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Maternity and paternity leave

To observe Father’s Day, newspapers and other media published and broadcasted a flurry of dad-related stories over the weekend. Many of them, focused on how fathers have changed over the years – how many of them are becoming more involved with their children, especially in the past decade.

Several articles cited statistics from a 2009 survey conducted by the National Center for Fathering and the National PTA:

• 54 percent take their kids to school once or twice a month, up from 38 percent (compared to 1999)

• 45 percent attend class events, up from 34 percent

• 41 percent visit their child’s classroom once or twice a month, up from 30 percent

• 28 percent volunteer at school, up from 20 percent

• 75 percent help kids with extracurricular activities, up from 71 percent

• 78 percent help with homework, up from 74 percent

• 55 percent read to their kids, the same as in 1999

 Experts often talk about the importance of bonding with a newborn and how this often promotes closer attachment as a child develops and grows. The focus is often on the moms, although more attention is being paid to fathers, according to  Dr. William Sears, pediatrician, author and one of the leading proponents of attachment parenting, wrote about the dad’s role:

In recent years fathers, too, have been the subject of bonding research and have even merited a special term for the father- infant relationship at birth—”engrossment.” We used to talk about father involvement; now it’s father engrossment—meaning involvement to a higher degree. Engrossment is not only what the father does for the baby— holding and comforting—but also what the baby does for the father. Bonding with baby right after birth brings out sensitivity in dad.

 I wonder, however, if dads are often given this opportunity. Many fathers I know were able to take a week off from work after the birth of a child, but most usually have to rush back to work a day or two after baby comes home. Many also can’t afford to take time off, even though the Family Medical Leave Act allows parents to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave.

How much time were you able to spend with your child at home before going back to work?