Many Men Are Afraid To Take Parental Leave Even Where It's Offered, New Survey Finds

Parental leave policies are slowly but surely improving in this country, even if federal laws on the subject are still pretty terrible, but it seems that making parental leave available isn't enough. According to a new survey, many men are afraid to take parental leave for fear it could cost them a job. Which is a problem, because what's the point of being technically allowed to take paid time off if you still don't feel that you can?

Parental leave in the United States is not great in the first place. In fact, the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world where there is no paid parental leave guaranteed under federal law, for men or women. However, some states and numerous companies do offer paid parental leave, often for both men and women. But it's one thing to offer it, and another to make people feel comfortable taking it.

According to a Deloitte survey of adults with employee benefits, "Fewer than half of the respondents feel their company fosters an environment in which men are comfortable taking parental leave." Even worse, one-third of respondents worry that taking parental leave would jeopardize their job. And 57 percent of men think that it would be seen as a sign that they weren't committed to their job. Moreover, while some of them may be paranoid, there's every chance many of them are right.

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So is parental leave just a lost cause then? No, but it does seem that policy is not enough to make paid parental leave truly accessible to all Americans. That means companies will have to do more than simply write it into their policy; they will have to operate on the assumption that many employees will take advantage of it, and that those employees are no less dedicated and valued for it.

We as a society will also have to get a lot better at normalizing the idea of dads being involved parents who take an active role in raising their kids. Fathers who want to bond with their babies and who want to be there to care for their children are not anomalies or behaving unnaturally. In fact, wanting to be a parent when you are a parent is a pretty natural impulse.

Unfortunately, since our society doesn't treat it as such, many men don't feel they can take time off to be with their families, as evidenced by the fact that men are more likely, in this survey, to say that they feel taking advantage of parental leave would be seen as lack of commitment to the job.

Having federally mandated paid parental leave for all parents is an important step, and may indeed go a long way towards normalizing the idea that parental leave is something men want as well, but clearly, making paid leave truly accessible to all parents also means changing the way we view gender roles when it comes to parenting.

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