“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox
When companies neglect certain benefits such as paid maternity and paternity leave, the family structure is affected. Despite public support and strong evidence of its mental and physical health benefits, the United States still remains one of six countries that do not mandate paid parental leave.
Some may say well there is FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) that provides up to 12 weeks of time off — but that time off is unpaid. Can you imagine using FMLA for any amount of weeks off unpaid?
Siblings still have school or have scheduled doctors appointments. Mom has to rest, the home still needs to be taken care of from laundry, dishes, trash, groceries and the new adjustment. It’s not just the body that needs rest, it’s the mind and spirit of the family that needs both parents, it’s not just on the mother.
Having the support of your partner for the first 4-8 weeks is crucial. Having a baby is stressful, first time parents face role changes, lifestyle adjustments as well as financial difficulties. If a baby or the mother has any health difficulties, things can take a drastic change. With rising costs and lack of daycares in certain areas, families are faced with many challenges, so why allow paid paternity or maternity leave to be another challenge?
During my husband and I’s first pregnancy back in 2016, both of the companies we worked for at the time did not offer maternity or paternity leave benefits. At the time I worked for a small company and the owner was gracious enough to pay me for 4 weeks’ time off and I received a payout from my Aflac policy. My husband was not so lucky as he was only able to take 5 business days off. This was a huge challenge, although a baby sleeps a lot for the first 16 weeks of life, Mom still needs care. For instance, after giving birth I had high blood pressure challenges for the first time in my life and it scared us.
Both parents being home helps to level the stress load. Mom doesn’t feel alone facing the challenges of their decision to start or add to their family alone. Siblings are not left in waiting as mom heals and “gets her life” after having a new baby. The ugly truths of pregnancy are scary and hard but there’s also beauty in the ashes. Through there’s pain and the suffering — beautiful fruit is brought forth, a new generation is born, humanity survives!
I asked a family friend and a family member of mine who both have had children within the past 5 years if their jobs offered paid paternity leave. One of my younger cousins whose family was stationed in Texas at the time of their first pregnancy, as her husband was enlisted in the Army, she worked as a nurse at a local medical center. They indicated that it is mandatory in the Army for fathers to take 4 weeks of time off. They experienced challenges at delivery during their first pregnancy as an emergency c-section was performed due to the babies heart rate drastically dropping. My cousin indicated that having her husband there with her was a lifeline and she felt empowered and safe as he made decisions when she couldn’t. Their expectations once they returned home with baby in hand was not without challenge, but they faced them together and said that they got into a flow and worked as a well oiled machine. Her husband indicated that he was just in awe that they had created a little being and he was overjoyed to be able to be home and hold and kiss his newborn. He wouldn’t have traded that time for all the money in the world, but was very grateful, even still to this day, that he did not have to worry about finances or losing his job while going through the new experience of being a new parent and being available to his wife and baby.
I was also able to ask my childhood best friend and her husband about their experience as new parents. She and her husband work in the banking industry and for the same company in Winston-Salem. At the time of their pregnancy she experienced gestational hypertension which caused her to have an emergency c-section and ultimately go through a premature birth. The company they work for offers 4 weeks paid paternity leave, however, her husband was already working from home. My friend indicated that her husband’s direct manager was an ally and values the importance of paternity and maternity leave and understood that adding a premature baby to the mix was a lot, they lessened his workload greatly so that he was able to be available to his family. He was able to still work and provide income for their family, but also provide his assistance to his growing family without the headache of worrying about finances.
Fathers want to be involved, they want to not just be financial support for the family but also want to be there and provide emotional as well as physical support to their partners. When more companies extend paid paternity leave they are not just helping to increase gender equality and reduce financial stress, but they are supporting the family structure as a whole.
Cassie Brenker is a wife, mother and friend. She is a freelance writer and has also worked in the customer service industry for 10 years. She is a strong believer in live and let live, and believes the world could benefit from a huge dose of kindness.