New parenthood can be a crazy, sleep-deprived, emotional roller coaster. Now imagine doing that and holding down a 9-5 job. Roberto Santiago, an interpreter and blogger, is one of the lucky men who fondly remembers his son’s newborn phase. In 2009 the 42 -year-old, who writes about parenting issues for his site Latino Dad, took four weeks parental leave from his job to be with his son. He is eternally grateful he was able to do it.
The result of California’s state paid family leave (PFL) program. A program that offers parents up to six weeks of parental leave at 60-70% of their salary.
“It was nice,” said the father of three, a doctoral student of Puerto Rican, Japanese and European descent. “My wife was on bed rest and so I was able to help her out and get to know my son.”
Despite stereotypes of the irresponsible Latin lover, most Latino fathers are actively raising their kids. But the politics of parental leave make it especially hard for many Latino fathers to get involved.
BENEFITS OF PATERNITY LEAVE
Santiago belongs to a wave of Latino men looking to play a greater role in their childrens’ lives. Their changing attitudes towards work-life balance – and the data–are pushing the debate among employers. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, about 90% of employers reported California’s PFL policies had either a positive effect or no effect on productivity and profit. In fact, “around 96% agreed it decreased employee turnover and about 99% believed it boosted employee morale.”
Yet, it goes beyond private sector balance sheets. When it comes to raising children, mothers often get a nine-month head start. For new fathers, paternity leave is an opportunity to help their partners physically recover from childbirth and create a separate relationship with their children. Researchers at the University of Oslo found that children whose fathers who took time off did better at school, while another study found that children with involved fathers had improved cognitive scores and mental health outcomes as they grew older.
Couples also reap rewards. Any new parent can tell you those first couple of weeks with a newborn are crucial in learning what different cries mean, sleeping patterns and eating habits. Partners who can get through that experience together are more likely to handle the early stresses of parenting. In Norway, a “daddy quota” forced fathers to take time off . It resulted in an 11% drop in conflict over household chores, a key global factor in relationship security. A Promundo/Dove Men+Care survey found that “68% of the men said, they felt their child had better mental health when they took longer paternity leave.”