The image is a stylized, split-screen illustration. On the left, a man in a dark blue and goldenrod outfit strides forward against a peach background, his lower half merging with newspaper clippings that swirl around him, suggesting a busy connection to current events. Abstract cloud-like shapes in blue and white speckles float in the background. He wears a hat and a watch, indicating his awareness of time and schedule. On the right, a woman leans gently towards a crib in a room bathed in blue. She wears a dark blue dress and a yellow sleep mask pushed above her forehead. The crib has a mobile adorned with stars and crescent moons, evoking a peaceful night sky, which is mirrored in the window's panes transitioning from white to blue.

This is an odd article which seems to be simply making the point that paternity leave is a good thing, but that fathers should consider taking it right after their baby is born. In other words, syncing paternity and maternity leaves.

The context is the US, which as we know is a capitalist free-for-all. So perhaps, instead of having a bit of a go at men, for whom becoming a father for the first time is a huge shift (and one that is entirely psychological as we don’t physically give birth) perhaps think about the underlying economic reasons?

The situation in other places, such as Scandanavia isn’t mentioned in this article. Are men so different there? Or are the economic incentives for new families different?

For mothers, watching their partner unwind and enjoy leave often foreshadows the inequities yet to come, says Margaret Quinlan, professor of communication studies at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who studies how parenthood is presented in the media. Fathers who take paternity are more strategic about theirs since it’s not tied to physical recovery. Many opt to take it at any point within the first year of their child’s birth, which allows them to consider how the leave affects their career. “Men can pick to take it when it’s convenient for them or when it will benefit them the most. Some even take the time off in a way that won’t impact their [annual] bonus,” she adds.

The inconsistency of parental leave for fathers can worsen inequality and breed further resentment regarding a mother’s mental load. Most of the fathers also know their time in charge is temporary, she says. “It’s very functional,” she adds.

Part of the problem is that paternity leave still feels like it’s optional, and there’s often pushback from older colleagues who never took leave, says Kelly O’Connell, 38, who works in aerospace operations in San Diego. Though he took leave with both of his children, with the first child he was worried about being away from the office. He took his month off in pieces, an initial two weeks and two more separate weeks later in the year. In the end, it was difficult to feel fully responsible. “It took me a week to even separate from work,” he says. “I was way more stressed making sure work stuff got done.”

But even if it seems more carefree, fathers deserve to have this time which leads to more engaged parents in the long run. The better route may be to acknowledge the differences and bridge the gap between a stressful hectic early maternity leave and what, in comparison, can seem like a less stressful paternity leave, says Petts, the professor.

Source: The Guardian