With an open mind and two sides of the story, you’re bound to learn something new.
Welcome to the zoo! This is a blog where both the Republican and Democrat viewpoints are represented. The blog is not meant to sway you either way necessarily, just to present both sides of the story. You may not agree with the whole article, but hey, you’re likely to agree with half! The topic this week: paid paternity leave.
I am a feminist. I believe everyone is equal regardless of gender. New fathers should receive the same treatment as new mothers; paid paternity leave is crucial in the fight for true gender equality in our society. Fathers should be able to share the joy (and burden!) of child-care with their partners! Mothers tend to bond with their babies during maternity leave, when they are the primary caregivers. It is imperative that fathers also bond with their children for the success of each family as a whole.
Studies have found that fathers who take more than two weeks of paternity leave are likely to be more active in the child’s life after its first year. Paternity leave forms the role of responsibility for the father that he otherwise might never develop. Furthermore, a study conducted at the University of Oslo found that children whose fathers took paternity leave performed at a higher level at secondary school than children who missed that crucial time with their fathers.
The responsibility of taking care of a child should not belong solely to the mother. A study led by Stanford University professors found that 75% of women were asked in interviews what their future plans for children and marriage were (despite the illegality of that question). This implies that there is a stigma for women who want to have children; their employers believe that women are less valuable as employees because of the time they will want to spend with their babies after birth. Fifty-two percent of the women interviewed revealed that they returned to work before their maternity leave was complete because they were scared of the negative impact maternity leave could have on their careers. If men were given the same amount of parental leave as women, women would have less to fear about the security of their jobs.
Paid paternity leave will improve the economic situation of many low income families. Wealthy parents easily can hire someone to watch their new baby while they return to work. Poorer families, however, have to return to work to earn a living wage, leaving them with the onus of figuring out what to do with their newborn. Lastly, it is antiquated to assume that all families are composed of one mother and one father. All parents, regardless of the makeup of their family, should receive equal paid leave after having a child.
The United States does not have a mandated federal parental leave policy, leaving many parents in the unpleasant position of choosing between career and child. For the sake of equality in the US, paid leave for both parents should be law.
It would be fantastic if men shared the burden of childbirth, but the reality of the situation is that they do not. The mother deals with a nine-month long pregnancy and the pain of pushing the baby out on her own. Not the father. The mother is the one whose body changes in irreversible ways and whose breasts produce milk to feed the child. Not the father. When parents-to-be say “we” are pregnant they are merely trying to make the father feel included in something he actually puts very little energy into; scientifically speaking he only must input the energy it took to find his mate, make his sperm, and thrust a few times.
It makes sense for mothers to take time off to recover from the process of childbirth and find a system in which to take care of their child, such as if/how they are going to breastfeed. But fathers have no reason to receive paid paternity leave. They are not recovering from any major genital trauma nor dealing with cracking nipples. Moreover, equal paternal leave is unnecessary to establish equality of parenthood; it is not about who spends the early months with the child but rather about providing mutual support for one another and raising the child together. Each parent contributes different skills to parenthood. There is no evidence that forcing equal parental leave is better for children; parents with little interest in parenthood are unlikely to develop skills even if they are encouraged to stay at home.
I am not against fathers helping take care of their children. The individual couple can best decide how to divide childcare for themselves. But, either way, there is one indisputable fact: taking time off to take care of a child will negatively impact your career. This has been proven time and time again, for both men and women in various studies. I personally saw this effect when a panel of successful women came to speak at Cornell. Out of the four women, three of them had made some sacrifice in their family life to be successful in their field; in the case of the one other woman, her husband sacrificed his career to build the family. In this country, family is sacrifice and it is up to the individual to prioritize what they want in life. So, taking additional time off for a mother or any time off for a father is an individual choice and sacrifice, but not one deserving of compensation.
**I apologize for the heteronormativity of my stance. For any other combination of mothers/fathers/NGC individuals I believe the same mentality should still hold: time for the individual that just gave birth to recover, and any additional time off by either individual as an unpaid choice.
Rebecca Saber is a junior government major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She aspires to be Secretary of State, but is willing to settle for Supreme Court Justice. When she is not writing about politics, Rebecca can be found watching TV in her bed or at some musical theater rehearsal. Welcome to the Zoo appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. If you want to chat, Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Barlow is a junior biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences. When not debating politics, she can be found running half marathons, eating mashed potatoes, and teaching tree climbing for COE. Welcome to the Zoo appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. If you’re up for a chat, Katie can be reached at email@example.com.