Dads are leveling up from what was expected of them in the past. Instead of handing out cigars in the waiting room, they’re right next to their wives at the hospital or in the tub with them during home births. They’re wearing their babies, they’re doing their hair, they’re parenting—not babysitting, ok?
That’s why it was so great to see Chance the Rapper announce he was postponing his #THEBIGDAY Tour until January 2020 so he could take paternity leave and be with his wife Kirsten Corley, and their two daughters, Kensli (4) and newborn Marli.
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“When Kensli was born,” Chance wrote in his Instagram caption, “I went on tour 2 weeks later and missed some of the most important milestones in her life, but more importantly I was absent when her mother needed me the most. At this point as a husband and father of two I realize that I can’t make that mistake again. I need to be as helpful and available as possible to my wife in these early months of raising Kensli and Marli.”
The comments were just as heartwarming with celebrities and fans alike congratulating the young father, saying “family over everything” and “family first,” and calling him a role model. One person applauded him for his “brave decision.”
While we applaud Chance for his decision, taking paternity leave shouldn’t be considered “brave” and moms shouldn’t be expected to be the sole care provider for their children in those early first weeks of life. But both of those things are the case because paternity leave in America is still considered a vacation for dads instead of what it is—a necessity for two-parent families.
“Only 9 percent of work sites in the United States offer paid paternity leave to all male employees, and 76 percent of fathers are back to work within a week after the birth or adoption of a child,” wrote Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder and Serena Williams’ husband, in an op-ed for The New York Times. (Alexis, who took 16 weeks paternity leave, is another husband and father applauded for taking leave and stating that parental leave is something “every dad deserves.”)
In MenCare’s 2019 State of the World’s Fathers report, 85% of men surveyed said they “would be willing to do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months of caring for their new child.” (The respondents were from America, the UK, Brazil, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Argentina, and Japan.)
In the same op-ed, Alexis points out that there’s a stigma placed on dads who take paternity leave.
“A recent study conducted by my friends at PL+US, a national paid-leave advocacy group, found that 84 percent of expectant fathers plan to take leave, but only half believe their employer supports them. Nearly a third of dads think that taking leave could negatively impact their career.”
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Instagram user Coco (@thenublkmother) said her husband felt this way: “With our first, she was born on Thursday, he was back on Monday,” she wrote to mater mea in an Instagram comment. “He had just started that job a few months before and didn’t have any time to take. Second child he took two weeks and that helped A LOT. I wish he took more but he was promoted and didn’t want that to affect him…even though he had more than enough time to take.”
Her husband took two months with their third child, which he cobbled together with his vacation and sick leave.
Another user shared her husband took the full four weeks his company offered, only to be “effectively punished for it by not receiving the same amount of bonus as everyone else.”
This expectation that mothers will stay with their children during those early months puts undue physical and emotional pressure on moms, and contributes to the wage gap and glass ceilings many women face when trying to move up the corporate ladder. It sets up an unfair advantage for fathers who get right back into work, and penalizes women for doing what fathers like Chance are applauded for doing: putting “family first.”
Leaving a mom by herself to do the lion’s share of parenting is just plain old wrong. Consider that most births in America are C-sections. Those major surgeries require at least 6 weeks of recovery—much more than the two weeks most fathers get.
Consider that stress and a lack of support are the last thing a mom who has postpartum depression needs. (“While 20 percent of women display symptoms of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD), like anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, the figure climbs to 44 percent for Black women, compared to 31 percent for white women,” according to an article on Black women and postpartum in Medium Health.)
Most importantly, consider that fathers are parents too, and should be present in their children’s lives. They should have the opportunity to bond, to learn the ins and outs of taking care of their children, of not having to feel like they don’t know what they’re doing or like they need to defer to their partner because she spends the most time with the baby.
Companies should provide an equal amount of paid parental leave to fathers and mothers, and fathers should feel empowered to make that choice for their families.
You shouldn’t have to be rich and famous to be able to take paternity leave. You shouldn’t have to be afraid of being penalized for being with your family during such a precious time.
Hopefully, now that more fathers are saying “I’m taking paternity leave,” the tides will begin to change.