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  • Spanish Dads on Paternity Leave Realized They Were Probably Okay With 1 Child

    Taking care of babies is hard work, as dads who stay at home quickly realized.
Spanish Dads on Paternity Leave Realized They Were Probably Okay With 1 Child
  • The Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Law is a big win not only for moms but dads as well. Apart from the seven-day paternity leave offered in the current Republic Act No. 8187 or the Paternity Leave Act of 1996, moms also have the option to transfer seven days of the allocated 105 days of maternity leave to their husbands. This allows fathers to support moms in their parenting journey while getting a chance to bond with their newborns, too.

    Studies have shown that children will reap lifelong benefits with a hands-on dad, but taking the mandated paternity leave has its own advantages as well. In other countries like Spain, giving the option of a fully paid paternal leave had proven successful, with 55% of men eligible opting to take the two weeks of paid time when their government introduced it in 2007. The program was successful enough that the amount of leave was doubled in 2017 (four weeks) and expanded to five weeks in 2018 with additional increases expected up to the year 2021, according to a report by Quartz.

    However, a recent study found that Spanish families whose fathers took the paternity leave were less likely to have children in the future. Parents who had taken the paternity leave starting in 2007 were 7% to 15% less likely to have another child compared to parents who had missed the eligibility cutoff, according to the study published in the Journal of Public Economics. Couples were also less likely to have an additional child within the next six years after they took the paternity leave.

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    Economists Lídia Farré of the University of Barcelona and Libertad González of the University of Pompeu Fabra, who authored the study, provided the probable reason behind the results.

    Men reported lowered desires to have children “possibly due to their increased awareness of the costs of childrearing,” the authors write. They think that those who have experienced paternity leave have realized that spending time with babies take a great deal of effort, and the prospect of having to do so more times in the future may be the reason why they have “shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.”

    After the paternity leave program was mandated, surveys showed that Spanish men ages 21 to 40 would like fewer children than before. Meanwhile, women started to show preferences for having slightly larger families, perhaps encouraged by the fact that they can achieve a balance of career and household responsibilities now that fathers can help out at home.

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    Employers would also be happy to note that fathers who opted for paternity leave were just as likely to stay in the workforce as those who didn’t. More importantly, they remained more engaged with childcare after their return to work, inspiring their partners to continue working as well.

    Farre and Gonzalez do point out that it’s “impossible to draw sweeping conclusions from this observation of a single data point in a single country.” It is possible that other factors affected fathers’ decision to have fewer children.

    The study still shows why it’s essential for men to take advantage of their paternity leaves. There are benefits of being home and taking full responsibility for the household. It isn’t just mom’s duty — dads can (and should!) step up and take charge, too.

    In the same vein, moms also need to trust that dad can take care of the baby. Their special connection will reward your baby in the long run. And if it means dad will realize just how much hard work raising a child can be, then doesn’t that validate your efforts, too?

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