Why so few dads take advantage of paternity leave

Gender stereotypes are alive and well. Unlike women, men don't earn praise for balancing child-rearing and work.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 13, 2013 1:05PM
Family © Big Cheese Photo, PictureQuestFather's Day, a time to celebrate and honor America's dads, is just a few days from now. But a report due out on Father's Day from the Society of Human Resource Management is a stark reminder of how far dads have to go in the workplace. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the society says about 15% of U.S. firms, including big names like Yahoo (YHOO), Bank of America (BAC) and Ernst & Young, offer some sort of leave for new fathers, yet few avail themselves of these benefits. The reason is simple: gender stereotyping.

When women put their children on an equal footing with their careers, they're lauded, but when men do it they're mocked. University of Oregon sociologist Scott Coltrane summed up the situation well when he told the paper: "Most employers still assume that work comes first for men, while women do all the child care."

The same assumption likely holds for most men and women in the workplace as well.

This isn't an issue about men not caring for their children because they do. It's just that they're not sure how to show it. Many seem to be worried about appearing less masculine if they take an active interest in their child's well-being. Even men who take paternity leave rarely use all of the time employers allow.

The tide, however, is starting to slowly change.

More dads are choosing to stay at home with their kids. The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 32% of fathers took care of their kids at least one day a week in 2010, up from 26% in 2002. An additional 20% were the primary caregivers of children under the age of 5, according to CNNMoney.

The U.S. birthrate rose in 2012 for the first time since 2005 in another sign of the country's economic rebound. Wages, though, have remained stagnant, which may lead more families to decide that it makes sense for dad to stay at home with kids.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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4Comments
Jun 14, 2013 1:30PM
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Like a woman, a Man can do whatever he wants. But thinking about it, I don't think any man would want to be stuck in the house with his wife like that. I just don't.  That would have to be unnerving.  And I don't think a woman would want to sit up in the house with her husband like that either.
Jun 13, 2013 5:10PM
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Personally and not to be mean or anything...

But for a Father or Husband to take more than a few days or maybe a week, to help Mom and Baby get settled....Kinda sounds a little woosey to me..

And many might just be using it for an excuse to get extra time off..

 

But then again, I'm from a couple Generations back, and might give a little perspective of my reasoning.

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