Having a seriously ill child is among the most difficult things a parent can experience. What one psychologist has learned about supporting families through her work with young cancer patients.
Guest Host: Lisa Desjardins
More than ever before, many dads, especially millennials, want to equally share parenting responsibilities with spouses. Some workplaces now allow new fathers to take as much paid leave as new mothers, but not all take it. And some companies offer other benefits that encourage fathers to take care of their kids. Guest host Lisa Desjardins and a panel of guests discuss how fatherhood today is different than for previous generations and what that means for families, workplaces and society.
- Brad Harrington Research professor and executive director, Center for Work and Family, Boston College
- Josh Levs Author: "All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses - And How We Can Fix It Together;" former reporter for CNN and NPR
- Brigid Schulte Director of the Better Life Lab program and The Good Life Initiative at New America; author, "Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time"
- Karyn Twaronite Global diversity and inclusiveness officer, Ernst & Young LLP
Video: Josh Levs On Fatherhood, Gender Equality
Josh Levs’ opening remarks March 16 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, speaking at the Women’s Empowerment Principles event. Levs discusses gender equality, myths about fathers, and his book on the subject, “All In.”
Blog: For Father’s Day, The Truth About Dads
Dads are the most misunderstood members of the modern American family. And the misconceptions don't just hurt men. They also hurt women, and the entire cause of gender equality.
MS. LISA DESJARDINSThanks for joining us. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS NewsHour sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is off today. Many companies from Netflix to Ernst and Young are expanding their parental leave policies to enable fathers to play a more active role in their children's lives. With me in the studio to talk about the new roles and expectations for fathers at home and in the workplace are Brigid Schulte with the Better Life Lab at New America.
MS. LISA DESJARDINSAnd joining us from WGBH studios in Boston is Brad Harrington with the Center for Work and Family at Boston College. Joining us from a studio in Atlanta, Georgia, author and journalist Josh Levs. Thanks you all of you for joining us. And we really want to take your calls this hours. As Father's Day approaches, I'm sure many people have this sort of subject on their mind, but tell us what you think about fatherhood today.
MS. LISA DESJARDINSThe number is 1-800-433-8850. Or you can email us at email@example.com. Our website, www.drshow.org. I think I'm tripping over my words because this is such an important topic and I'm very excited to talk to all of you about it.
MR. BRAD HARRINGTONWe are, too.
DESJARDINSBrad, I want to start with you at the Center for Work and Family. You just came out with a new poll about millennial fathers, basically 20-something and 30-something fathers. Tell us what you've learned from that.
HARRINGTONWell, one of things we learned is fathers are a lot happier than their single counterparts, contrary to popular belief. When we looked at the responses of the dads in the study and compared them to single fatherless -- or childless men, the life satisfaction right across the boards was much, much higher for dads. The second thing kind of quickly we learned is that moms and dads aren't so different. There are differences and men have a more of a tendency to accentuate as their top priority around the workplace to be career advancement.
HARRINGTONWhere women rate as their top priority work/life balance. But if you look at the five criteria that both moms and dads rate most importantly, they're the exact same criteria. And two of the five things that score in their tops are work/life balance and time with family. So this is a very important thing for this generation. And then, the third thing we looked at, and I can do into this in more detail later, is how the dads feel about their role in care-giving. And even in a study we did in 2011, one of the things we explored with dads is when you look at sharing care-giving with your partner, how do you think care-giving should be divided and then how is care-giving divided at present.
HARRINGTONAnd this was true in 2011 and it's true in 2015 with the millennial study for dads, about two-thirds of the fathers said care-giving should be divided 50/50 and only about 30 percent said it is divided 50/50 and that 30 percent, obviously, said my wife does more care-giving than I do. So one of the reasons we've talked over the years about dads feeling conflicted or there being a paradox for fathers is that I think there is a difference between fathers' aspirations to be an equal partner, equal parent, equal in the care-giving process and their ability to do so.
DESJARDINSTwo-thirds of young dads feel that care-giving should be 50/50, but only half of those actually achieve that. Josh Levs, I think you're one of those dads in the situation where you believe care-giving should be 50/50. And full disclosure, you and I work together at CNN and I was aware of your effort than when you had your third child and you wanted paternity leave. Can you take us through what happened, the amount of paternity leave you were able to get and what sort of drove you to be, I guess, a fatherhood activist?
MR. JOSH LEVSAbsolutely, yeah. And it's great to be here. And I'll tell you both of our other guests are in my book, which is terrific. So we're all one big happy family here. In fact, we're just one of the big endorsers on the back cover you'll see. So, look, I mean, what's happening in America is that there has been a fatherhood revolution. It is a different story being a dad today from what it used to be. However, our laws and policies and stigmas have not caught up. So today's dads want to be just as involved in our kids' lives as today's moms want to be.
MR. JOSH LEVSAnd this is true in so many studies and it's just also factual, in my experience, and that of many people. Unfortunately, we are up against backwards structures in laws, policies and stigmas. And I faced one of those. And, I mean, you know I was a fact-checker at CNN and I was covering fatherhood and then there was this big switcheroo when I suddenly became the dad in the news because of this case. So what happened there was that we already had two sons. My wife was pregnant with our daughter and we realized that after she was born, I would be needed at home to do some care-giving.
MR. JOSH LEVSNow, that is totally normal. There's nothing weird about it. Dads do care-giving these days. Unfortunately, companies haven't kept up. So the policy I was under at CNN, it was very strange, but unfortunately, there's a lot of them like that. Anyone could get ten paid weeks to care for their new child, except a man who had his baby the old fashioned way. So if I gave up my daughter for adoption and some other guy I worked with adopted her, he could get ten paid weeks. Or if I had a same-sex domestic partner who adopted a baby and I didn't adopt his baby, I could get ten paid weeks to take care of his baby. There were all these situations so if -- anybody but me.
DESJARDINSSo basically, a mother who had given birth or a family who had adopted could get ten weeks.
LEVSAnd in surrogacy.
DESJARDINSAnd then, but fathers who were taking care of their natural child could only get six weeks.
LEVSRight. We couldn't possibly be -- no, two weeks. It was two weeks at that point. And then...
DESJARDINSOh, two weeks. I'm sorry. That's right. And I know in the end, you were able to change that policy. And I believe you deserve some of the credit for that anyway. But I want to talk to you about what do you see in other work places. I mean, is this -- where are we now? Is that a revolution or are we still behind in how workplaces treat leave for fatherhood?
LEVSWe're very far behind. And this is what's happening is that we inherited this. All of these structures are lost in our policies. They were created factually in the "Mad Men" era. As a nation, we were coming out of the war. We were building this new economy and it was all built on this very gendered idea. Woman had baby at home. Man at work. And so, to this day, workplaces still have policies in place that make it much harder for men to be caregivers. That's also why we have no paid maternity leave in America.
LEVSWe're the only developed nation that's like that. But the thinking behind it is, she's a woman. Who needs her money? The man should go make all the money. So of these backwards structures come from this basic sexism that is at the root and that's what I explore in my book, "All In."
DESJARDINSBrigid Schulte, what do we know about state laws and U.S. law when it comes to paternity leave? There's been increasing discussion about maternity leave, that the United States lags way behind other countries. But what do we know about states in the United States and other nations when it comes to paternity leave?
MS. BRIGID SCHULTEWell, the United States lags behind the rest of the world in everything, in maternity leave, paid paternity leave, paid maternity leave...
DESJARDINSAll family leave.
SCHULTE…all family leave. What the United States -- the World Bank just recently came out with a report. They studied over 170 countries and the United States was one of four that didn't have a paid family leave program. It was Tonga, Surinam, Papua New Guinea and the United States. So we're on a, you know, kind of a crazy list. When it comes to paternity leave, a lot of countries, they've begun to require it more. There are some that have some really innovative policies. They have daddy quotas because what they realized is that they gave mothers a long maternity leaves initially and then that ended up reinforcing traditional gender roles.
SCHULTEWhen I was reporting for my book "Overwhelmed," in Denmark, a woman there said, yeah, we've figured out how to help women have jobs. We haven't helped them figure out how to have careers because if you give mothers long maternity leave, no employer's really going to want to hire them, promote them, retain them, you know, if they're going to be gone for so many years in and out. So what they've done is they have equalized paid leave so they've made it normal for men and women to care.
SCHULTEAnd what they've seen, which is fascinating, is that there's much more equality in care-giving. You've got a country like Iceland where three years after men and women take paid leave, they're -- 70 percent of the couples are equally sharing childcare. That's a sea change. Here in the United States, mothers are still doing at least two times, sometimes three times as much care-giving if you look at the time diary data. In our states -- one of the things that we've done well in the United States is we do have an unpaid leave, a family medical leave act.
SCHULTEAnd the good, you know, while it's not good that it's unpaid because a lot of people are not able to actually use it, what is good is that it's gender neutral. It's for men and women. It's for caring for young children. It's caring for elders or caring for yourself or sick relatives. And so many states have built on that. You've got four states now with their own state paid family leave programs. They are all gender neutral, which is a really important thing.
LEVSLisa, can I jump -- oh, I'm sorry.
DESJARDINSOh, yeah, sure, go ahead. Josh Levs, actually, I know in your book, you talk about how we may have brought women into the workplace, but we haven't, on the other hand, looked at how to equalize things at home. Can you talk about what this idea of fathers and care-giving what that could do for women in their careers?
LEVSSure, absolutely. So, you know, the good news is what all three of us are here able to tell you is that when you fix these structures, it's good news for everybody. It is better business. It's better for the economy. And this is proven. So the states that have paid family leave that are gender neutral, businesses are doing better. Profits are up. And this totally makes sense because businesses do best when they have the best minds in the right jobs. Women are half the people so guess what, half the time, women are going to be the best minds for the job.
LEVSSo a gendered system that pushes women, in general, to stay home is bad for business. But the other part of this that's so crucial to understand is that while we need to fix the laws and the policies, the biggest factor are the stigmas and these are global. There are tremendous stigmas against men as care-givers and we see those in the United States, but also around the world. So all over the world, the overwhelming majority of available maternity leave goes unused.
LEVSCanada has a much better policy than we do, but most of that goes unused. What the fatherhood quota nations in Northern Europe did was something very important. What they did is they made a big block of time in which it's not a choice. It's not like the mom can choose or the dad can choose it. But instead, a big block of time only available to dads and that reversed the stigma 'cause you look like an idiot for turning down a lot of time to go take for your kind when your wife doesn't have the choice of being the one to take it.
LEVSSo conquering -- and these stigmas show up in different ways, in different cultures. There are some cultures in which men are seen as being bewitched by their wives if they're -- if it comes out that they're care-giving. So conquering the stigmas is as important as conquering the policies and laws.
DESJARDINSListeners, what stigmas do you see for fathers in your life? Who brought you up and who does the care-giving in your home? Call us, 1-800-433-8850, or email us at drshow@wamu. I'm Lisa Desjardins. We're going to take a quick break, but join us right after.
DESJARDINSAnd welcome back. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour, in for Diane Rehm. And we're talking about fathers and modern fatherhood in America right now. The issue of whether dads get enough time to be with their kids is not just a personal one but, my guests say, a business and office place one. I want to go to Brad Harrington with Boston College. Brad, do we know on average, how many weeks of paternity do fathers actually take in America right now.
HARRINGTONI don't know across the boards. The last time we looked at this issue, and let me just say that was in 2011, and a lot has changed. Josh is right that things aren't great, but things are definitely improving. So in 2011 when we asked 1,000 fathers how much time did you take off following the birth of your last child, we had 76 percent took a week off or less, 96 percent two weeks off or less and 15 or 16 percent said no time at all.
HARRINGTONBut that was before we've started to see this growing momentum behind paid paternity leave. And I know we're going to probably talk to a company representative who's been progressive in that area. But in -- we published a report in 2014 about dads and about paternity leave specifically, and we really got a lot of strong feedback from fathers about the importance of paternity leave and how much they valued it and how much if they look for another job they would look for that as a benefit.
HARRINGTONAnd when we published that report, there was a lot of companies who expressed interest in it, and we've seen a lot of companies really step forward, as both Brigid and Josh talked about, with these gender-neutral policies. I remember a year ago, Johnson & Johnson stepped up and said we're going to add eight weeks of paid leave for both moms and dads, and most recently EY just about a month ago said that they were going to add 16 weeks of paid time off for both moms and dads.
HARRINGTONAnd so I can tell you from the research we did on paternity leave, if fathers get paid for it, they'll take it. There's sort of a conventional wisdom that, well, you can give fathers leave, but they're not going to take it. But in -- our research would not support that point of view. When we asked fathers how much time did you take off following the birth of your last child, where there was paid leave involved, they took as much time as they were offered, for the most part.
HARRINGTONSo I think it's been limited in the past, but we're seeing a groundswell of companies that are beginning to offer much more of it now, and the sense we get from fathers is, you know, as the stigmas diminish, and as more men are really doing a better job of shared care-giving, the sense we get it fathers will take the amount of time they're given.
DESJARDINSWe are going to come back to that idea of where the stigma comes from, but I want to first read an email from Laura in Oberlin, Ohio. She writes, my brother is an active-duty Marine stationed in North Carolina on base. When his wife gave birth, the Marines gave him paid leave so he could be home with his wife and new son for a few weeks. I thought that was very forward-thinking of the Marines and was proud of my brother for electing to take it and help his wife with their new son.
DESJARDINSThat's exactly what Brad was just talking about, but it's not just the military, it's also companies across America, including Ernst & Young, and joining us by phone is Karyn Twaronite. She's a global diversity and inclusiveness officer at Ernst & Young. Karyn, tell me what your company is doing right now in terms of leave for fathers.
MS. KARYN TWARONITEHi Lisa, it's nice to be with you. We're really focused on both of our moms and our dads here at EY, and we're looking to be as modern and progressive as possible. So we recently changed our programs and enhanced them further, as Brad had mentioned, that beginning July 1, all new EY mothers and fathers in the U.S. will be eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave, and that's for birth and for adoption, and that's for moms and for dads.
MS. KARYN TWARONITESo that's a really important point for us. We want to equalize, and we knew that it would be very important not only for families as they're welcoming their children, but also it's really good for us from a business perspective, as well.
DESJARDINSKaryn, tell me, it's 16 weeks now, up to 16 weeks. What was it previously?
TWARONITEYes, and I'm glad you asked because we've been at this game a long time, I will tell you. In 2002 we were -- we were new into this, and we had offered new dads two weeks. And then in 2012 we had offered up to six weeks of paid parental leave for primary care dads. So we moved for dads from six to up to 16. So we added an additional 10 weeks to the equation to equalize it for moms and for dads.
DESJARDINSYou said this is a good business decision. I know that goes against the grain of what some in Washington might think. They say surely this is going to cost you more, you're paying people who are not at work, sometimes you have to pay for others to fill in for them. Can you talk about how you see that as beneficial for your bottom line?
TWARONITESure, and we actually looked at a few pieces, Lisa, to make it -- to make the decision that this business case was worthwhile to us. And I'll be honest with you, it's an investment, and -- but we're choosing to make this investment over others, and we think it's really important. So first and foremost, it's from listening to our people. we knew that from the men and work here at EY that they want -- that traditional roles are changing, and many -- they work very hard, but they also need to be able to take care of important, meaningful things outside of work, and they want to parent and co-parent differently, and time with their families at key transition points is incredibly important to them.
TWARONITESecondly, we also know from our people that our working parents in the United States are our most engaged employees. So that's very good for client service, it's very good for teams, it's very good for our top line and bottom line. But there's also some research, Lisa, to share with you, which helped to further validate our business case. The first was we did some global generations research last year, at the end of last year, and we found in the study that not only was flexibility and time off for parenting incredibly important for both men and women, and in fact men even more than women, but our study also showed a really disturbing fact, that 38 percent of U.S. millennials, and those are individuals under 34, would actually move to another country outside of the United States with better paid parental leave benefits if they were not -- if there were better offerings in another state and another country.
TWARONITEThat is a really big deal to us from an employee retention and turnover perspective. And the last piece of data and research, which we found to be incredibly important, is the Peterson Institute of Economics recently did a study that we supported, which talked about the importance of paid parental leave, and particularly leave for dads, being a pipeline builder for women. So not only is this important for men and their pipeline building, but it's also a benefactor for women in building the pipeline.
TWARONITESo we knew that we wanted to be as family-friendly and as modern as we could be, and so for us, transitioning our programs up to 16 weeks was a great step forward as being as family-friendly and modern as possible.
DESJARDINSKaryn Twaronite with Ernst & Young, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it. And we're going to go to the phones now and to a call from Washington, D.C. Pullen, you're on the line. What are your thoughts?
PULLENHey, how are you? Thank you so much for having me on. Actually I -- my wife and I are having our first child this November.
PULLENThank you very much, thank you, and we are fortunate enough that I work at Change.org where our parental leave policy grants me 18 weeks of paid leave as a father. And I think that, you know, a few years ago when they announced that, I wasn't really sure if it would be relevant to me. Now that I'm in the situation, I can definitely appreciate it not only because I know that I'll have that much more time to spend with my child, but also unfortunately my wife doesn't have those sorts of benefits. She will have to sort of cobble together her vacation time and sick time and some unpaid time.
PULLENAnd I think for me to be able to have this policy is really good news, of course for my wife's career. For her to be able to feel like she can focus when she is at work on what she needs to do is great for the child. And I also just really like the fact that, you know, when we're talking about equality, it is -- it's good to have examples of men, you know, as one of the guests had said, you know, when fathers have these options, they will take them, and I think it's good the more that we can have men in these positions talking about how great the experience is, how much they value it, what they do with the time.
PULLENAnd I think as you do that, you have a better example, and I know other, other staff who I work with, who are fathers, really appreciate the policy, as well. And, like, I can't tell you how many people I have talked to about this policy, whose jaws just literally dropped when I tell them that as the father, I was getting 18 weeks of paid leave, and...
DESJARDINSFour months, yeah.
PULLENAnd they know that it's no vacation, you know, that it's serious work, and I'm very happy to help be part of this newer -- I don't want to say trend but this newer movement to grow equal parental leave, and I'm really excited to see what happens.
DESJARDINSPullen, thank you for your call. One theme that we've had throughout this is sort of stigmas and why is it that we have a situation where 18 weeks of father -- leave for a father is extraordinary, as we heard from our just caller. Brigid, can you talk to the issue of where these stigmas come from, and I'm going to ask a question that a traditionalist might have. Isn't there something to biology here? Doesn't a mother often breastfeed the child? Isn't there some kind of physical need that a mother has that a father might not, or is that a stigma that we shouldn't pay attention to?
SCHULTESure, well, there's two things I'd like to say, and, you know, one is, you know, looking at these incredible progressive policies at change.org and at EY, I think it's really important for listeners to understand that is a really small minority of workers who actually have access to that kind of paid leave from their employers. Right now in the United States, if you want to offer paid leave, it's completely voluntary. And so the Bureau of Labor Statistics, its most recent report is that 13 percent of all workers, of civilian workers in the United States, have access to some form of paid family leave. For low-wage workers, it's five percent.
SCHULTESo that I think it's really important, while we're hearing these great stories, to understand that they tend to be elite workers, and it's also a very small portion of workers out there. So, you know, setting that table, I think it's important, but you would ask about -- you asked about biology. I do think that that is where a lot of the stigma comes from. You know, when you hear traditionalists talk about, well, this is just the role, it's just natural, you know, there's the maternal instinct, and mothers are -- you know, they breastfeed, they take care of things.
DESJARDINSThey're the nurturers. We hear that.
SCHULTEThey're the nurturers. And you look at the animal world. This is sort of where a lot of our assumptions come from. In the mammal world only five percent of male mammals actually are active caregivers. But what's really fascinating is that there's just beginning to be more research into this and that what they're finding is that men are just as capable and just as wired for nurture when you give them time.
SCHULTEThat -- there's fascinating research being done, Kelly Lambert does it in her lab, that when you take, say, a type of rodent that doesn't typically -- she calls them drive-by parents, you know, that the guy, they copulate, and off they go, and they're not involved in care-giving at all. When you physically put them with a pup, they -- their brains literally change, and the nurturing structures start to emerge.
SCHULTEAnd so it's really what's critical is giving men time, and that actually biologically, physically changes things.
DESJARDINSI'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS News Hour. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And let's go to Josh Levs. We just talked about the biological connection, what's happening with biology and the way we look at fathers or the way we have. Josh, let's go to the other end of the spectrum with you and talk about pop culture, maybe the dead opposite of biology. You have a theory about pop culture and the role it plays, the images on TV and kind of what's happening in American society right now with fathers.
LEVSSure, sure yeah, and it's not just my theory. You know, there's a lot of people who believe this and who have tracked this, and it's something I reported on at CNN, and it's in the book. So here's what's happening. We spent decades with this onslaught of images on TV ads, on TV shows, of dads as clueless, incapable buffoons, can't handle changing a diaper, get grossed out by it, and again this comes from the "Mad Men" era, in which we were told, no, men are supposed to stay at work, women are supposed to stay at home.
LEVSSo of course when a guy suddenly found himself, like, needing to change a diaper in that era, he might have had no clue how to do it, and that was funny. The fact is times have changed tremendously. Dads can do absolutely everything women can do except breastfeed, and guess what, many families supplement or use formula, so dads can do feedings, too. But having pop culture images, positive images, that reflect the reality of today's dads as three-dimensional, as capable, is absolutely essential. We need kids to be seeing that, and full disclosure, I'm currently partnering with (word?) Plus Care on this awesome new video that's just a stream of videos of real dads who are celebrating being dads with their kids, dads as heroes.
LEVSBut I write in the book about the -- a man who's changing television, about how some of these movies need to change, as well. The more that we show kids that it is absolutely possible for a man to be care-giving, we're conquering not only the stigmas that affect parents, but we are conquering the backward masculinity stereotypes that lead to all sorts of problems in this country, that lead to, you know, male suicide, that leads to men turning to drugs and violence, that leads to so many problems. These backward visions of masculinity are a huge problem at the core of our culture.
LEVSAnd when we instead celebrate images of men as care-giving fathers, we are doing so much to counteract that.
DESJARDINSAnd, you know, when we have a guest who's written a book, it's usually appropriate to mention the book, but I want to do more than that. Your book really has a tremendous amount of research and stories in it. You've done an incredible amount of homework on this subject, and it's also very readable. So I want to tell our listeners. It's called "All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses - And How We Can Fix It Together." I highly recommend it. I'm a new mom. My husband is a new dad. And, you know, we're sort of wrestling with these roles that society has put on us, as well.
DESJARDINSAnother new factor in society, relatively new, Brad Harrington, is the idea of the dad-dad couple, same-sex couples. Can you talk about what the research shows about same-sex couples, and is it especially a disadvantage for two gay men, who neither one of them has the benefit of potentially more sizable maternity leave.
HARRINGTONI guess from a leave perspective, it could be less beneficial, but in general we hadn't done a lot of research on same-sex couples, but the folks at Families and Work Institute did do some based on the National Study of the Changing Workforce. And I think what they found is that the -- because people didn't fall into, you know, traditional gender roles, it didn't work that way, it wasn't so simple to say you must do this, and you must do that because of gender, you know, same-sex couples tend to have more conversations and more negotiations in order to understand who's in the best position to do what kind of care-giving because obviously care-giving takes many, many forms.
HARRINGTONSo what I know of the work that Families and Work Institute did would suggest that same-sex couples in some way have one advantage over heterosexual couples, and that is things aren't prescribed, you know, by gender, or they're not dictated by your sex. So -- so what they need to do then is to have open communications and negotiations and day-to-day kind of understanding of what each is in a best position to do, and they work their way through those things, and it's the communications that makes work-life balance and division of roles work well in same-sex couples, you know, for migrating.
DESJARDINSBrigid Schulte, I love this idea that perhaps we could negotiate parental leave. Does your research show is that possible. Should I have -- should I have been negotiating more with News Hour, perhaps, than I did? Although they served me well.
SCHULTEWell, you know, the two things about negotiation is I think that when we're -- when it comes to gender roles at home and who does what, that is an absolutely appropriate place for talking and negotiating, and that's something, you know, my husband and I were going through this 17 years ago, and I wish we had done more of. We did fall into traditional gender roles, even when we didn't intend to, because it's just so easy to do, and our workplace cultures and policies really support that.
SCHULTEBut when it comes to negotiating in the workplace, it is really difficult to say I'm going to leave it to you, employee, to come to me and ask for more time. that's a heavy lift to ask for our employees. That's really something that should come from the top.
DESJARDINSYou're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We want to hear from you. Give us a call, 1-800-433-8850, or email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. We have some good callers on the line that we will come back to, but curious, your thoughts. Do dads need more rights? Do they need more abilities in the workplace to spend time at home? Stick with us, we'll take a quick break.
DESJARDINSAnd welcome back. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS NewsHour, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is off today. We're talking about fatherhood. We're talking about the dilemma of fatherhood today. Men who would like to be at home with their children, but whose workplaces may not give them the leave to do that. And I want to go to some of our emails. We have one from William in Webster Groves, Mo.
DESJARDINS"As a single person," he writes, "working as a salaried employee, I always resented paid paternal leave because my company, rather than hiring extra help, would simply redistribute the new parent's responsibilities until they returned to work." He asks, "Why should single people subsidize other employees' expanding families?" I think this a question a lot of people have.
DESJARDINSIt actually was an episode of "Sex and the City" back in the day, when Carrie had to go to numerous baby showers as a single woman. But this is more serious. These are people whose lives are affected by others and do not have these benefits because they don't have children. Josh Levs, how do you respond to William?
LEVSRight. So here's what I want William and everyone to know. Nothing should be done to burden him or anyone else. That's not what we're talking about. And that's why I say this is good news. First of all, what we need is paid family leave. Every worker in America can use paid family leave. It is not just caring for a new child. It is caring for your elderly parent, caring for a sick spouse, caring yourself after an illness. And it is proven everyone can use paid family leave.
LEVSSo technically I don't even support parental leave. I support paid family leave, which is broader. But also, what he needs to understand is when a company offers leave it is proven to build that company's profits, including when they offer it to parents. And the reason is it attracts and retains high-quality employees. And the cost of replacing employees is very high. We had someone from EY on earlier.
LEVSOne stat she did not mention is that they found, and it's true, that men in this country are even more likely than women to leave their jobs, leave their careers, switch states or move to another country for more time with their families. So when you offer paternity leave to man, you're saving money. Because otherwise it's a good chance that you're gonna lose him soon. So he's coming out ahead. Now, no one should be forced to do this work.
LEVSWhat we need is a public structure, like we have now in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, a public insurance program. The business doesn't have to pay you when you're off. You're paid through this public fund that's paid for through a very tiny payroll tax.
DESJARDINSSort of like unemployment and employment insurance?
LEVSMuch like that, yes. Much like that.
DESJARDINSYes. I want to read another email. This is from Pete in Galesburg, Ill. He writes, "I'm 72-years-old. When I was 27 I took primary responsibility for our children and other traditionally 'women's work' since my wife was engaged in a fulfilling work life. I sacrificed career for 10 years and have been blessed a thousand times over with relationships most precious to me with both our children and now our grandchildren." Brigid, what does this time with a father and children do for the relationship with the children?
SCHULTEWell, I think that's what's really interesting, is that there's emerging research that shows when fathers take time early on with their children, they -- it fundamentally changes that relationship. The research shows that they are much more involved, not just early on, but then through the course of the child's life. And then there's really great research that shows how important that is for a child's development, their sense of self, their confidence. Particularly, fathers with daughters.
DESJARDINSI want to go to the phones. We have some fantastic phone calls here. First, Ryan in Oklahoma City, Okla. Ryan, we -- I understand you're in the Navy. My father was as well. Thank you for your service, first of all. And what is your question?
RYANWell, I, my -- I love the show. Thanks for taking my call. I had my first son. I'm 20 years in the Navy. I'm 40 years old and had my first child with my girlfriend who's -- she was 42 at the time. And I found that the policy was really odd. The Navy would give paternity leave to -- if I had adopted a child, 45 days or if I was a woman, 45 days, or if I was a same-sex spouse, 45 days. All that stuff. But if I was man and married to my wife, I would only get 10 days paternity leave. And then…
LEVSWelcome to the club.
RYAN…since we weren't married -- we're not exactly traditional people. We weren't married. They said that I wasn't entitled to any paternity leave at all. And, I mean, it worked out well, because my wife was able to just take off work and she was at home -- or my girlfriend -- was at home for the entire pregnancy and the first year of his life, you know. But…
DESJARDINSBut if you had not had that ability -- right. Josh Levs on this.
LEVSYeah, well, welcome to the club. I mean, the policy that I was under was also equally strange. And the military is -- has a very, very strange policy right now. They recently -- and I have a chapter in the book on military dads. I'd love for you to see it. But they have increased leave for moms, but not dads. But also, they do have this rule that even to get the tiny little bit of leave, an active duty dad has to be married to the mom.
LEVSThat does not lead to more marriages. It does not lead to more stable families. All it's doing is pulling kids away from their parents. So it is a very 1950s nonsensical rule. And it is time for the military to take a good hard look at paternity leave, as well, and understand that it will also help attract and retain great people in the Navy and in all branches of the military.
DESJARDINSRyan, thank you so much for your call. On sort of a similar note, let's go to, I believe, Ally, in Dearborn Heights, Mich. Ally, you're on the line. Or is it Ali?
DESJARDINSGotcha. What's your question?
ALISo thank you for taking my call. My wife and I just had our daughter 16 weeks ago. And I'm self-employed so (inaudible) I had some flexibility, but in the same breath I was only able to take a week off of work. But my wife was able to take 12 weeks. But the process that we had to go through seemed very convoluted. She actually had to file for disability. We went through this whole process.
ALIAnd we were really surprised, you know, here in the United States at this whole process we had to go through and the fact that she would have to actually be disabled so that she can take care of her daughter for those first few weeks. So my question is what can we do from a Federal level to change that? And then also, beyond that time, what can we do to help families, you know, especially working parents with that flexibility they need to take care of a new child beyond those 12 or 16 or 18 weeks?
DESJARDINSFirst of all, Ali, congratulations and happy first Father's Day to you. Let's see if we can get an answer to your question. Brigid, what can be done here? What do you -- how do you advise this new father?
SCHULTEYeah, no, it's so frustrating. You're right. Pretty much the only kind of paid leave that mothers have access to is if they -- is disability leave. Which, you know, I've had two kids. It's just insulting to say that that's a disability. And yet that is the way that the system is set up. So in terms of what can you do, you know, again, we talked earlier. Right now the system that we have is completely voluntary. It is up to your employer to come up with whatever policy they have.
SCHULTEThe only thing you have a right to is this unpaid Family Medical Leave Act, 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But that only applies to you if you work for a company that has more than 50 employees, if you've worked there for a year and if you work full time. So guess what, it doesn't cover 40 percent of the workers out there. So right now there is a lot of discussion and movement to try to get something that would work for everybody, which is a national social insurance program.
SCHULTEThere's a bill in Congress right now. It's been sort of languishing for a while, the Family Act. And what that would do is it would basically create piggy-back on the Social Security system and create a social insurance program that all workers would pay a few pennies to the dollar, you know, into a fund, a pool if you will, like an insurance pool. That then families could -- people could draw from when they need to go on this paid family leave.
SCHULTEOne of the things, sort of learning lessons from the past, what New York has done that, say, California didn't, they have a longer leave than California. They've made it available to part-time workers. And they've also increased the wage replacement because minimum wage workers couldn't make it on 55 percent of what they'd earned before, which is how the California law was set up. So in New York they've increased that to 90 percent.
DESJARDINSJosh Levs, I can hear many of our listeners, perhaps dads or would like to be dads, saying I have to wait for Congress for this to change.
DESJARDINSYou know, I think that -- is there any advice, or do you have any, whether any research or anecdotal advice as to what works within a company? Should a worker write a letter? Should they start a petition at their job? If they want better leave, you know, you're an example where you were able to have a national story. But for those who work in a business, how do you advise them to try and change the policy at their job?
LEVSYeah, you know, I'm not just saying this, you know, to sell a book. I'm gonna tell you that when Harper Collins asked me to write this book, they and my agent said, at the end of chapters we want you to literally lists steps 1 through 10. What exactly do I do in my business to get flexibility, to work on a better policy? And I'm very positive. I'm actually a very pro-visionist. So in these steps I talk you through how to find out the protocol, how to reach out, as I did really.
LEVSOriginally, when I first tried to get my policy fixed, it was entirely silent, behind the scenes. So I talk you through how to do that. And if, in the end, you end up in a dramatic situation and you believe that you're facing some kind of discrimination, how to then exercise those rights. So there are ways to do it. Big picture, though, we do need action from Congress. And I'll tell you, since you know so much about politics, I was on Capitol Hill, Lisa. I was meeting with Republicans and Democrats, pushing national paid family leave.
LEVSDemocrats are lining up for it. Republicans don't have any arguments against it when you show them the facts. They're not arguing against it. They -- it's just not on their radar. And part of what we need is to get some brave Republicans to say yes, the facts support paid family leave, yes it's good for business. Because ultimately, especially people at the lowest ends of the economic spectrum, who have so little clout in their businesses.
LEVSThey will not get the help that they desperately need until we fix this as a nation. And we recognize that part of the role of society is to make sure that when a baby is born it can have a parent at home and food on the table for at least a block of weeks. We should see this as a basic human right.
DESJARDINSOkay. Let's go back to the phones. And to Indianapolis and Blake.
BLAKEHi. Thank you for taking my call.
DESJARDINSThank you for calling. What's your thought?
BLAKEWell, I'm a young 22-year-old millennial. I'm looking forward to being a stay-at-home dad. And when you tell people that, when you're younger, as a teenager, people laugh at you. And I think that's part of the pop culture stigma that we've talked about earlier. So I think it's just nice to see that that conversation is happening and it is moving forward progressively, exponentially so from the past couple of years.
DESJARDINSOh, that's great. I appreciate it, Blake. There's nothing eminent for you, I take it.
BLAKENot right now, no. But hopefully down in the near future. We'll see.
DESJARDINSOkay. Great. Thank you for your call. Let's go to San Antonio, Texas, and to Debbie. Debbie, what's your question?
DEBBIEHi. I just basically have a -- well, I guess I do have a comment and a question. And I must say that I am calling from work. And so I do have a very understanding employer, calling in on break time.
DEBBIEI guess my concern is just it's always bothered me that we talk about maternity leave, paternity leave. But we need to extend that. It doesn't stop when the baby's three months old. Oh, they no longer need one of the parents at home if they need to go home. You know, if a mom needs to leave work, if her child gets sick or they have a recital or a soccer game, there's always a big huff and puff around the office.
DEBBIEShe's taking time off work again, here we go. If a father goes to take time off to attend an event or that a child is sick, it's oh, he's such a good father. When are we going, you know, that's sexist. It's wrong. It needs to stop. When are we going to extend -- we are really a company that values family. Not because we throw an annual family picnic, where you bring everybody once a year, but because we really value the family. And if you need to go be with your child for whatever reason, go.
DESJARDINSDebbie, thank you for your call. I'm Lisa Desjardins with the PBS "NewsHour." You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And there, I think, Brigid, we heard a lot of issues in that one call from Texas especially. Talking about stereotypes, talking about care after the baby is an infant, as a child that's growing. Can you talk about this idea that maybe dads get credit when -- they get more credit when they care for a child or show up at a soccer game than a mother? Is that true?
SCHULTEWell, there's lots of anecdotal evidence out there that she's absolutely right, you know. And you see that. It's like -- and there's actually been some social science research that if you walk by an office and you see -- and it's a woman's office and she's not there, you assume, oh, she's off with her kids. If you walk by an office and it's a guy's office and he's not there you think, oh, he's off with a client, he's doing work. So we do have these unconscious biases that are very much tied into these very traditional gender roles. So she's right.
SCHULTEYou know, you think, oh, mothers aren't committed. They're off doing -- because they're primarily responsible for kids. Whereas if a dad coaches a soccer team, oh, what a great dad. And I think really the response to that -- and there's research that shows this -- is, you know, instead of making flexibility a benefit, flexibility a luxury just for some workers, to make it a default for all workers.
SCHULTEAnd that answers some of the frustrations that some single workers have. You know, so for high-wage workers make flexibility the default. And then for low-wage workers, make flexibility and schedule control something that they have control over.
DESJARDINSYou know and we have an email on that exact topic from Jennifer in San Diego. She writes, "Would you please tell us how often existing parental leave policies extend to hourly low-wage workers? Do these extend -- do policies like this extend to janitors and so forth?" Brad Harrington, at Boston College, what do we know about the effects on low-wage workers of existing parental leave laws or lack thereof?
HARRINGTONWell, as with many other things, you know, the valued employee is oftentimes -- because these things are optional for organizations to do -- are the ones who are the most likely to be able to take advantage of these things. But when companies, like the ones we've mentioned, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, EY, or for these kinds of policies, they're not just for the, you know, people in professional positions. They're for people across the boards.
HARRINGTONBut oftentimes it's the companies that have a very high proportion or -- of people in exempt or professional positions that are in -- that are the ones that are also offering these kind of perks. So this is where the lack of, you know, a legal framework in the United States really hurts people that are lower wage workers or in more vulnerable positions because they're less likely to be working for employers that can or are willing to offer these kinds of so-called perks or, you know, as the other folks have said, this is not really a perk. It should just be a social need for people to be able to do this.
DESJARDINSThanks, Brad. And an email from Arlington, Va., and I believe it's Sarah. "Let's not underestimate the benefits for the child in this conversation. Parental leave will strengthen the family bond and its unity." Has there been any research about the long-term benefits of parental leave? We touched on this a little bit. But I want to go to Brigid and then Josh on that.
SCHULTESure. Just very briefly. We do have a lot of research, particularly out of the European countries, that show that paid family leave actually reduces infant mortality, in some cases by 10 percent. It increases well-baby visits, vaccinations. It increases breastfeeding rates. In California, women who had paid family leave actually breastfed at twice the rate, which we know is associated with stronger immune systems for children. For mothers it decreases depressive symptoms. And not just in the immediate term, but also long term. So there's lots of benefits for children and families.
DESJARDINSAnd Josh Lev, just to wrap up, I'm curious. In your experience, how have you see your time with your children change your relationships with them, the different amount of times you've gotten with them?
LEVSIt's incredible. You know, the more that you get in those earliest days, the more those bonds last. And we also have longitudinal studies that show that when a dad is home at the beginning of a child's life, it makes a difference throughout that kid's entire childhood. And it makes a difference in the balance of responsibilities and the extent the dad and the mom feel confident in playing all these different roles that you need to as a parent.
LEVSSo I've experienced personally and many other families, when they've gotten the chance to, have experienced it as well. And, you know, it's time that we stop talking about family values in America and start actually valuing families. And this is how to do it, by getting rid of all of these outdated structures from the "Mad Men" era and accepting that families do best when families have choices about whose gonna stay home, whose gonna work and when.
DESJARDINSAll right. That is Josh Levs. His book, "All In: How Our Workforce Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses and How We Can Fix It Together." Part of our all-star panel on fatherhood. Also joining me today was Brad Harrington, research professor and executive director at the Center for Work and Family in Boston College, and Brigid Schulte sitting across from me, the director of The Better Life Lab Program. Who wouldn't be in favor of that? And also The Good Life Initiative at New America. I want to wish everyone a happy Father's Day this weekend. I'm Lisa Desjardins for "The Diane Rehm Show." Thank you for listening.
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