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Why Should This 21-Year-Old Woman Care about Paternity Leave?

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January 7, 2014

So often the conversations around reproductive justice focus solely on what happens to a person and their (sometimes potential) fetus before birth – contraception, abortion care, safe sex, and sex education.  Especially as a young person who is in no rush to start a family, what matters most me today is access to the contraception and abortion care which will enable me to make informed and conscientious choices about my future family life.  At age 21, on the cusp of graduating college and moving on to “the real world,” babies weren’t high on my Christmas list and they won’t be for quite awhile.

But that isn’t true for all 21-year-olds and its not true for all people which is why I recognize that it is essential that the reproductive justice movement discuss not only how to give people opportunities for choice around family planning but also how we can best support those who do have children.  One method of support is to implement not just 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for all new moms but a complementary policy of parental leave for new parents in general. In The Atlantic’s recently published “Daddy Track: The Case for Paternity Leave” Liza Mundy argues that paternity leave is good for children, fathers, mothers, and society as it re-shapes expected gender roles but also promotes the “neutral leave” policies pursued by countries like Norway, Iceland, and Germany.  In these policies, different strategies are used to promote fathers taking time off work to spend with new kids.

For this young reproductive justice advocate the idea of starting a family today is, quite frankly, terrifying. But I know I would feel much more confident and capable were I to be assured that if I went down that road with a partner, both of us would be supported by our community and offered the opportunity to take a moment to bond, establish a new rhythm and settle into new patterns.

One of the reasons I so strongly support reproductive justice is because it gives people the information and tools they need to make choices.  And when that choice is to start a family, I want to be the kind of advocate that supports that new and growing family.

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