Exactly one month after his daughter was born, he took a leave from his job in order to care for her little one and allow her wife to rejoin her office. He would make the fitful baby sleep on his chest or on his lap by singing a lullaby to her. He would then learn to sit still and idle to avoid disturbing her peaceful sleep. He would prepare her meals and feed her at repeated intervals. He would change her nappies and clean her. He would then drive her each day to his wife’s workplace so that his wife could nurse her. Yes, it was he who would do this all as a great leap towards a change. He was Mark Zuckerberg, founder, and CEO of Facebook, who decided to take a leave of two months from his job in order to be at his home with his new daughter, Max.
Our traditional gendered roles associate men with a job of production in the public and women with the duty of reproduction in the private. This has further led to the establishment of increasingly erroneous views about women being seen only as mothers not as formal workers and men being treated as bread winners, not as fathers. There exists a split between the perception of the roles of fathers and mothers based on the gender difference when for the child both of them are addressed by a single term called parents regardless of the gender. Something more crucial is that both the parents are equally responsible for bringing a child into the world so there is no logic behind dividing the child’s needs as emotional ones to be fulfilled by mothers and financial ones to be fulfilled by fathers rather than an egalitarian division of all the tasks that cater to the child’s needs and desires. These reasons account for the need to challenge these gendered stereotypes about men’s and women’s roles in the construction of family. This requires a profound alteration from the grass root level which in this case is the birth of a baby in a family. Rather than typecasting women as more caring and compassionate and men as unemotional and undedicated, there is a need to revive these false claims as even psychological studies do not approve of any evident difference of emotions between men and women.
The stereotypical gender roles primarily exacerbate women’s lives who on one hand are being increasingly involved in the formal employment sector and on the other hand have to contend to a lion’s share of domestic responsibilities. A major chunk of these household chores involves childcare activities. This coerces women to take up dual working roles which prove to be increasingly stressful and nerve wrecking. This calls for a resolution right from the point of the arrival of a newborn. Rather than associating the childcare responsibility solely to the mothers and compelling them to take extended maternity leaves, there is a dire need for fathers to step in and prove their worth and expertise by sharing the responsibility of child care from the very first day and alleviating their partners. This primarily refers to the need of introduction and enforcement of policies such as paternal leave that support men’s involvement in child rearing because they will encourage the close involvement of fathers with their children which is highly beneficial for both the father and the child, pave way for women empowerment and stabilize the gender pay gap.
Fathers, under paternal leaves, not only get a respite from their interminable office hours but also are more likely to actively participate in child care tasks. This involvement gives fathers an equal chance of showing affinity to their children at this early age which usually their female partners are advantaged of. This strengthens the bond shared by the father and the child not only for the time being but also for later times as suggested by the analysis of the study of four rich countries, America, Australia, Britain and Denmark where an increase in frequency (not intensity) of fathers interacting and fondling with their children in later years was reported for those fathers who had taken paternal leaves earlier (“ The benefits of paternity leave”). This proves that paternity leave demonstrates its positive impacts even long after the span of leave had ended. This increased emotional attachment is possibly advantageous for the father and the child equally. The child’s cognitive abilities are greatly improved as a result of the early father –child interaction.
This is manifested by the findings of the study of the University of Oslo which justified it by claiming that those children whose fathers make use of the paternal leaves in order to spend time with their children performed exceptionally well at secondary school level and this was particularly true for daughters.(“The benefits of paternity leave”) So, paternal leaves aid the learning and thought the process of children which helps them to acquire a higher IQ later. Paternity leaves also benefit the fathers themselves by making them more responsible and less inclined towards drugs and related detrimental activities. This is further supported by the researchers at Ohio State University who carried out a study related in this area according to which the increased involvement of fathers with their children at an early age make the fathers resistant to stress, depression and other related psychological disorders and mental illnesses. They also tend to suffer less from substance abuse. In case of the children, their academic endeavors and social development is greatly improved. (“The true benefits of paternity leave”) These findings quite briefly summarise the innumerable benefits brought by paternal leaves for both, those who take these leaves and those for whom these leaves are taken.
As far as the relationship between mothers and paternal leaves is concerned, paternity leaves are a tool to empower women. Women empowerment is something that is already being increasingly heard of especially through a plethora of news that entails information about women stepping in every field of life. On the other hand, they also have to bear the full brunt of child care activities. In the practical world, this is not empowerment but is a barrier to empowerment. Holding mothers to be exclusively responsible for child care results in a downward gradient of women’s wages. The extended maternity leaves ensure a significant amount of time out of labor which deprives some women of quality experience at work and some of the opportunities for promotions. On a greater level, it sometimes convinces women to quit their job all of a sudden because their conscience generates scruples to ask them to do justice with their family by dedicating all their time to their family and household or otherwise it would be unfair. This point is justified by Sabatini and Crosby who claims that “Mothers are still more likely than fathers to reduce their work hours, modify their work schedules, and report feeling distracted on the job because of child care concerns (qtd. in Wade and Tavris, Psychology 463). This not only discloses the patterns of thought that women have but also implicitly states that even employers have a bias and prejudice against young women when it is time to chose employees because the selection of women seems risky for their companies’ continued progress and prosperity because of the possibility of interminable maternity leaves.
According to the report of a survey, 80 per cent managers would think twice before hiring newly married women in her twenties and would consider the incentive of employing men instead. (Johnston, “The parental rights that do no one a favor; Extending paternity leave will disadvantage both jobs–seekers and would–be employers”) Paternal leaves serve as a savior at this point by allowing women to pursue their careers without any unnecessary breaks because now men are available to shoulder more of the child care burden thereby, lessening the effects of discouraging women to gauge with their careers. In this way, the responsibility of child care is shared between the two partners efficiently as mentioned by Gerardo Meil that “with men taking longer leave, the share of leave taken by the two parents is more egalitarian, and the time during which fathers are solely responsible for childcare while their partners engage in paid work is likewise lengthened”( European Men’s Use of Parental Leave and Their Involvement in Child Care and Housework 558). Ensuring equal maternity and paternity leaves also convince employers to treat the two genders equally in the realm of employment. In this way, the idea of women being seen as a risk is avoided and men and women are viewed to be equally capable of a particular job.
Paternity leaves and related policies also combat the dilemma of gender inequality by promoting gender equality in the realms of both paid and unpaid work. It is worthwhile to cite Gerardo Meil here who states that “ the father’s quota in parental leave aims to shorten the duration of women’s leave thereby facilitating mothers’ entry into the labor market after child birth.” Taking time out in form of paternal leave does affect the father’s involvement in child care but also encourages his participation in housework as both types of unpaid work correlate. The rationale behind this argument is that while on paternal leaves fathers not just stick to playing with the children but this phenomenon goes beyond that as they have to carry out tasks that are not much distinct from ordinary quotidian housework as it involves preparing food and tidying up (European Men’s Use of Parental Leave and Their Involvement in Child Care and Housework 560). This promotes an egalitarian distribution of work inside the house as well as outside the house between the two partners. There exists a gender pay gap in the society. The gender pay gap refers to the comparison and contrast of the typical weekly, monthly or annual earnings of men and women. This gap primarily exploits the women who have wages that are absurdly low as compared to those of men. This has severe repercussions in the form of creating an environment of despair for the women who feel isolated and demoralized because of this extent of gender based inequality that is even revealed through paychecks. To support this notion Hewlitt, Luce, and Servon remark that “While the rising number of women entering the sciences is heartening news, many are not staying.
A study of nearly 2,500 women and men in science and technology found that although women made up 41 percent of the entry level jobs, more than half of them had left their jobs at the age of 35, and a fourth had abandoned science altogether. The women who lost their motivation to work in these fields reported the reason of being paid less than men for the same work and having working conditions that did not allow them to handle their family obligations” (qtd. in Wade and Tavris, Psychology 463). These findings entail that the situation aggravates for working women when they have children because of the concept of motherhood penalty and fathers, on the other hand, receive a fatherhood bonus. This implies that women’s economic position suffer due to prolonged maternity leaves as the gender pay gap widens because of their increased time out of the labor force. On the other hand, fatherhood actually serves as a boon for men in economic terms because many men are bestowed with a higher wage after having a child. Paternal leaves come to the rescue of the deprived at this point. The gender pay gap in the formal employment sector also gets positively influenced by such policies. According to the Swedish Institute for Labor Market Policy Evaluation, in a 2010 study, they found that “a mother’s future earnings increased 7% for every month that her partner took parental leave” (Alge “Wiping out the gender wage gap: How? Paternity (not maternity) leave”). So, paternal leaves can be seen as a route to decrease the gender pay gap.
This increased gender equality within the domains of house and work will also help children grow in those houses to perceive gender roles in terms of equality. This will contribute to long term impacts on the child’s behavior as the social setting which in this case is the house and the family plays a major role in determining the child’s mindset and behavior related to gender roles. While studying the impulses behind sexual coercion Lynden, White and Kadlec was right to mention that “The rapists were more likely to have grown up in violent houses and were more accepting of male violence” (qtd. in Wade and Tavris, Human Behavior 451). In this way, the gender equality which is seen as a product of paternity leaves in this case also help children in their ability to recognize gender roles and act according to them in the society.
However, child care can be seen as something attributed to the mothers solely because they are socially constructed as caregivers and men being naïve and inexperienced in this domain. An important point to remember is that this claim is somewhat self-contradictory because of the word constructed which means something learned step by step so when men will enter this domain they will also learn it gradually and master all skills to become effective caregivers as psychological studies do not account for any emotions being felt differently by the different genders. Archer and Deffenbacher clearly suggested that “There is little evidence that one sex feels any of the everyday emotions more often than the other, whether the emotion is anger, worry, embarrassment, anxiety, love or grief” (qtd. in Wade and Tavris, Psychology 407).
Moreover, the question of the financial feasibility study is a dilemma that can be encountered when policies such as paternal leaves are imposed. This means the assessment of financial aspects of equal maternal and paternal leaves. In simple words, this implies that what would be the economic effects of these leaves and if there are any detrimental impacts how would they be catered for. The solution lies in imposing the policy of paternal leaves by the state. When the state will intervene they will make necessary requirements for paid parental leaves in order to avoid any economic drawbacks by generating loans to companies etc. The companies could then formulate contracts for their employees such as those who would be granted these paid leaves would themselves work excessively either before or after the time of leave to compensate their absence and justify their pay during that period. The employees would be bound by law through signing contracts and would have to work extra hours to make up for their absence. Moreover, economists could come up with even better proposals to deal with the issue of practical feasibility.
Some people are of the view that people would make unfair use of the paternal leaves by absenting themselves from their workplace and falsely claiming to have become fathers recently just in order to enjoy a break from their jobs. However, the agreements that would allow these paternal leaves would include established and fixed criteria for people who will be eligible for these leaves that would include clauses such as child’s biological father, child’s mother’s husband or partner or child’s adopter, etc.
Thus, it is time to liberate mothers from the pressures of taking extended maternity leaves and free fathers from their gendered stereotypical roles gifted by the so called society by ensuring the entry of fathers into the domains of child care with the help of implementation of policies such as paternity leaves because increased socialization of fathers with their children make them emotionally more close which lays groundwork for greater dedication for subsequent child development and benefits the fathers and children equally, empowers women by removing any hindrances in the paths of their careers and ensure an egalitarian distribution of wealth in the job market between the two different genders.
- Jhonston, Philip. “LexisNexis® Academic.” LexisNexis® Academic & Library Solutions. Telegraph Group Ltd. Web. 24 Dec. 2016.
- Meil, Gerardo. “European Men’s Use of Parental Leave and Their Involvement in Child Care and Housework.” Dr. George Kurian, Sept.-Oct. 2013. Web.
- Meil, Gerardo. “Good News For Fathers” Dr. George Kurian, Sept.-Oct. 2013. Web.
- “The Benefits of Paternity Leave.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 14 May 2015. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
- Wade, Carole and Carol Tavris. Psychology 10 th ed. New Jersey : Prentice Hall, 2011.Print.
- Wade, Carole and Carol Tavris. Human Behavior 10 th ed. New Jersey : Prentice Hall, 2011.Print.
- “Wage Gap”-LexisNexis. Web. 05 Dec. 2016
- “Wiping out the Gender Wage Gap: How? Paternity (not Maternity) Leave.” – LexTalk. Web. 05 Dec. 2016
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