We've been hoping the Expanded Maternity Leave Act will be enacted into law soon. We've listed down the reasons why it is necessary for moms, but we feel it's time to emphasize the importance of a longer leave for dads.
Currently, Republic Act No. 8187, also known as the Paternity Leave Act of 1996, grants a paternity leave of only seven days with full pay, a frustrating number. In the proposed 120-day maternity bill, at least 30 days worth of leave credits can be transferred to fathers. There are also pending bills to extend the seven days paternity leave to 15 days or a full month.
While we wait and hope the paternity leave changes, dads need to take advantage of his seven days. Here are three ways to spend it.
1. Lay the foundation to become a hands-on parent. A 2013 study had found that dads who spent more time with their children, at least two weeks after they were born, were most likely to take an active role in raising them in the succeeding years. Dads who take parenting leave also feel more fulfilled whenever they spend time with their children. The more highly satisfied they become with their relationship with their child, then it's more likely they remain involved in childcare after their return to work.
"Kids whose dads took paternity leave have been shown to become more social as they grow up, perform better in school and even have higher IQs (intelligence quotients)," said dad of three and fatherhood expert Armin Brott. Kids whose dads are more hands-on fare better in school, behave better and form better relationships. They're even believed to be happier and healthier! (Read more about it here.)
2. Take over baby care duties. According to Paul Raeburn, author of Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked, a father needs quality time with his baby for his brain to shift into daddy mode. Being present after birth helps a new dad in "experiencing caregiving in any meaningful way," Brad Harrington, director of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family told Fatherly. Being on baby care duty is the best way to learn and become confident in carrying, burping, bathing their baby and changing nappies.
When a dad takes more active role in baby care right from the start, he doesn't feel left behind. "The more a mother cares for a kid, the more she feels able to do. The less a father feels able, the more he steps back," added Harrington.
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3. Help your wife's emotional and mental health. Studies have indicated new moms who feel that they have a strong support system in the first few weeks after childbirth are less likely to get postpartum blues or be diagnosed postpartum depression. She had just gone through childbirth -- it's a body- and life-altering event, so she is feeling vulnerable. Her partner's support is invaluable especially when the mom is breastfeeding.
When the new dad is in tune with his wife's and their baby's needs, it's easier to communicate openly about the challenges of being a new parent and ask for help. A good co-parenting dynamic during the early years also sets the child up for more benefits for years to come.
If possible, take time off together to care for your child. Kenneth Matos, a co-author of The New Male Mystique and senior director of research at the Families and Work Institute, believes paternity leave can help improve communication and strengthen husband-and-wife relationships. "When one person is at home with a new baby and the other remains at work, they can start living in different worlds and have less to talk about," he explained. A study even showed that couple who split home and baby chores have more sex!
To reap these benefits fully, moms, you also need to support your partners in their fatherhood journey. Help and encourage your husbands by teaching them the baby care basics, without being overly critical of their ways. They're learning, too, through experience. Dads bring their brand of parenting not all moms can duplicate, so let them do their thing.