By Sarah Smith, REDBOOK.
Josh Levs is a dad of three, taking time off work to take care of his newest baby girl. So nice, right? Yes, and he's getting into a big fight with his company over it.
Related: The New Daddy Guilt
His company has a paid-leave policy: You can take 10 weeks off to care for a new baby and still get your salary. That is, if you're a mom, not a dad. Because the moms have to recover physically, you say? Not exactly: Newly adoptive parents (of either gender) can get the 10 weeks paid, too. So why not biological dads? That's what Levs is asking in his EEOC complaint against Time Warner, and it seems like a really good question to me. Why do people think that dads aren't real caregivers?
After my baby was born, I took 12 weeks off, and then we planned for my husband to take 12 weeks off, thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time to care for a new baby or newly adopted child without risk of losing their job. He ran up against all kinds of confusion at his workplace, though. He was told he couldn't take the time--that leave is for women only. A patient (sort of) explanation of the law eventually cleared that up.
But as we waded through the rest of the paperwork and the befuddled questions, it struck us that he may have been the first-or at least the first in a long time-man in his huge workplace to approach HR about taking more than a week of vacation. Why? It can't be because these guys don't want to be there for their babies. I know that tons of them do. But many can't afford it--or they think their careers can't afford it--and maybe they don't want to deal with having to explain FMLA or bring an EEOC complaint against their company.
Related: 20 Things Every Mom Should Know
That's why Josh Levs is such an inspiration: He says he didn't make a fuss about his company's unfair policy when his older two children were born, but he can't sit idly by anymore. Part of me worries his company will just cut back on paying anybody during parenting leave in order to avoid supporting new dads. But mostly I hope that they'll do what's right, and that other men and companies will see that it's fine and didn't hurt anybody. There is nothing, nothing, like being at home all day, and awake all night, with a young baby to prep you for parenthood. We should do more than let dads do this--we should be encouraging them to.
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