Most dads think a man should get respect for taking a few days off after his child is born. Many also think the operative phrase there is "a few days," a new TODAY survey shows.
Researchers say Americans' conflicted views over paternity leave are a potent symbol of how tough it is to figure out what it means to be a good man, and a good dad, these days. That became evident two months ago, when New York Mets' player Daniel Murphy sparked a national debate by taking a few days of paternity leave.
"The definition of what is a real man is really very much still in flux," said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family.
Harrington's new research, also released Monday, finds that most professional men place an incredible value on paternity leave. Nearly all—99 percent of the approximately 1,000 well-educated, white-collar dads the center studied—said companies should offer paid paternity leave.
Also, 60 percent of the dads, who all had at least one child under age 18, said paternity leave is a very or extremely important consideration when evaluating a new employer.
And yet, the Boston College study also showed that many of these professional men are wary of giving up their breadwinning duties to be home with their partner and child. About half said they would require to be paid in full to take their paternity leave.
Harrington said that shows that many families simply can't afford to have both mom and dad take time off to be parents without bringing in a paycheck. He noted that the United States is an outlier among both developed and developing countries in not offering paid maternity leave for new moms.
It's also further proof that dads are caught between their aspirations to share child care duties and their responsibility to provide financially.
"I think we're in a state of transition," he said. "We're clearly moving toward a much more engaged father—much more hands-on, much more likely to aspire to a shared caregiving … but we aren't there yet," he said.
'I needed to be there for my family'
Lance Stewart, 37, is all too familiar with the conflicting duties of being a dad, husband and breadwinner.
A few years ago, his family was pushed to the brink of financial ruin when he was forced to quit his job after his wife suffered such severe postpartum depression that she had to be hospitalized.
"I just left the job that I loved because I needed to be there for my family," he said.
Stewart, had taken 10 days of vacation from his job in the IT industry following the birth of his second child. His wife, Jamie, needed gallbladder surgery directly after the birth, and complications left her with a difficult recovery.