Why Men Are Leading On Family Leave

After we finally made it through airport security, to fly with our kids for spring break, my wife turned and said: “Why can’t the U.S. create a TSA for childcare?”

She and I have traveled more than normal this year, so we have plenty of TSA experiences, most pretty good. We also developed opinions on the different TSA styles. Phoenix? Incredibly friendly and happy to help. Jacksonville? A bit crabby but fine. LaGuardia? Hyper-efficient through the new Delta terminal.

Regardless of their personalities, TSA agents all do an essential job – they get people through safely and on with their trip.

Not a bad motto for a broad All-American childcare system: get the kids through safely and on with their life. Even if some TSA-style caregivers might be friendly, crabby or hyper-efficient, there would still be a standard that would get the kid through.

Now the Easter Bunny didn’t bring enough candy to sugar me up so I would imagine such a system is coming soon. We’re still the standout among developed countries for having no national childcare – or desire to create one. But what the Bunny did bring was a heartening The Wall Street Journal story about the huge increase in men taking paternity leave.

As in up 183 percent from before the pandemic until now.

It’s not just fathers: “In the 12 months through February, a monthly 406,000 workers were absent on average due to paid or unpaid parental leave, up 13.5% from 2021, according to Labor Department data. The 478,000 working parents absent in January was the most since records began in 1994.”

This was one of my WHY NOWs for starting The Company of Dads. I suspected that work and parenting had changed in the lockdown and that companies would be slow to adapt. I knew that working dads like me and younger were going to want to be more involved after nearly two years of working from home and seeing their kids and spouses more. The Covid break from office work showed us that we could work productively from anywhere AND have more time with our children. There was no longer a ‘BUT’ – an either-or choice.

Increased paternity leave is a start. The story also quotes a Labor Department stat that said 25 percent of workers in March had access to leave versus 19 percent in 2019. So, there’s a long way to go.

Paternity leave is the tip of the iceberg for working parents. More men need to have access to it – and take it without fear of retribution. But then companies need to move beyond parental leave and add Care Days for when working moms and dads need to parent unexpectedly.

I hear the argument that it’s costly for small firms (though my wife gives paternity and maternity leave in her firm with 7 employees).

But companies like Justworks in the story are thinking longer term: “Ultimately, management deemed those costs a worthy investment in employee well-being.”