Yahoo! Shine reports this morning that Prince William of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and husband to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will take two weeks of paid paternity leave following the birth of his son, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.This sends a huge and important signal to the international community of dads: that it’s okay to take paternity leave.
Paternity leave is awesome for a whole mess of reasons. Dad gets to bear some of the burden of raising a new baby, not leaving it entirely up to Mom to feed, change, bathe and dress their crying, puking, pooping bundle of joy. He gets to be there for important firsts he might otherwise miss. But the benefits of paternity leave continue down the road, from a closer bond between father and child to the greater chance that Mom will return to work as well, feeling confident that the quality of parenting is unlikely to suffer in her absence.
Sadly, paternity leave is often stigmatized in the United Kingdom and United States alike, thanks to the all-too pervasive opinion that child-care is best left to the mother. Worse, fathers often feel like taking time off will jeopardize their benefits or position at work. “Active fathers are seen as distracted and less dedicated to their work—the same perception that harms career prospects for many working mothers,” said Jennifer Berdahl, the lead author of a study from University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, in this article from the Wall Street Journal.
As it stands, in the UK, parents are legally entitled to 39 weeks paid family leave and an additional 4 weeks unpaid leave after one parent returns to work. In the US, no federal mandate legally entitles new parents to paid family leave. Only 15% of businesses provide some kind of paid time off after the birth of a child. Employees at the remainder need to cobble together time off from accrued sick days, vacation days and short-term disability leave, according to this guide from BabyCenter.com. And while the Wall Street Journal reports that almost 85% of fathers take some time off work following the birth or adoption of a child, this time normally amounts to between one and two weeks.
This graphic from the Wall Street Journal shows the disparity in paid paternity leave across the country.
So while Prince William’s decision to take two weeks off from his duties as an RAF search-and-rescue pilot isn’t hugely outside the mainstream, his status as a public figure may help to de-stigmatize family leave for working dads and promote the importance and relative ease of paternity leave the world over.
Congratulations to Prince William and Kate for this big step towards a standard of equal parenting and, of course, on their healthy baby boy.
Thanks to Yahoo! Shine for reporting and photos.
*Correction: An earlier version of this post called Prince William's wife Princess Catherine. She is in fact the Duchess of Cambridge.