paternity leave

surlygirl / flickr creative commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When I had my youngest daughter in 2012, I stayed home for 10 weeks before returning to work.

And when it was time to go back, I definitely wasn't ready to leave her.

The only thing that made it easier was that I had family who could watch my newborn baby, so I didn't have to worry about whether I could trust who she was with while I was gone.

I also counted myself lucky because I got paid – well, partially paid – for six of those weeks. And my husband was able to make up for my lost wages so I could take off another month.

user: bradbrundage / flickr

For the past four weeks, I haven't been much help to my coworkers here at State of Opportunity. I've been unresponsive to emails. I've contributed nothing to the website. I haven't turned in any stories for radio. I haven't even thought about it. And yet, crazy as it sounds, I've been paid the whole time. 

I wasn't on vacation. I was on paternity leave. My wife and I had our second child exactly one month ago today. Since then, I've provided absolutely nothing of value to my employer. And, even now, I'm only working part time. 

Paid paternity leave, beyond one or two weeks, is crazy-rare in the United States. While federal law requires employers to offer 12 weeks of leave to both mothers and fathers after the birth of a child, the law doesn't say that parents have to be paid for their time away. Some employers, and some state laws, make it so more mothers can be paid during an extended leave after the birth of a child.  Estimates are hard to come by, but some data seems to indicate that less than 10 percent of new fathers take more than a few weeks of leave when their children are born

In a country where paid maternity leave is far from a given, paid paternity leave seems like quite a luxury. But here are three reasons why it should be more common: