Why Every New Father Should Consider Taking Parental Leave

Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he will take a 2-month paternity leave

Having a baby is a big deal. Whether you’re about to be a father or a mother, you’re already well aware of that. But because pregnancy and giving birth is so hard on a woman’s body, it only makes sense that she would be the one to take some time off work when the baby is born. She’s also the source of food for the baby if she’s breast feeding. That time with a newborn baby is a great chance for them to bond and develop a solid routine. Unfortunately that often means new fathers miss out on a lot in the first few months of their kids lives. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In Canada, all employers are required by law to allow a new mother to take between 17 and 52 weeks of maternity leave, and they must let her return to her same position and rate of pay when her leave is over. In addition, EI can offer parents a total of 35 weeks of leave at a rate of 55% of their normal weekly earnings. Mother and father can choose to split those 35 weeks between them in whatever way they see fit. In contrast, mothers in the U.S are only entitled to take 12 weeks unpaid leave, and some companies aren’t even required to hold a woman’s job for her if she does choose to return.

Quebec currently offers a parental leave specifically for new dads of up to five weeks and that can be taken alongside the mother, giving families the chance to adjust to their new life together.  Since the province started offering it, fathers taking advantage of paternity leave benefits has gone up to 80%. That means, a lot of fathers want to take time off to spend with their kids, and as long as it makes sense financially they’re willing to do it.

Women have known the struggle of putting their careers on hold to start a family for years. But when fathers are given the option of taking time off as well, it helps alleviate some of the pressure of having kids for both parents. Instead of one person being fully responsible for making money and the other being responsible for raising the kids, they’re able to share all responsibilities. No one should have to give up all one one thing to have the other, and that’s why parental benefits being available to both mothers and fathers are important.

In Canada, we’re lucky to have the option to take time off work to focus on our family. If you think about it, a few months away from work isn’t going to sidetrack your career all that much, if at all. Frankly, even if it did, it would probably be worth it to see some of your baby’s firsts that you would miss if you weren’t around. And you can always get your career back on track. You can’t get time with your kids back, because like everyone’s always saying, they grow up so fast.

A few weeks ago Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was going to take two months paternity leave when his daughter is born. Facebook also offers four months paid parental leave for a new mother or a new father, which is unusual for an American company. The fact is, policies on parental leave are changing because there have been plenty of studies that show spending quality time with a new baby is beneficial for both parents.

Every new father should consider taking advantage of the parental benefits offered here in Canada because a lot of new parents in the world don’t get the luxury of having the option at all. There’s no way you’ll regret taking some time off work to hang out with your kid now, because before you know it they’ll be a teenager and probably a lot less interested in spending any time with you. So you might as well do it now when they have no choice in the matter.

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