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Opinion | No Paid Family Leave? That Hurts Dads, Too.

It’s not a fantasy that your colleagues might resent you for taking that time off. During the nadir of the Covid pandemic, when many schools were closed, some tech companies offered parents additional paid leave, and Daisuke Wakabayashi and Sheera Frenkel reported for The Times that there was significant backlash from employees without children, who felt they had to shoulder additional work without additional compensation. Writing for CNN, Jill Filipovic made the case that these kinds of policies indeed aren’t fair to child-free employees and that they can pit workers against each other when it’s really management’s responsibility to make sure work is equitably distributed.

Seema Jayachandran, an economics professor at Northwestern University, looked at studies from Norway, which has government-supported parental leave. According to a 2019 report from Statistics Norway, about 70 percent of men take the full amount of Norway’s “paternity quota.” Jayachandran argued that the only way men will not be punished for taking leave is if almost everybody does it. “The solution is not only to make paid paternity leave a legal mandate but to encourage it sufficiently that it becomes commonplace,” she wrote for The Times.

If workers know that they will be able to take time off if they need it, too, they may be less resentful about covering for their colleagues, and if the state is providing the benefit, then companies large and small can better afford to hire temporary fill-ins more easily.

The climate in our country is so toxic for parents that a few dads said they questioned whether they should have more children here (and we wonder why the birthrate continues to drop like a stone). Osterlund and Pemoulié ultimately left the jobs they had when their children were born. “I have come to the conclusion that the type of father I want to become is incongruent with a specific type of work,” Osterlund wrote.

And while I know it’s something of a cliché to invoke the Nordic social democracies during these conversations, one American dad, Cameron Thompson, 36, who wrote from Bergen, Norway, where he is about to embark on a fully paid paternity leave, said, “I don’t know if we would have had our second child without it.”

He said that he and his partner had their first child in the United States, that his partner took 12 weeks of unpaid leave and that she used vacation and disability for the family’s income. Thompson said his position was about to end, so he went on unemployment and took over primary care for their daughter from months 4 to 8 while they slowly ramped up day care for the baby. “During that time, our household finances were uncomfortably tight, and I had the added stress of searching for a new position, but we managed.”

Now the family lives in Norway, where Thompson is a Ph.D. fellow at the Institute of Marine Research. “After announcing that we were expecting another child, every discussion with my managers and supervisors was overwhelmingly positive,” he wrote. “These were all men 10 to 15 years older than myself with children, who had also taken paternity leave when they had children. There are options in Norway where you can take less time, but they fully encouraged me to take as much as I could. Family life and society’s responsibility to children is at the center of Norwegian culture, and if there is any stigma at all around parental leave, it is against those who would avoid taking it.”

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