A Father’s Day wish list

—Gayle Kaufman

Today’s fathers are more involved than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, fathers spend over 10 hours more per week doing housework and child care than they did in 1965. Yet their paid work hours have only decreased by 5 hours per week. It may be no surprise then that fathers are now experiencing a good deal of work-family conflict. In honor of Father’s Day, I have a few suggestions for helping out all those dads who want to be more involved with their kids:

  1. Paid paternity leave.  The United States is the only industrialized country without paid parental leave. I vote for the Icelandic model. Currently they offer 9 months of paid leave, with 3 months reserved for mothers, 3 months reserved for fathers, and the rest shared. Just in December, their Parliament approved an extension of leave to 12 months, with 5 months for each parent and 2 months shared (this will go into effect in 2016).

  2. Shorter work hours.  The United States is the only industrialized country without a maximum work week. The European Union has a working time directive that limits all work, including overtime, to 48 hours per week. Many countries set this lower. Belgium has a legal working week of 38 hours. The actual average working time in the European Union is 37.5 hours per week.

  3. Paid vacation.  The United States is the only industrialized country that does not require paid annual leave. The European Union insists on a minimum of 20 days. The French get 30 days. If we count paid holidays, the difference is even greater. Austrians get 22 vacation days and 13 holidays!

  4. Daddy Day.  Why save it for once a year, when dads could have a day to spend with children every week? In the Netherlands, one-third of men work either reduced hours (i.e., part-time) or full-time over four days, leaving an extra day which has become known as the “papa dag.”

We want dads to be more involved. Let’s try to help them out.

Gayle Kaufman is Professor of Sociology at Davidson College, a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholar, and the author of Superdads: How Fathers Balance Work and Family in the 21st Century (NYU Press, June 2013).

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