My husband, Matthew, and I chose the surrogacy path to fatherhood. When we started our journey in November 2014, my employer provided six weeks of paternity leave to primary caregivers; Matthew’s only provided one day for the birth of a child.
Fast forward to January 2017. My employer, American Express, extended parental and paternity leave to 20 weeks to all care givers! In addition, it was paid paternity leave — at 100% pay — and your job remains protected for the duration — well beyond the protected, unpaid 12 weeks of leave made available to parents through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
I was very open about my plan to take the full 20 weeks when our son, Cole, was expected to arrive in January 2018. My colleagues, including those I reported to, were very supportive of my decision. In fact, I came across many dads — in and out of my workplace — who wished they had such an opportunity to take any paternity leave when their kids were born.
Taking that time off to care and bond with Cole during those early months of his young life was important to us, especially since my husband had to return to work soon after the birth. While on leave, I used the time to introduce Cole to music through classes offered at a local studios. We also had fun attending “Daddy and Me” classes at a nearby children’s education center. The time away from work provided me with the opportunity to be the father to Cole that I never had growing up.
I cherished this opportunity to be a pioneer and a leader to encourage other fathers-to-be to push for and take greater advantage of any paternity leave offered by their employer. I’m happy to report that more dads at my company are doing just that to maximize this precious time with their newborns.
I believe that every dad should be provided a similar opportunity. As a member of NYC Dads Group, I learned about Dove Men+Care’s effort to make paid paternity leave available to all new dads. I encourage you to help by signing Dove Men+Care’s Pledge for Paternity Leave and joining the Advocates for Paternity Leave Facebook group.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Andersen-Leavey, a member of the NYC Dads Group, is a human resources executive in New York City.
Disclosure: Dove Men+Care is a longtime partner of City Dads Group.