Paternity Leave in 2015

Earlier this year I took 12 weeks’ leave from my company, Toms Shoes, to help my wife, Heather, care for our newborn son, Summit. It’s an experience I wish every new dad could have, but I realize how lucky I am.

First off: I am not a parent. My wife and I do not have children, so we have not experienced what Toms Shoes CEO Blake Mycoskie experienced.

So, from a non-parent, but hopeful future-parent, here goes:

1. Family is Number One.

Growing up, my family was only 4 people: my parents, my sister, and me. As an adult, I happily married into a much larger family – basically, the complete opposite of family dynamics I was used to having. Both families now give me the much needed perspective of how important it is to keep family close to you.

Our puppy, Belle, at less than 3 months.
Our puppy, Belle, at less than 3 months.

In December, we welcomed Belle, a chocolate lab puppy, into our lives. She was only 7 weeks old at the time. Coincidently, my sister-in-law was also on leave with her new daughter. I remember both of us comiserating over our Facebook posts at 3AM. In our household, there were many restless nights, messy kennels, constant puppy barking, and plenty of cuddling. I think that sounds familiar for lots of parents.

But even with all of that love and newness, there was still something missing: time at home to bond and take care of the new puppy. I was very lucky to have an accommodating supervisor who allowed me to telecommute for 2-3 days and adjust my vacation time accordingly. That was a godsend for many reasons:

  • lowered my stress level,
  • exercised puppy,
  • trained the puppy, and
  • got work done at home.

Having a puppy (and now a new puppy again, recently), completely opened my eyes (and my mind/body) to the struggles of being welcoming parenthood to our lives.

Belle, the chocolate lab, waiting at the patio door.
Belle, the chocolate lab, waiting at the patio door.

2. Stay-at-Home-Dad

Why not?

My early professional career centered around women, literally. I worked with the Women’s Volleyball team at University of Northern Iowa. I interned with “To the Contrary,” a PBS program centering on women’s issues. I remember doing a story about stay-at-home dads, and telling my co-workers, “That would be the best job.”

Obviously, as I’ve grown up and seen my nephews and niece be born and grow, I realize there’s more to staying at home than what you see on television; it’s certainly not all roses. However, the impulse for more focus on family and family life continues to be there today.

Many anecdotal stories like that of Mycoskie, along with countless paternity leave studies from companies and Scandinavian countries alike show the incredible benefits paid paternity leave brings to both families and companies. [1][2][3]

Why not provide the opportunity for dads to have the same opportunity as women? Yes, this flips the normal argument, but it does beg the question: Why are men so important that they need to stay at work all the time? By not providing paid paternity leave, society continues to lessen the value of women in the professional world. [4]

Isn’t there more?

I’m certain there is a lot more to the argument for paid parental leave. But alas, I’m not a parent yet, nor am I familiar with the trials and tribulations that millions of new parents face every day. I hope that when I do get to face those obstacles, I can do so with my wife by my side, and with paid paternity leave giving our family the support we deserve.