Why all new parents need leave: He took unpaid leave to be with his newborn and his colleagues taunted him

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Washington Post

When our daughter was born two years ago, I took a three-month unpaid leave to help take care of our baby while my wife finished graduate school. A three-month leave is considered lengthy by American standards, and unheard of in the male-dominated blue-collar rock quarry industry where I’ve worked since age 18.

Although allowed by law, the leave was so lengthy that my boss and co-workers were taken aback. “No one takes that long. What could you possibly be doing?” my boss said, eyebrow raised. “I’m sure she can handle it,” said a co-worker. They imagined that while I was away, I would be glued to the couch, beer in hand. In no way would I actually be helping my wife.

I wish I could say my mistreatment at work was an anomaly, but many studies find that the stigmatization of devoted fathers who work is relatively normal. A 2013 Canadian study found that caregiving fathers reported the highest rates of general mistreatment at work among men, experiencing exclusion, isolation and humiliation for defying traditional gender paradigms. Other studies suggest that both genders consider men who take leave or have caregiving responsibilities to be poor workers. And a study from the University of California showed that even if men value work flexibility, they are hesitant to use it out of fear of being penalized and censured.