Having a newborn is a life-changing and miraculous experience, but can leave parents exhausted if they are forced to split their time between work and taking care of an infant.
Luckily, the Canadian government is looking into granting new dads separate parental leave so that both parents can help raise a new baby together. Currently, the government splits employment insurance (E.I) benefits for new parents, which puts unnecessary stress on the first year of a child’s life. Maternity leave is 35 weeks and is most often taken solely by the mother.
The system of splitting parental leave allows the mother to take the first 17 weeks of maternity leave and the father can take the remaining 18 weeks of leave if desired with E.I benefits. This leaves both parents in a tough position and most often, the mother will continue to stay home during the second half of parental leave.
Quebec is the only province that has a different parental leave arrangement set in place for families. Quebecois dads can take an extra five weeks of parental leave and will continue to make up to 70 per cent of their pay check while they do so. Seventy-eight per cent of dads decided to stay home in 2012 . Federal Labour Minister, MaryAnn Mihychuk will be opening discussions to obtain similar standards for every province in the country.
Changing these standards and encouraging paternity leave more would benefit families, and women. First of all, both parents could take parental leave together. Raising a baby is hard work, especially in the initial years, and removing the need to work right way would lower stress for both parents.
Parental leave is also beneficial for women because it would reduce the stigma that men are more dependable employees because they don’t take parental leave as a mother is expected to. Having equal opportunity for both parents to stay at home would even the playing field in the job spectrum. Any opportunity that increases gender equality in the workplace and at home is a welcome one.
Furthermore, discussions around parental leave will also potentially allow parents to have 18 months of parental leave rather than 12 months. When a child is only one year old, it is very difficult to leave them in someone else’s care to return to work. At 18 months, toddlers have reached more substantial milestones such as walking and beginning verbal skills. From experience, it is much easier to leave a child that can walk and communicate at childcare than a baby who is still crawling.
Even if the necessary approvals for separate parental leave lie well in the future, it is exciting that these discussions are occurring at a federal level. The Canadian government is finally moving away from monetary solutions, such as childcare benefits as a replacement for extended parental benefits. Instead, the liberals are seeing the value in staying at home with your kids. This quality versus quantity approach to governing feels like a fresh start for Canada and, hopefully, these discussions will become realities for families in the future.