Paternity Leave?

There’s a lot of controversy about the lack of maternity leave here in the US, let alone paternity leave.  But I wanted to chime in on my thoughts regarding paternity leave after a few radio hosts criticized Met’s baseball player Daniel Murphy.

I hear what the radio hosts are saying.  Men are unable to breastfeed.  Men aren’t physically pushing the child out.  Their roles, especially with this growing family, is to be the provider.  And that means going to work and earning money.  Fair enough.

But I believe that a lot of bonding happens at birth.  The new baby has finally entered the world and is experiencing all these new senses, of which is seeing, smelling, and touching.  It is a scary time for a baby who is suddenly in a new world, and it is looking to the parents as they explore these senses.  Many studies suggest that skin to skin contact is important for both mother and child in those early hours.  But I also want to add that I think it’s important for dad’s too!  This is such a special moment for both parents and new child, that missing it means they can never get that moment back.

Boomer Esiason’s comments most angered me.  He speaks as if Murphy’s livelihood is at stake; that if he doesn’t show up to Opening Day, his family will become homeless and starve.  It is a slap in the face to the men who are living pay check to pay check, and really do face this incredible dilemma when they have a child:  do I miss the birth of my child and miss a day’s worth of pay that means I can pay help the rent or buy food?  I’m sure Murphy has saved and invested his earnings from baseball.  And I’m sure missing a day or two of baseball will not end his career let alone cause this catastrophic downfall to the poor house.  Murphy is of the small privilege class who is able to take paternity leave, and receive no financial consequence (only negative local media).

This just speaks to our culture and our views of fathers in the lives of their children.  Is this why we see many deadbeat dads?  Is this why many mothers feel incredibly stress after a child, especially if they suffer from post-partum depression?  We as a country need to start valuing the roles of fathers, from day 1.  Not from the point when a dad needs to begin disciplining the child or when the child becomes less dependent on the mother.  A family is a two parent household, and involves more than just bringing home a pay check.  Fathers are important too, and it’s time that we need to make sure they know that.

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