Shortly before I went on parental leave, an acquaintance asked me about my plans for the “three-month vacation” awaiting me. After explaining that I was going to take care of a newborn child full-time for three months, my acquaintance responded, “Oh, good for you!” This interaction marked the first time I realized that many people do not take fathers as caregivers seriously.
One major cultural and economic challenge is instituting labor policies that reflect reality and work for American families, families in which women are an integral part and two-income households are common. In this new world, fathers are taking on roles that have not been traditionally ascribed to us, including caretaking and nurturing children, tasks women have mostly shouldered for far too long. However, to create a society where there is real gender equity it is necessary for men to contribute in child-rearing as co-parents with equal duties. Reaching this gender equality is hard when few people (and even fewer men) have access to paid family leave. It is even tougher when powerful interests, like the Chamber of Commerce, actively work against American families in the name of profit.
Earlier this year, in a leaked webinar, conservative pollster Frank Luntz instructed lobbyists for the Chamber of Commerce (one of the major lobbyists in Washington) to ignore the results of polling showing that the Chamber’s members favored policies like paid family leave. Chamber members look like the vast majority of Americans who, according to Public Religion Research Institute, favor paid family leave. Yet instead of listening to its members in the states, the Chamber has decided to double-down in their attacks on American workers. The Chamber has led efforts in opposing policies such as minimum-wage increases and paid sick days, pushing its anti-government agenda and harming the social and economic well-being of American families
Without access to paid leave, working mothers have little or no time to recover from the arduous task of giving birth and fathers have no chance to help them in their recovery by taking care of the children. A paid family leave policy that covers mothers and fathers will help families bond without the worry of losing wages or a job, creating stronger families and a stronger country. And promoting the participation of fathers will do much to remove the cultural barriers and stereotypes that, as the Make it Work Campaign shows, still plague those of us who want to redefine parenthood where the equality of parents as caregivers is the rule and not the exception.