Paternity Leave for Men

Tips for the stay-at-home dad

When a child is born, most people expect the mother to take some time off to recuperate, nurture her baby and take care of the new family member, while fathers are often skipped over. Legally however, men have the same rights as women when it comes to parental leave, but many don't take advantage of what they are offered.

The technicalities

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), men and women are treated equally: both are granted at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they have a newborn at home.

Some employers extend this time and some states like California offer paid leave, so you don't have to worry about income when your attention should be directed toward snuggling up to your newborn. However, only about 15 percent of men eligible under the FMLA make a formal request for leave.

Why so few?

Many men are hesitant to take paternity leave for fear they'll lose respect at their job or because their wives are already taking leave and any loss of income will hurt the family. Remember, though, that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against parents for taking leave.

Your baby will benefit from having both of his or her parents spending quality time at home during those first few weeks, so it is important to balance your work needs with the development and bond you share with your child.

The work-family combo

According to the FMLA, you must request leave at least 30 days before you plan to take it. If you can't take time off, consider a part-time schedule. Under the FMLA, it is possible to arrange a temporary part-time schedule once your baby arrives. You can keep your boss happy and spend time with your new bundle of joy all at once.

Most American dads take five days off when their children are born. If this doesn't seem like enough time for you and your boss doesn't like the idea of you dropping to part-time hours, ask if you can telecommute. Get your e-mail and phone forwarded home and work with your baby by your side. Talk about father-daughter or father-son bonding!