now have a minimum number of parking spaces per employee.) Build childcare into the economy and infrastructure.
posted by pracowity at 4:08 AM on May 17 [21 favorites]


This is what Title VII is for. Not that it should be necessary. But a company clearly engaging in that pattern will not want to litigate it.

Respectfully: I'm not sure you've considered the logistics of what you're proposing. If you're a 32-year-old woman who has been passed up for promotions multiple times in favor of less-qualified men, your employer almost certainly has a paper trail explaining the (completely made up) reasons they picked the men instead of you. If you bring suit over it, you get to pay the lawyer out-of-pocket (ain't no employment attorney I've ever met who's taking a Title VII case on commission), while you go look for a new job because you're painted a huge target on your back and will almost certainly be fired within the next six months for reasons that will be nigh-impossible to prove are retaliatory. If your employer fights your case, you then get to argue the completely-subjective merits of yourself versus the other less-qualified men, in open court, where your former employer gets to take open potshots at you for your past performance, and you get to sit and smile and nod because it's technically relevant to your case. The burden of proof is on you, the jury is at least half male, and you're paying your attorney by the hour. Good luck.

Which is to say: it's nice that we have legislation like Title VII. It's a useful tool in the fight against structural discrimination. As a tool for preventing individual cases of bias in the workplace, though, it is not especially useful.
posted by Mayor West at 4:44 AM on May 17 [42 favorites]


Respectfully: I'm not sure you've considered the logistics of what you're proposing

Respectfully: I'm a lawyer whose practice includes employment. I wasn't "proposing" litigation as a solution. Just that it's worth looking into when all else fails, especially at a company where the discriminatory practices are obvious and pervasive.

In my experience those cases are indeed often taken on contingency, and rarely reach trial if there's a clear pattern of discrimination. I may see more cases taken on that basis because CA has even tougher state laws. Often CA plaintiffs will avoid Federal claims to stay out of Federal court.

But those are all still good points -- its awful to go through even if it's on contingency and settles after some discovery, the career complications are real and this is a bit of a derail so I'll leave it there.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:55 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


Also, when you adopt a cat, you should get a week's caternity leave to help them settle in.
posted by acb at 6:40 AM on May 17 [30 favorites]


acb, that’s the kind of forward thinking we need!!
posted by greermahoney at 6:54 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


My guess is that when a woman feels like her husband is a partner rather than a spectator, her parenting load is lightened and she has the time and energy for one more kid.

Meanwhile, when dad is participating in the grunt work of childrearing, also maybe being "daddy tracked," and kids are not just there as trophies of his virile loins, he thinks "my god this is HARD" and doesn't want another.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:57 AM on May 17 [17 favorites]


At a previous position in a large well known financial institution, we were discussing revamping our leave policies that were last evaluated in the 80s. One proposal did mention mandatory parental leave for all parents, adoptive, birth or foster regardless of sex. However, one male manager, that I thought was a pretty decent human until that point, made quite the stink about "forcing men to put their jobs on hold due to something that was out of their control." He mentioned that when his wife had their child, she didn't want him around because he was "useless with a baby."

This was not some 60 year old dinosaur of a good old boy, this was a man my age who seemed like a decent guy. All the women at the table looked at him like he was made of pure dog poop. One said, "Well, if you're not gonna make it mandatory for men, it shouldn't be for women." When he and other men at the table spluttered that women would physically have to be out, she responded, "Why should we force them to put their careers on hold? It's not like they have complete control over the process either."

Parental leave was optional and could be taken over time or in one lump sum.

After that, I always felt a little sorry for that guys wife and kids and never hung out with him socially again.
posted by teleri025 at 6:59 AM on May 17 [25 favorites]


I don't think that mandatory parental leave would help much.

Well, it's a good thing that there are actual studies that show that it does.

I'm not trying to be a jerk but this is not something where gut feelings are a good basis for policy decisions; they're not even a basis for having an informed opinion now that the experiment has been run several times.

Yes, (some) companies are run by shitty people and are going to do shitty things. That doesn't mean the situation is so hopeless that it's not worth doing anything. Perfect / enemy of the good, etc.

If the claim is that companies in the US are so uniquely bad compared to anyplace else, that's a fairly strong claim that requires its own proof—because companies in Europe aren't intrinsically any more enlightened (and, uh, attitudes in some parts of Europe re gender roles are not exactly forward-thinking, either), they're just heavily regulated and some of the really shitty behavior you can get away with in the US isn't tolerated. That's how you fix this stuff, at least to a rough approximation of "fix", or at the very least it's what you do while you're slowly beating actual gender equality into everyone's heads over the course of several generations, at which point the regulations won't matter except in the breach rather than the main. But we're a long way from that in every part of the world I've spent time.

I also support animal adoption leave and tax credits. In fact I support a wide variety of expanded rights for animals... except giving them the vote. My cat is a total fascist.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:18 AM on May 17 [34 favorites]


teleri025: He mentioned that when his wife had their child, she didn't want him around because he was "useless with a baby."

My wife had a co-worker who got married to her high school sweetheart. The lady was a focused, capable woman, who I had thought was older than we were because of how organized and mature she was, particularly compared to me at that time, but I found out she was our age, and just a professional adult. Her new husband was more of a giant, fun man-child. When they had a kid together, he didn't get involved with baby-care, and apparently didn't spend much time with their daughter as she got a bit older, so naturally the kid liked mom more. This baffled the dude, who wanted a little surfing and fishing buddy. That marriage didn't last, but the mom and daughter are doing well.

At my prior job, when my wife had somewhat recently given birth to our first kid and we were very much in night-time feeding mode (where I would get up and change the baben, so my wife could rest a bit more, before feeding our little creature-beast), I overheard some guy talking to another man about his wife wanting another kid, and he said something like "that's fine, she'll take care of the baby."

I wanted to shout "dude, pull your fucking weight," or maybe more calmly say "you could still change diapers, change and bathe your baby, you don't need boobs to do those things" but I said nothing.

In short: many dudes are all too happy to play the "I'm a man, I don't understand baby-stuff" card, bringing us back to the prior thread, “Mothers shouldn’t be grateful for their husbands’ help.”

Kids are fun, but also exhausting, even when there are two parents or guardians involved. I love our kids, but our youngest (of two) has recently said he wants to be a middle child. To which my wife and I laugh, and say "no, thank you." Having children who can go to the bathroom on their own and feed themselves is fantastic.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:39 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


It happened that when my first child was one I took a voluntary redundancy and I spent 9 months as a a stay at home dad. It was glorious, we ate better than ever, the house was sparkling, and I have a bunch of memories that are lovely.
It turns out with nothing else on, and just one kid, I can be a type A parent.
My corporate high flyer old friends were surprisingly one dimensional, and the mums at playgroup were also weirdly shallow. I learned very quickly making parenthood the priority cuts you off from the ‘big’ table.
I went back to a corporate job and the lip service to family support etc. resumed.
It opened my eyes to way parenting is treated, which is so usually only visible to women.
I’m a better Dad, manager and person though.
And I was a much better father/husband when we had more kids. I shudder to think how oblivious I would have been otherwise. And that shuddering arsehole is how it is for many men. They get it coming and going - missing their kids beautiful years and making their partners hate them.
posted by bystander at 8:37 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


Isn't it interesting how parenting seems to be... optional...for men? If they wanna vs. if they don't, they can sure get away with the latter.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:56 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


This reminds me of the infamous Reddit thread where OP, a single dad, got his ass handed to him because his SO got pregnant, he BEGGED her to keep the baby and let him raise it, she did and promptly gave up parental rights except for child support, and... then he came to Reddit complaining that she never "helped him with the baby" and he thought she would magically see the Joyous Bond of Motherhood.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:03 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


> I don't think that mandatory parental leave would help much. Businesses will continue to invisibly punish their employees for having children (women far more than men of course) - this would just shift the moment at which the punishment becomes active from when parental leave is requested to when the business becomes aware that a child is on the way.

What do you propose?
posted by cirgue at 10:29 AM on May 17


I propose you read my follow up comment.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:33 AM on May 17


Isn't it interesting how parenting seems to be... optional...for men? If they wanna vs. if they don't, they can sure get away with the latter.

Male here. I've found it so weird to hear women around me at work and the like refer to time spent by the father with his kid(s) as "watching them," like he is a babysitter and not the father of the child. If you're the father, you're taking care of your kids like you should. It is not rocket science. My dad was an equal partner with my mom, and that's how it should be.
posted by theartandsound at 11:07 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


The phrase ‘watching them’ is usually apt for the way some fathers spend most of their time alone with children. Many men do not engage (well or even at all) with the endless rounds of ‘why?’ and the work of figuring out what a preverbal child means when they say ‘buh!’ while pointing at something. Men engaging in parenting studies have been documented to miss the signs of soiled diapers, hunger, and other basic needs. When asked if they might check a diaper men sometimes responds their partner will return in some amount of time.

Women who use the term ‘watching them’ may or may not have engaged on a deep linguistic level with the nuance of the term, but generally they are not being inaccurate.

Women whose partners are actively parenting will describe the situation like ‘my partner is teaching kiddo to ride a bike while I’m at this conference,’ or ‘jack sent me a funny picture of the girls decorating cookies,’ or ‘they’re ordering pizza and building a pillow fort.’

If a guy is watching sports or playing video games while his kids pull all the pots and pans out of the cupboard, the description ‘watching them’ becomes downright generous. So. Many. Times I have heard moms who work outside the home while their husbands re alone all day with the kids report that literally every day she gets home and the kids are still in pajamas, only were offered dry cereal for food, never did tooth brushing or washed their hands. Partner? He’s showered and dressed in fresh clothes and made himself a pot of coffee and a sandwich. And the women are like, “well, the kids are alive and if I leave him I get to pay for daycare. So. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”

I’m glad some families are seeing equitability in childcare. It’s not the norm. Presenting an experience of equitability as a way to get women to speak differently or not at all about their difficult experiences is not helpful. Use that speech directed at the men who are ‘watching them,’ and find a way to convince those guys to bring their kids places, teach the kids life skills like shoe tying and restaurant etiquette. Policing women’s speech isn’t going to solve this problem.
posted by bilabial at 12:23 PM on May 17 [16 favorites]


@nakedmolerats I remember reading about that here on The Blue! What a dipshit he was!
You either are or aren’t maternal. Some of it is culture, some is instinct. In defense of my kids I could go into total Beast Mode. As in ‘Kick that lion’s head off you know you wanna!’ As ‘Stomp that croc, it’ll be fun!’ That kind of maternal, I am. Not the foofy baby nursery full of pink and blue bows. Dumbasses like that whinger make me laugh. Also I would never be talked into having a baby I could not look after. And once you have a baby, you don’t hand it over to a dumbass. Even if you never wanted a baby, cuz that ain’t right. That post was amazing because of the stupidity of both involved. I hope he was trolling us!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:34 PM on May 17


After I started working a proper office job, the first male coworker of mine who had a baby was back at work either one or two weeks after it was born, I forget exactly. It's a hideously short amount of time, and I was a little shocked. But off course it's hard to get more than that when the policies don't support it. The American relationship to time off is deeply broken and we need to demand more of it, both in leave and in vacation time.

I also support animal adoption leave and tax credits. In fact I support a wide variety of expanded rights for animals... except giving them the vote.

Off topic and I've said it before but: universal, single payer veterinary care for pets. Once we've got the same for people, of course.

posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:21 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


I am a male in the military who has been frustrated by the limited paternal leave offered. I also have had conversations with female leaders who have had to plan their careers and families much more carefully than I have had to. The physical implications of pregnancy (especially in jobs like aviation), as well as the longer maternity leave times, create the need to schedule a baby on the 'right' tour so that rigid career progression timelines can be met.

My opinion mirrors what is proposed here, that the only way to drive towards equal treatment is to mandate the same amount of leave for both mothers and fathers. Not only would this mean that the career impacts would be the same across the board, but it would also open a way to more flexible career timings that can be applied equally to everyone. Right now there are "career intermission" type programs, by they are not equally available, which just engenders hard feelings all around.
posted by HycoSpeed at 11:19 AM on May 18 [5 favorites]


My employer (in the U.S.) offers 28 weeks' leave for the "primary caregiver" and 2 weeks for the "secondary caregiver." Without even getting into whom they probably expect to be the primary caregiver, it's a bit shocking that they expect the ratio be so lopsided. Why should one of us do 14 times more parenting than the other?

This is, of course, still better than Wall Street. I think some place (Goldman Sachs?) recently got sued for having an official policy that men would only be approved for primary caregiver leave if they could provide documentation that the mother was not able to care for the child.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 12:24 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Wanting fewer children is definitely a positive outcome, right?
posted by goinWhereTheClimateSuitsMyClothes at 9:55 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


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