Why fathers should take paid parental leave

Jenna Vassallo
Dec 20, 2023
Person bottle feeds a baby

According to The Wall Street Journal, the number of men who took parental leave tripled to an average of 76,500 in a 6-month period ending in February of 2023 compared to five years prior.

Being in the parental leave space, we also have anecdotal evidence that more men are taking leave:

Roughly 40% of employees who go through Parentaly’s coaching program are non-birthing parents, which indicates it's becoming more normal for fathers to take parental leave.

To dig into this topic a bit deeper, we asked Google’s Erez Levin - a parental leave coach and self-proclaimed “dadvocate” - to share his perspective on some of the “whys” behind dads taking parental leave.

Here are three key takeaways from our conversation.

Parental leave promotes gender equity

Extending parental leave to fathers is not just good for the child – it has a huge impact on gender equity in the workplace.

“When a dad takes his leave, it neutralizes some of what’s really the most damaging gender biases that we see impacting women in their careers,” Erez said. “If they’re equally likely to take their leave, and assuming after they take their leave, shoulder more of that responsibility for their family, that levels the playing field.”

This can help chip away at the motherhood penalty—where women’s careers stop progressing at the same rate as men. It also obviously helps the partnership at home, reducing gender roles and improving the dynamics between husband and wife.

To normalize it, more people have to take parental leave

Erez coaches new and expecting dads at Google once a week. Their sessions mostly deal with when to take leave, how to take it and whether to take it at the same time if they’re parenting with a partner.

Because of Google’s generous paid leave policy—18 weeks for non-birthing parents—most of the dads who come to Erez are planning to take their leave. Their sessions are more focused on how to structure this time to minimize work disruptions and maximize support of their partner.

This wasn’t always the norm, though. Erez recalls that although people were supportive when he first took his parental leave, they were still surprised.

Erez believes that it’ll take more dads taking their full leave to normalize it - and suggests finding out what other dads or leaders have taken their leave: ”If they have, you know you have a little bit of air cover.”

To split or not to split your paternity leave

Erez is generally a fan of fathers splitting their leave, especially for first-time dads. He recommends fathers take at least four weeks on their own to bond with—and figure out how to take care of—their baby alone.

He feels that this delivers the biggest benefits to not just dads and their children, but to moms and women in general because it helps men empathize with a little of what birthing partners experience postpartum.

“It’s really hard if you don’t split your leave to not let those gender roles persist,” he said.

As we learned from this episode, how an individual navigates parental leave doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all approach. What’s important is that all employees take the time in the first place.

Important note: This episode is informed by Erez's personal experience in a cisgender heterosexual two-parent household, but we recognize not all parents are in a husband/white partnership when welcoming a child.

Gender equity
Podcast recap
Work discussion

What else can men think about as they plan to take paid parental leave?

Listen to the full episode on The False Tradeoff!