Welcoming a baby doesn't just transform a mother, it transforms families and fathers, too. But society all too often ignores the significant transformation that happens when a man becomes a dad—not to mention how much that baby needs their father.
There are life-saving, life-long benefits when dads have time to bond with their babies and build their confidence as parents, but Americans are way more likely to support women than men in taking and advocating for parental leave.
This needs to change, because it's holding fathers back at home, holding mothers back at work, and most importantly, it's hurting our kids.
A new report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) proves how much attitudes around paternity leave are hurting today's fathers, as 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands say they would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption.
And yet, less than 50% of fathers take as much time as their country's policy allows, and social norms, financial pressures and a lack of support from their managers are all factors.
Basically, today's fathers are conflicted and desperately want to be doing more of the childcare, but they can't, and it's doing American families and businesses a huge disservice.
We know that when dads take paternity leave they are more involved in parenting nine months later. This isn't a coincidence, this is confidence, and you can't become a confident parent without having the time to grow as a parent.
We know that millennial dads want to be equal partners and parents, but when they don't get the chance to build the skills, mom becomes the default parent and household manager.
Our own data from Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey supports this. More than 60% of mothers say they handle most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves, with 32% saying responsibilities are shared equally and just 5% say their partner does the household lift.
Speaking at the Women Deliver 2019 conference in Vancouver, Canada this week, author and paternity leave advocate Josh Levs put it simply: "Paternity leave is a crucial women's rights issue."
"The inaccessibility of paternity leave is a huge obstacle in the workplace," says Levs.
We cannot afford to leave men behind in the fight for paid parental leave at a time when women are more educated than men. It's just not good for babies or business.
Indeed, Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey found half of moms surveyed report making a change to their work status since becoming a mother, and most report their partner's work situation has either stayed the same, or they've scaled up.
For the sake of our economy and our families, we need to call on lawmakers and corporations to not only implement paid parental leave policies for all parents, but to encourage men to take every minute of the leave that's available to them. It's time to change the stories we tell about fathers, in our lives and in our media.
"We need the policies in place, and we need to change those cultural stereotypes for guys," says Molly Kennedy, the Brand Manager for Dove Men+Care.
Alan Jope, the CEO of Dove's parent company, Unilever, says 100% of the media investment for Dove Men+Care will show men in positive or caring roles, so get ready to see dads in action in advertising.
As Motherly previously reported, Dove Men+Care has been asking American dads to pledge to take all of the parental leave they can, and Kennedy says the company has received 30,000 signatures on that pledge already. Men need to know that other men are taking leave, and that's why public pledges to do so are important. According to Kennedy, we need big name dads and big name brands to take the lead here, and at Women Deliver, they're doing it.
Dove Men+Care and Promundo just launched the Paternity Leave Corporate Task Force, to bring companies together as leaders in changing the way paternity leave is perceived. Deloitte's signed on, and some big tech companies are about to.
Jope says "when men take paternity leave everybody wins. The economy wins, women win. Children win and actually, the guys themselves win. There's a very strong business case for getting men to take paternity leave."
Unilever has changed its own policies in order to give men leave and encourage them to take it.
Maternity leave should be a right. Paternity leave should be a right. And all parents should feel comfortable taking every second of the leave available to them.