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Canada rolled out a new parental leave program this week aimed at encouraging more dads to pitch in with child care. Parents will still be eligible to share 35 or 61 weeks off at reduced pay, but the new policy offers additional time off to the secondary caregiver. (This may be a shock to readers in the U.S., which doesn’t mandate any parental leave, but 35 weeks off is about average for developed countries, according to a 2016 ranking by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.)
“Certainly the government hopes this policy will promote greater gender equality,” said Natalie Stechyson, the editor of HuffPost Canada Parents.
An additional five to eights weeks off — reserved exclusively for the “other parent” — is now available to parents of any gender and extends to adoptive parents and same-sex couples, but it is clearly aimed at fathers. Most eligible moms already take advantage of parental leave benefits, according to government statistics. Dads overwhelmingly don’t take time off because they worry about lost pay and career consequences, HuffPost Canada reports.
But many hope the new policy, nicknamed “daddy days,” may change that.
“From what I have heard and read, there is a lot of excitement on the part of mothers, many of whom see this as a bit of relief or passing the torch — even if it is just for a few weeks,” Natalie said. “For dads, I would say there is still some hesitation and worry.” If the father earns more than the mother (which is “unfortunately the case in a lot of instances — thank you, gender wage gap!” Natalie said), couples debate whether it even makes financial sense for a dad to take any leave. “That said, any dads I’ve spoken to who have taken leave with their kids describe it as an overwhelmingly positive experience.”
Still, Natalie cautions that any change will be slow. “We’re not just going to change long-held stereotypical gender roles overnight,” she said. “In Canada, the bulk of unpaid work still falls to women, for instance.”
But she hopes more dads will take advantage of shared leave, if only to be able to empathize with how difficult child care is. “I took a full year of maternity leave, and it was the hardest, most stressful job of my life,” Natalie said. “And then going back to work and leaving my son in the care of strangers at daycare was heart-wrenching. If more parents can know and understand the monumental effort that goes into caring for a baby all day, and more parents can go back to work knowing that their baby is being cared for by a loved one — even if it’s only for a few weeks — I think that can only be a good thing.”
Until next time,
A new Netflix miniseries about the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape debuted globally this week to mixed reviews. “Delhi Crime” follows a group of police officers as they track and nab six men accused of raping and killing a 23-year-old student as she made her way home from the movies. The crime trigged protests across the country and prompted politicians to strengthen the country’s sexual assault laws. But HuffPost India’s Piyasree Dasgupta writes that the series does little justice to the role protesters played in sparking the nationwide reckoning. “Those spontaneous protests and the conversation they spurred changed the way gender is discussed in many spheres of Indian society,” she argues. “The show’s narrative, however, merely positions the protests as an annoying inconvenience that the poor policemen have to deal with.” The only people the show humanizes, she writes, are the police.
ISABELLA CARAPELLA / HUFFPOST AND ERICA AITKEN PHOTOGRAPHY