Dads Need Time to Adjust, Too – Normalizing Paternity Leave

Normalizing Paternity Leave

As a doula I recognize that fathers are just as important as their partner. Fathers need to emotionally adjust to having a newborn and then adjust to bringing the newborn home. It can take weeks to work through fatigue and other challenges associated with having a newborn. In order to optimize a family’s quality of life, more fathers should have the ability to take paternity leave. 

Paternity leave is a period of time that a father is legally allowed to be away from his job so that he can bond and care for his newborn.

During a telephone conversation, my friend shared that she knew someone who recently had a baby and her husband took paternity leave. I was excited and surprised when I heard this wanting to know more about their experience. It’s not often that I hear fathers taking paternity leave. The United States is known for its lack of progression when it comes to the new norms of parental leave.

Many moms are lucky if they have a job that offers paid maternity leave, so for a father to take one speaks volumes. The current laws ensure at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of a newborn or a newly adopted child if they work for a company with 50 or more employees.

Unfortunately, there are many socio-economic barriers that prohibit parents from gaining access to their parental leave. However, we know the positive impact this time with a newborn can be on the entire family. I am passionate about wanting to create a safe place to normalize parental leave and perhaps encourage more fathers to consider taking paternity leave.

Ways to Normalize Paternity Leave

  1. Understand and address perceptions of gender roles

Luckily, this new dad mentioned above was praised for requesting the time off. His job was very accommodating, understanding the important role a father takes when welcoming a baby into the family. It’s plausible that men are not taking time off because of conflicting perceptions of gender roles. Stereotyping can be harmful, so talk about your perceptions in a safe place.

  1. Grasp the benefits of paternity leave

Paternity leave allows the father to be able to support mom and the newborn. In some cases, fathers have to continue to support the existing children as well. Studies show that paternity leave can promote parent child bonding, increase improved outcomes for children and increase gender equality in the home (United States Department of Labor, 2015). The first few weeks with a newborn is magical but it can be difficult without adequate support. This is a special time where father’s should be present, engaging and bonding with their newborn.

  1. Create a work environment that is supportive in prioritizing family

Men are wonderful caregivers. It takes everyone time to adjust to a newborn, including mom, dad, baby and any other siblings. It’s always easier to accomplish tasks when both parents are in the home together caring for their newborn. Most couples cannot afford for both parents to be home, especially if they’re only receiving unpaid leave. Employers need to create paid parental leave for men, allow flexible work schedules, and set a culture that is supportive to working families.

Do you have paternal benefits?

Review your contract and talk to your human resource representative. If you have a qualifying reason you may be eligible to receive benefits through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Support can be provided to a growing family at any phase of their pregnancy, and after. Set up a Give InKind page for someone you love as they navigate parenting their new bundle of love.

About the Author:

Shanari is a nurse, doula and Maryland native. Her passion is to educate and spread awareness around optimal health and the quality of life. When she’s not caring for her patients she enjoys cozying up to her senior citizen dog and spending time with family and friends. She can be reached at


Hijjawi, G. (2021, April 9). Normalizing Men as Caregivers Helps Families and SocietyRWJF.

Planned Parenthood. (n.d.). Gender Identity & Roles | Feminine Traits & StereotypesRetrieved May 8, 2021.

United States Department of Labor. (2015). DOL POLICY BRIEF Paternity Leave Why Parental Leave For Fathers Is So Important For Working Families. 

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