It's simple, really.
There's one thing that would help new dads become better fathers: Paternity Leave.
When you don't buy into the fear that by providing a man with a substantial portion of paid time off to be with his new child and significant other, industries will crumble, businesses will be crippled, and productivity stunted like a young boy smoking three packs a day, you will quickly come upon a clearing in the forest, and open your mind to discover an undeniable fact -- keeping an employee satisfied with the balance of work and home life helps keep him passionate about his work and workplace, which means you, the employer, will suffer less turnover. Simple, really.
Turnover, my friends, is the real boogeyman business should fear above all else. In particular, they should fear it more so than a handful of weeks of paid time away from the office for a man to be a dad in every sense of that powerful word. Turnover is the costly corporate bugaboo. But turnover isn't sexy. No one talks about the employee turnover process or the nasty bill to businesses when their turnover rate is high. Employee turnover is far more expensive a proposition than paternity leave. Math says so. Think about what happens when an employee leaves a company and must be replaced: recruiting, employment advertising, interviewing, paperwork, more interviewing, hiring, more paperwork, training, training materials, trainers, productivity deficiencies of new employees finding their sea legs, the risk a new employee might not work out in their position, repeat the cycle from the top, cross fingers and hope you eventually find an adequate replacement who will not then become the next guy out the door because of your outdated, inflexible policies. Expensive stuff, all that.
There are stats to back all of this up, but I'm not one for stats. I'm one for sense. The commoner, the better.
A man not only deserves the opportunity to bond with his newborn child in those first few weeks of life that can never be repeated, he needs it. And so does his baby. Dads sooth differently than moms, generally speaking. Dads interact and hold and love and shower affection upon their baby in ways that cannot be replicated. And moms are recovering from the physical effects of delivering a child, either vaginally or through a C-Section operation -- they need our support, love, and affection too!
When I stayed home after the birth of my first child 10 years ago, I used a handful of vacation days to do so, but there were no rainbow umbrellas in fruity drinks and not a single poolside steel drum band concert. This was no vacation. Instead, this first week of my baby's life was time I spent breathing in the sweet (and sometimes not-at-all-sweet) smells of fatherhood and childhood, but that's not all I did at home during that first week. I learned how to change diapers, to fear and then embrace the sounds she'd make in the night AND I was also available to my powerful wife (no epidural, people!) to help with whatever she needed -- because that's part of being a great dad too. We parents need to support each other and we all need the support of American businesses to recognize that these early moments are vital to the well being of their employees. Reward us with the opportunity to make 'father' our #1 job title and fatherhood our primary occupation in those first 2, 3, 6, 12 weeks and we will reward you with loyalty, productivity and the lack of costly employee turnover.
Many folks smarter and more eloquent than I spoke at The White House earlier this week during the Working Fathers Lead Up event to The White House Summit on Working Families, to be held later this month in D.C. I heard President Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Secretaries Perez and Foxx, of Labor and Transportation respectively, a chief economist, business leaders, HR officers, dads, moms, psychologists, and the New York Mets 2nd baseman Daniel Murphy extol the business, societal, and personal benefits of affording men and women the chance to focus on their family in those early stages as well as throughout their most meaningful career - as parents. It all made so much sense, for everyone, everywhere.
Progress in tiny, often immeasurable increments is still progress. I know this and so I am not frantically rushing the process of shifting policy and the culture of men and of business along because I believe, even through my dense forest of cynicism, that people who need to care now do, or are starting to, care about this matter. One day, we won't be one of the four developed nations on earth to not offer such benefits and flexibility to working families. One day, we will be more civilized. One day, we as a nation will stop mouthing off about being focused on the family and actually focus on the family in real ways that benefit dads, moms and children.
It is, after all, pretty simple.