Lately I’ve been asked to share advice about maternity leave: how to tell your boss your’re pregnant and how to plan for your time out of the office. But some of the best advice I’ve heard from other women is to make sure your spouse takes paternity leave – separate from your leave.
The women I’ve met whose husbands took leave after the mother returned to work report some of the highest levels of satisfaction at home. By taking leave at different times, both parents gain an appreciation for what it takes to care for a baby and manage the house. “It has to be a real leave,” one woman told me. “Not a few days off and working on a home improvement project.”
It makes sense. The skills and understanding each parent gains while home alone with the child will carry over when those parents go back to work and will help to even the workload at home. And getting to equity at home helps women reach pay parity at work. In her article “Which Policies Promote Gender Pay Equality?” Joya Misra, Professor of Sociology & Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, points to research that shows women’s caregiving responsibilities are a contributing factor to the gender-based wage gap.
Misra also notes, “mothers’ employment and wages are boosted when leaves are of moderate length and paid well, and also when some leave is reserved for fathers. … While relatively few countries have excellent paternity leave policies, we see very beneficial outcomes for mothers where these policies do exist.”
So the next time someone asks me how best to plan for maternity leave, my answer will be start by scheduling paternity leave.