This month, the Atlantic published a solid article by Liza Mundy that makes the case for paternity leave, but as we know from a Wall Street Journal article published over the summer, men really aren't that interested in taking it.
Why are men so reluctant to take part in office policy that would allow women to be more involved in the workplace, give men the time to bond with their children and be more involved at home, and in general, better workplace culture for all? Well, there's a fear of social stigma, and there's also the fear of getting left behind on the job. But fellow Atlantic writer and pro-paternity-leave dad Alexis Madrigal has a possible reason: Really, it's the fear of babies. Men are terrified of the small creatures they co-created.
He writes: "We are scared of these creatures for good reason. Babies are tiny things that don't talk. They're fragile. Their hold on life is tenuous. And no one ever taught us what to do with them."
Madrigal, who took a substantial paternity leave, describes how rewarding the experience can be. But by watching his friends freak out about it to varying degrees, he realizes that many men just don't know what to do with a kid at first. He posits that when a baby cries, women have "the Boob," the all-powerful tool for soothing and connecting with their child. Men, being bosomless, are often rendered useless during the early months of the babe's life and, in turn, head for the hills (or the corner office) until the kid is of speaking age. Perhaps, he writes, if men were better prepared, or learned how to actually take care of a child, they'd be more apt to take long stretches of paternity leave.
Yet last I checked, there wasn't some secret, women's-only pre-baby class that teaches mothers how to parent. Men can read the same baby prep tomes that expectant mothers read and they will be equally at a loss with what to do when confronted with a squalling infant that needs total life assistance.
Thanks to Madrigal for an honest exploration of what some men might go through, but every time a man comes forward "bravely" expecting a pat on the back and a hall pass for admitting his limitations as a father, it doesn't help. This conversation is just reinforcing some dangerous stereotypes for both genders. First, that women are the more natural caregivers (and not just because they have "the Boob") but the less important players in the workplace. But also, that men are these bumbling, beleaguered, clueless idiots when it comes to being able to care for their own children — who wants that definition of fatherhood?
Fear is never a good excuse for getting out of doing things — especially parenting. Tiny, fragile, dependent life forms are universally terrifying; it's not just a "man thing." While discussions of paternity leave are great, let's take this as a moment to recognize that career goals and parenting goals really aren't so gender disparate, so the amount of leave allotted to new parents shouldn't be either.
Most Viewed Stories
Everything We Know About Brad Pitt’s Plane Incident
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
Jaden Smith on the Many Subtle Flavors of Water
Kim Kardashian Might Vote for Donald Trump
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
If You See Brad Pitt As a Fallen Hero, It’s Because the Rules Have Changed
Taylor Swift’s Squad Begged Kim Kardashian for Mercy
Kylie Jenner’s Getting Sucked Into Tyga’s Debt Problems
Bask in the Glory of This Dramatic Email Sent to a UCLA Freshman by Her Future Roommate
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesAva DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.UVA Student Assaulted at Knifepoint During Orientation Weekend
But some students weren't notified until 24 hours later.