5 Reasons Paid Family Leave Is Good For Everyone

by Holly Garcia
Originally Published: 

If there is one thing we all can agree on, raising and caring for a newborn takes a village. The conversation around paid family leave usually revolves around moms. I mean, of course, physically speaking, we’re doing the heavy lifting when it comes to our littles. From pregnancy to birthing and waking up every two hours, we’re spent. Especially if our partner doesn’t have the option to take paid family leave — then the onus really falls on the parent staying home. You know, because they only have to keep small people cared for, as opposed to being productive and interacting with other grown folks.

It’s not Dad’s fault that only 20 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave. No, Washington, that’s your fault.What’s worse, only about 8% of lower-wage workers (averaging less than $14 an hour) had access to leave. Let’s get one thing straight right now. Paid family leave is good for everyone. Some would even argue that it’s a legitimate human right (it’s me, I’m some). Well, it might not just be me.

According to NPR, out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a small handful do not have a national paid parental leave law. And in that small handful? Yes, the U.S. is on that list. In fact, Jody Heymann, director of World Policy, says, “The U.S. is the only high-income country that doesn’t mandate this leave, and overwhelmingly the rest of the world provides it.”

So why is that? There are a million different explanations as to why paid family leave in the U.S. isn’t the norm. But today, let’s talk about why it’s good for everyone.

Paid family leave strengthens families.

As we said before, paid family leave isn’t just great for moms but also for the entire family. The New York Times delved into how access to paternity leave can impact dad’s (or a secondary parent if there is one) brain And spoiler alert, there is nothing but good news.

Fathers who take leave are more likely to stay married.

Now, not every father is married to the mother of their children, but those who are, are 26% more likely to have their marriage last long-term. Not that we needed research to tell us this, but when both parents of a child have access to paid family leave, it opens the door to more equally spread the responsibility between the pair.

Children of fathers who took leave have closer relationships with their dads.

This study took a look at over 1,300 families relationships from birth through the following nine years. To no one’s shock or surprise, children had closer relationships with their dad when they were able to take some time off to stay home with them. There is plenty of scientific evidence to support how important attachment relationships are between baby and parent. And, a lot of this occurs during the first few months of life.

Parenting is a learned behavior.

Spending quality time with your littles is a game-changer. No, literally, it impacts and changes your brain. The quality and quantity of time you spend with your newborn changes your brain’s response to parenting situations. AKA, you can better keep your little happy and thriving. If you’re a parent that works outside of the house who doesn’t have access to paid family leave, you end up missing out on a lot of that time. Plus, the time you do spend with your new bundle of joy is tainted by distraction, or maybe the deeper connection isn’t made because you’re tired and stressed from working all day.

When partners take leave, mom’s mental health improved.

If you’ve ever been the primary parent on leave charged with feeding-changing-rocking-repeat, you know how hard it can be to go it alone. Not that you take a single moment for granted, but sometimes there are just days when the little minion refuses to sleep. Or maybe they’re super colicky, and even moving heaven and earth hasn’t done the trick. Having your partner (or the other parent) available for you to lean on makes a world of difference.

Postpartum depression is a very real thing that many moms face. One common-sense way to combat this is by not overtaxing moms’ bodies. Don’t forget, carrying and birthing a small human is no small feat. On top of that being primarily responsible to care for them as well is exhausting. As much as their partner might want to pick up the slack, there are only 24 hours in a day. And if both parents don’t have access to paid family leave, many people just can’t afford to take time off unpaid.

Secondary parents stepping up changes the postpartum experience.

Sweden did a thing (policy reform), resulting in more fathers taking paternity leave after their child’s birth. Stanford studied the results of the policy reform and found moms were 14% less likely to seek care for postpartum medical complications and 26% less likely to get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication when fathers took leave. It makes sense if you think about it. Again, with a partner home able to help the primary parent, there is more time for physical and mental recovery. As we said, raising a newborn takes a village.

Leave should be a right, especially in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

These five reasons that make the case for paid family leave as a right aren’t anything new. Many of them are simply common sense. More and more science and studies are being conducted supporting paid family leave. We can only hope companies and the government become so inundated with data they can’t continue to ignore it.

So employers, Washington, Mr. President, and everyone else who has decision-making authority, hear us loud and hear us now. If you want a booming economy, and a society with good humans who are empathetic, kind, and keep the world turning forward, give us the paid time off we need to raise the next generation.

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