The decision by the New York Mets' Daniel Murphy to take a short paternity leave—and the backlash he faced for it—are about more than just a few games of baseball.
Experts say the hubbub also is a sign of new battle brewing over gender stereotypes—among dads.
"It's a knockdown, drag-out battle about what it means to be a good man and a good father," said Joan C. Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
Murphy, who plays second base for the Mets, received a verbal lashing from some radio talk show hosts when he chose to miss two games for the birth of his son, using Major League Baseball's paternity leave policy.
One sportscaster, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, went so far as to say Murphy should have told his wife to schedule a C-section so Murphy could show up for work when he was needed.
Professional sports may be one of the manliest of jobs, but researchers say that kind of thinking—if not that kind of talking—is pretty common in other workplaces as well.
Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, noted that when men choose family over work, it's one of the few areas where men stand to get penalized more than women.
"Women who take leave ... are seen as bad workers but good mothers," Williams said. "The men are often seen as bad workers and losers as men."
That definition of masculinity is changing among a younger generation of dads, Williams said. But for many of the men who are those new dads' bosses, being a good dad has traditionally meant being a good worker and provider. It makes sense that any shift in that definition of being a good dad would leave some older men feeling defensive, because their own identities as dads are at risk, she said.