Becoming a dad for the first time is undoubtedly one of the most significant milestones in your life!
Your new baby is ready to bond with you as soon as they are born. So, like any parent, you will likely be keen to spend as much quality time with them as possible. Research actually suggests that early, more intense engagement in parenting for men has positive long-term effects for both father and child (Brown, Mangelsdorf, and Neff, 2012).
So, making the most of any time off work to spend with your newborn is a great way to start life as a dad. But what with an increased financial demand to support your family, as well as the US being the only OECD country without a national statutory paid maternity, paternity or parental leave – many new dads face huge struggles and pressures in deciding how best to support their family financially.
But is the traditional role of a father changing? This article explores the different perspectives of fathers in regard to paternity leave and their role in fatherhood. Our research is based on the Boston College Study in 2014; in which more than 1,000 fathers from almost 300 different organizations were interviewed; as well as 30 different corporations.
The Changing Roles of New Fathers in the Workplace
After growing discussions of a father’s importance in their child’s early life; research was completed and found some extremely interesting results around the changing desires of fathers. In addition to how the role of fathers is currently being negatively affected by the workplace.
As part of this study, a survey of American fathers found that a total of 89% of father’s say that it is very important for employers to provide paid paternity or paid parental leave; 60% of the respondents indicated it was extremely important or very important, and 29% felt it was somewhat important.
The most interesting point to take from this is that fathers from the Millennial generation felt most strongly about this; with a huge 93% of the respondents that indicated the importance of it being from this generation alone. This highlights the vast changing views of new fathers and the changing roles of men in the workplace.
Should Dads Get Extended Paternity Leave?
Paternity leave is time off work for fathers, usually to be taken soon after the birth of a child, and intended to enable the father to spend time with his partner, new child, and older children.
The survey found that the average amount of time off taken by fathers was approximately 2 weeks; with 6% of men taking no time at all, 12% taking less than 1 week, 24% taking 1 week, 39% taking 2 weeks, 6% taking 3 weeks, 4% taking 4 weeks, 1% taking 5 weeks and 8% taking 6 weeks or more.
The amount of leave taken was a combination of paternity leave (54%), parental leave (13%), vacation/PTO (51%), holiday time (6%), and sick time or personal absence days (combined 4%).
It was also found that 76% of fathers would prefer to resume working immediately following the birth of their children, if it meant that they could have some flexibility in when and how they used their paid paternity leave time as they felt that time off could be more beneficial to their family when the child is slightly older.
Nearly all fathers (95%) rated workplace flexibility as important to their ongoing ability to balance work and family needs. Flexible working could therefore be instrumental for new fathers in the workplace, allowing them to be an ongoing active caregiver, rather than just a prolonged stint of paternity leave when their child is first born.
Should Dads Be Able to Split Paternity with the Mum?
Earlier 2011 research conducted, again, by Boston College, interviewed fathers with at least one child at home (age 18 or under) and who worked for one of the four Fortune 500 companies that agreed to administer the study within their organization.
This research told us that two-out-of-three fathers said that felt they should be equal partners in caregiving, but less than one-out-of-three actually did so. Many fathers are therefore falling short of their own expectations in being the fully active co-parents that they aspire to be.
This can sometimes mean that the mother builds a much closer bond to the child, and that the child is much more dependent on them than the father. With split paternity leave between mum and dad, then mums wouldn’t have to cope with this complete dependency on them – and dads would be able to become an equal partner in caregiving, as so many of them wish to be.
The issue that fathers have been facing has been accentuated by the society that we live in, as well as by organizations and policies. Although there are no policies on paid maternity leave currently, it is certainly much more widely offered and accepted in America than a father’s paternity leave is.
The Financial Pressures on New Fathers
Lack of Paid Paternity & Maternity Leave
With no national family-friendly policies in America and a lack of paid paternity and maternity leave – this can leave some families under immense financial pressure.
Out of the 30 corporations that were interviewed as part of the parental leave study, it was found that only 60% of the organizations offered paid paternity leave, whilst 40% did not offer this benefit at all.
But in the 2014 survey, of the fathers who did not have access to paid paternity leave, 91% indicated they would have taken more time with their families if paid leave were available.
This emphasises the importance of companies offering paid parental and paternity leave – so that dads are able to take much-needed time off with their new family, without having to compromise on income and put increased pressure on their family’s finances.
Financial Demand of Supporting the Family
Due to the lack of paid paternity and maternity leave currently on offer, fathers are under huge financial demand to support the family.
Even now, society largely deems fathers to be the ‘breadwinners’ of the family. This pressure has seen many fathers suffer from mental health issues – trying to find ways to support their family without over-working and leading to burnout.
A man’s paternity spending habits are a good way to explore ways in which you may be able to save a few extra dimes as a new father and to reduce this burden.
Instead of over-working – many modern dads are now looking for ways in which they can reduce the amount their family spends. This can be simple things such as saving on household bills or shopping around for discounts on baby items, which we will look at it in more detail in our money-saving tips below.
Pressures on Job & Work Volumes
The pressures on job and work volumes also creates a huge worry for many fathers. Having spent some time off, many new dads feel like they must return to work earlier than they would wish to or that they are entitled to – so that the pressures of work on their return do not become too overwhelming.
Nearly three quarters of the fathers surveyed believed that the most appropriate amount of time for fathers to have off for paternity leave is between two and four weeks. As this would give them a reasonable balance between the needs of their home and their workplace.
With concrete national policies in place – societies and organizations would surely view the expected workload of a new father differently. And so the pressure of work volumes would reduce dramatically.
Our Money-Saving Tips for New Fathers
Even irrelevant of the lack of paternity and maternity pay in America – having a new baby will certainly be a new, big expense for you and your family! Your little bundle of joy will bring you so much happiness. And will also undoubtedly put a rather significant dent into your wallet.
It’s therefore essential that families are able to counteract this new expense and their reduce in income by changing their spending habits. We explore some of our top money-saving tips for new dads below:
Increase Your Rainy-Day Fund
Prior to your baby arriving, try to increase your rainy-day fund as much as possible. This could help cover anything unexpected – such as any additional healthcare costs you may incur or any last-minute home improvements.
When you’re closing in on your due date, the last thing you want to be doing is stressing about money. You could even work out how much extra you expect to be paying once your baby arrives, and start transferring that to your rainy-day fund now to help you get used to it.
Review Household Bills
Once you’ve agreed with your employers the amount of paternity and maternity leave that you’re going to be taking as a family – you should work out how much your income is going to be reducing by and calculate a new monthly budget based on that.
Once you know your monthly budget, now it’s time to look for cost-savings. Household bills and monthly direct debits are a huge outgoing for so many families. But by being ruthless with deciding what you really need and doing your research, there are plenty of cost-savings that can be easily made.
You could look to cut down your electricity and water bills by switching appliances and lights off when they’re not in use and being mindful of using excessive amounts of water for bathing. With a lot less spare time on your hands, you could also look to review your TV package. Let’s be honest, you’re only really going to need the kids’ channels now anyway!
Many new dads are also utilising technology to find the best discounts. Coupon codes could save you money on dozens of household bills. Such as your energy package, TV, household items, and more.
Cut Your Grocery Bill
Dads are being more active than ever in the traditional household chores including washing, cleaning the house, and grocery shopping!
The survey shows that fathers were highly involved in hands-on caregiving and household tasks during their paternity leaves. More than 90% reported that they spent time caring for their new child and changing diapers. And more than 80% went food shopping, cleaned the house and prepared meals.
Any savvy new father should also change their spending habits when grocery shopping, which could cut your bill in half. You could try buying cheaper alternatives, meal prep in advance, or shop around for the best deals using online sites for all the latest discounts at grocery stores and markets
In Summary: Our Recommendations for New Fathers
To summarise our findings, the most important takeaways from these studies are the huge importance of paternity to leave to fathers (89% of all those who were surveyed shared their views on its importance).
Paternity leave being paid is also a hugely significant factor – with 5 out of 6 fathers saying they would only take the time off if they were paid at least 70% of their salary. And another important finding is that 95% of fathers rated flexibility as extremely important.
Our top recommendations to new fathers based on this research are as follows:
Take Your Leave(!): this one is absolutely crucial. Speak to your operations and HR team to find out exactly what you’re entitled to at work, and make sure you take it! Try not to allow your workload to be a factor against having time off work. Instead, discuss options with management and co-workers on a plan for someone to cover your workload.
Be a Proud Father (and show it): break down the stigma surrounding men in the workplace and being solely the ‘breadwinner’ for the family. Be vocal about your wants and needs for spending time with your family, and be proud of it which will in-turn influence other co-workers.
Establish a Parenting Partnership: set traditional parenting norms behind, and come up with ways of parenting that work for you and your partner. Be aware of the responsibilities that come with being a fully active co-parent and be there for the critical early days of your child’s life.
Be a Supportive Leader: start a father’s group at work to help creative an inclusive and supportive community at work of like-minded individuals. Suggest that a representative from HR attends the group to inform new dads on the policies you have in place. Be a leader, invite others to the group, and demonstrate your support to other employees’ lives.
Advocate for Change: even if other fathers at your workplace haven’t taken all their leave before, be the first to do it and others in future will follow suit. Speak actively about your desire for flexibility at work and help to begin breaking down the social barriers.
Save, Save, Save: whether you’re a first time dad or you have multiple children, when a new little one comes along you will need to save money where you can. Children are prone to unexpected costs, and by making minor changes to your spending habits you will help relieve unnecessary stresses, so that you can concentrate on spending time with your family.