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Don't underestimate the way paid paternity leave benefits moms, babies *and* companies

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[Editors note: While this article is about fathers in heterosexual relationships, we extrapolate that the positive impacts described are consistent among same-sex and gender non-conforming relationships. This is based on research that has shown that children have similar outcomes no matter the gender of the parents raising them. Unfortunately, at this time there is a lack of research on non-traditional family structures—but things are changing, and we support the continuation of efforts that support all families.

We also acknowledge that single parents work exceptionally hard to ensure that their children have the best outcomes and that the absence of a father or partner does not automatically preclude children from healthy and happy lives. We stand behind all families.]

First-time dad Michael Pylyp describes new fatherhood as a "completely transcendent experience." When his daughter, Adrianna, was born 15 months ago it was the realization of a dream that was a long time coming. Holding her as she slept on his chest, Pylyp was grateful for something that too few American parents have: Parental leave. He got eight weeks of it.

It's something that was on his mind long before Adrianna was on his chest, and he's not alone. According to a recent survey by Indeed, 51% of future dads consider a company's paternity leave policy when considering job offers, and Pylyp was certainly thinking about that when he accepted his position as an Associate Brand Manager at Degree.

"Just having the ability to take time and knowing that it was something that was available to us was very comforting and reassuring," says Pylyp, who, like most dads today, wanted to be as much of a hands on father as possible. He didn't want the entire burden of childcare to fall on his wife's shoulders while she was recovering from giving birth.

Pylyp is hardly alone in this. As Motherly recently reported, a new report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo found that 85% of dads would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but there is so much stopping them and inadequate paid leave policies and attitudes are a huge factor.

Dads want to take leave, but it needs to be paid, unstigmatized, and can't come at the expense of their partner's leave. These are all things we need to be thinking about as America presses on in the fight for paid leave. Several states have moved forward with various paid family leave laws, but as a nation, the United States of America remains the only member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) without a national paid leave policy.

America's moms and babies need paid leave like yesterday, and American's fathers need it today if they're going to be the kind of men we need tomorrow. American employers will also benefit from paid leave because it is going to help them attract and keep women and men.

Here are five important ways leave for dads and partners makes moms, babies + companies stronger:

1. Paid leave for fathers improves moms' postpartum health

If we want to help moms stay healthy in the postpartum period we have to give them help. Having a partner at home to share in caring for the baby—and also care for mama—is proven to improve moms' mental and physical health.

A new study out of Stanford looked at what happened in Sweden in 2012 when laws changed so that both of a baby's parents could take their paid leave at the same time, and allowed dads to take up to 30 days of paid leave on an intermittent basis within a year after their child was born.

When researchers crunched the data they learned that moms are 14% less likely to be admitted to a hospital for birth-related issues within the first six months of childbirth.

This is huge.

Fewer cases of mastitis, fewer moms needing to see specialists, fewer moms on antibiotics and fewer moms suffering mental health issues. The researchers found that when dads took leave there was a 26% drop in anti-anxiety prescriptions during the first six months of motherhood.

"Our study underscores that the father's presence in the household shortly after childbirth can have important consequences for the new mother's physical and mental health," says study co-author Petra Persson, an assistant professor of economics.

According to Persson, most dads didn't even take the whole 30 days, but having the flexibility to take some time off when they were most needed at home made a world of difference for these families.

"The key here is that families are granted the flexibility to decide, on a day-to-day basis, exactly when to have the dad stay home," says Persson. "If, for example, the mom gets early symptoms of mastitis while breastfeeding, the dad can take one or two days off from work so that the mom can rest, which may avoid complications from the infection or the need for antibiotics."

Maternal mortality is a growing concern in the United States and 1 in 100 American moms are being readmitted to the hospital in the first 100 days after birth. We need support and our partners desperately want to provide it. Letting them could save lives.

2. There are so many benefits for babies when dads get paid leave 

The benefits of paternity leave for babies are substantial. Bonding with parents is crucial for a baby's brain development, and moms do need to sleep sometimes. When dads feel more engaged in fatherhood, infant mortality rates go down.

Fathers aren't babysitters, they're parents and their babies need them.

It is important for mothers to have support from a partner, friends or family in those early days and weeks of motherhood, but it's also important that dads aren't just seen as a stand-in for moms.

Studies suggest that skin-to-skin contact with dads can benefit babies immensely, and 8-week-old infants can tell the difference between mom and dad. As they grow, those babies are able to form strong attachments with two capable caregivers, and research has proven that when dads do things like change diapers, bathe and feed their babies, the infants are more socially responsive than infants who only get that kind of physical care from mom.

Simply put: Dads matter to babies' development and we have to stop acting like they don't. When dads have the chance to bond with their babies the babies learn to trust dad and the dads learn to trust themselves as caregivers.

3. Fathers who take paid leave are more likely to be involved in childcare years later

When dads take paternity leave there is a long-lasting impact on the division of unpaid labor among heterosexual couples.

Research shows that even short paternity leaves impact how much housework dads do years later. This link is super important for nations to take notice of, because right now no nation is on target to meet gender equality goals adopted by 193 United Nations member countries back in 2015.

Twenty-seven countries are outpacing America in efforts to meet that goal, but research suggests that if men just did 50 more minutes of care work a day, and women did 50 minutes less, we could get closer to gender equality because the burden of unpaid work would be more fairly distributed.

But right now, most men aren't doing those 50 minutes. Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey found than 60% of mothers say they handle most of the household chores and responsibilities themselves, with just 32% saying responsibilities are shared equally and just 5% say their partner does the household lift.

We know that millennial men want to be equal partners at home, but when they don't get to take parental leave, they don't gain confidence in care work and they don't see all the effort it takes. Studies show that when dads get paternity leave they're more aware of how hard it is to be a family manager, and they're more willing to help.

4. When fathers take paid leave moms get paid more

Paternity leave doesn't just help equalize unpaid work, it helps close the wage gap at our paid jobs, too. Data from the World Economic Forum suggests that countries with the best paternity leave policies are also the closest to achieving pay parity for women.

There's a lot of factors behind this. For one, when men also take parental leave, parental leave becomes less stigmatized and women are not seen as less committed than men. That's how it impacts us at work, but what happens at home closes the gap, too. A Swedish study found that for every month of paternity leave a mother's partner takes, her future income rises by 7%. Why? Because of the lasting impact paternity leave makes on the distribution of unpaid care work at home. When dads are free to learn how to care for children, mothers become free to earn more, and that's good for the whole family.

5. Paid leave for all parents will change work culture 

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to distribute work in a way that makes sense. Parental leave continues to be stigmatized in part because our society has very rigid ideas about how work should be structured, and it hurts parents (and non-parents, too).

Supporting and encourage parents of all genders to take parental leave won't just have a lasting impact on family dynamics but on workplace dynamics. The more men take parental leave, the more destigmatized leave and flexibility will become in the workplace and the more workplaces will respect responsibilities outside the office.

This will give employees more balanced lives, and allow employers to keep their employees.

It's true that moms are more likely than dads to make changes to their careers following the birth of a baby, but dads leave their jobs after babies, too. A new survey from Indeed finds 88% of dads say the way they view their career changes after the become a dad, and research suggests that new dad attrition is a bigger problem than employers realize. Even in male-dominated fields like STEM, nearly a quarter of new dads switch careers or cut their hours in an effort to find a more flexible, family-friendly way to work.

As paternity leave advocate Josh Levs, author of "All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses--And How We Can Fix It Together" tells Motherly, it is not surprising that fathers start looking for the exit in companies where family leave and flexibility aren't valued.

"All the stats and studies show that men want more time at home. It's true in America and it's true all over the world, but they can't get it. They are punished. It starts with paternity leave and continues all the way through the kid's life. If they need to take the kids to the doctor, or if they seek a flexible schedule, they are punished in the workplace," Levs explains.

But when everyone starts parental and family leave, companies and societies have to adjust, and the way we structure work changes. We know research shows that when companies encourage and support working parents to spend time with their families retention rates are higher, and we know that the current, "always-on" work culture that is prevalent in America is leading to employee burnout.

As Ellen Bravo, the co-director of Family Values @ Work tells Motherly, support for parental leave for all parents is going to help moms and dads not just when their babies are babies, but as they grow, too. Because when companies are forced to structure work in a way that allows for parental leave, it allows parents to leave work for big milestones, too.

She recalls how she was speaking with a group of OB-GYNs about flexibility at work when one of the doctors told her they had missed their own daughter's high school graduation because they were delivering a baby, and that doctor supposed that had it been Bravo's baby she would have wanted them to make the same call.

"I said 'I certainly want you to be able to be at your daughter graduation and I want a doctor when I deliver who knows me and cares about me, but we can do it differently,'" she recalls. "We can have a team of 2 or 3 doctors and they all know me and whoever's daughter isn't graduating from high school when I go into labor will show up."

According to Bravo, a collaborative approach to work will allow for family leave in infancy and family time for a lifetime.

"There are lots of companies that have figured this out and they have a more collaborative approach, It doesn't mean the client or the customer isn't cared about, it just means there isn't one person who is the repository of all the information about that customer," she explains.

Her philosophy is similar to Levs' who says "the truth is everyone has a whole life outside of work and we need our businesses to be aware of that."

He wants businesses to start measuring employees based on how much work they get done, not how many minutes they are sitting at a desk.

Bottom line: Fathers need flexibility and parental leave to be the fathers they want to be. It's time to make this change because it is good for dads, moms, babies and America.

When Michael Pylyp took paternity leave from his job at Degree, he took eight weeks in multiple two-week chunks over the course of a year because that was what worked best for his family. He inadvertently copied the Swedish flexibility model, and his family was healthier and less stressed because of it.

Pylyp tells Motherly he is grateful he got those eight weeks, because he had "the time, and frankly, the energy," to really bond with his daughter and support his partner. He learned how "emotionally and physically exhausting" stay-at-home parenting truly is. He has a better understanding of the challenges his partner faces and a close relationship with his baby girl. Every father in America should get that chance.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

Pink opened up about her family's fight against coronavirus late Friday, taking to Instagram to make a big announcement.

"Two weeks ago my three-year old son, Jameson, and I are were showing symptoms of COVID-19," Pink revealed, noting that she tested positive and has since recovered.

She continued: "My family was already sheltering at home and we continued to do so for the last two weeks following the instruction of our doctor. Just a few days ago we were re-tested and are now thankfully negative. It is an absolute travesty and failure of our government to not make testing more widely accessible. This illness is serious and real."

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After dealing with the virus on a personal level and recognizing her privilege in being able to access testing, Pink decided to donate $1 million to fight coronavirus and hopefully protect others.

"In an effort to support the healthcare professionals who are battling on the frontlines every day, I am donating $500,000 to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund in Philadelphia in honor of my mother, Judy Moore, who worked there for 18 years in the Cardiomyopathy and Heart Transplant Center. Additionally, I am donating $500,000 to the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund," she announced via Instagram.

Pink ended her update by thanking the brave healthcare workers on the front lines and reminding the rest of us to stay home.

For more information on COVID-19 and how it is impacting families, visit mother.ly/coronavirus.

News

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public. It's not a rule, he says, but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, tweeting, "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

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Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets

"So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances. Babies' faces should not be covered.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

News

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

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At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

News

As a mom of three and former social worker working for many years in the fields of adoption, Sara Ester of Sara Liz Photography knows firsthand the importance of family time. When she learned that families all over the country are self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak, she knew it was the perfect time to capitalize on moments of connections. Her mission was simple: promote family time to ease stress and promote happiness.

Liz reached out to dozens of families on social media asking if they would like to be photographed on their porch for a "Front Porch Session" and the responses were huge.

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Photo by: Sara Liz Photography

"Amid all the COVID-19 stuff going on I asked if families would be interested in a quick five-minute session on their front porches to document what a crazy experience it has been to be quarantined at home," Ester told Popsugar. "The people participating ran with it! So many families made funny or encouraging signs, showed up in their pajamas or yoga pants, and just really embraced the whole 'quarantine chic' idea. It was really reaffirming to see how everyone is in the same boat. We're all just trying to do the best we can with a crappy situation!"


Photo by: Sara Liz Photography

We're living in perilous times and it's nice to see families using the lockdown as an opportunity to bond. After all, it doesn't matter how big or small your house is, it's the love inside that counts.

Photo by: Sara Liz Photography


"Photography, specifically documentary photography is a big part of how I see and function in the world a lot of the time," Ester shared in an Instagram post. With everything being so overwhelming the last week or so, it has helped me to also keep in mind that what we are dealing with is historical."

News
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