The work/life balance for working parents is practically impossible in the United States. Most workplaces don't have enough in place to make parents feel fully supported. This is especially true for working mothers, and working mothers who have just given birth. New moms need all the support they can get, especially from their male partners (if they're still in the picture.) New research from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shows that when dads are allowed leave after the births of their children.
"Our results suggest that mothers bear the burden from a lack of workplace flexibility," the working paper on the research reads. Moms are being forced to do all of the work right off the bat. This doesn't give them a chance to focus on the healing they need to do. Even the easiest vaginal birth still puts a strain on the body and mind. So for moms who went through more physically, no matter what that looks like, they're putting their bodies and minds through a lot.
"We find that increasing the father's temporal flexibility reduces the risk of the mother experiencing physical postpartum health complications and improves her mental health," the working paper notes. Women who have just given birth need their partners to be there for them. There are so many changes happening, both mental and physical. And if you don't have someone to share the workload with you, there's a good chance you will feel like you're drowning.
Much of the paper's research draws conclusions from paternity leave laws passed in Sweden. In 2012, Sweden changed their paternity leave laws so dads could take 30 days paid leave at any point during the child's first year. Previously, the laws were that parents had to share 16 months of paid leave. Which is still a lot more than we get in the United States. But, the law didn't leave room for parents to take the leave at the same time. So of course, moms were still likely the ones using more of the time.
So what this revision does is give the parents the flexibility to have that time off at the same time. And there are no stipulations on when the time has to be taken, which is great because we all know things can just happen with a newborn. Or with a mom who has recently had a baby. So now, if something happens, like mom gets mastitis, dad can stay home with the baby and allow mom to heal.
"While paid leave for new parents is nearly ubiquitous in most of the developed world (with the important exception of the United States), family care leave is much less common," the authors of the research note.
None of this will come as a surprise to moms. But maybe now with proper research to support the claim, businesses will begin to take this into consideration. Dads are just as much affected by the birth of a child as moms, and we need to start remembering that.