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Will Taking ''Daddy Leave'' Hurt My Career? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

Question:

My wife just had our first baby and she is home for now on maternity leave. She has a high powered job and wants to get back to work as soon as possible. I am absolutely fine with this as I would love the chance to stay at home and be a full-time dad for a while. The only thing is, I am wondering how my current employer or future employers will view me. I'm worried that they'll see this as slacking or even effeminate. What do you think about this?
Gerrard Y., Mississauga, Ontario
Dear Gerrard,

I'll declare upfront my personal bias. Back when I was married and our first child was on the way, I convinced my spouse that it would be an incredible experience for all involved if I stayed home with the baby after her maternity leave, and also if - at the same time - I wrote a book to help other stay-at-home dads. So I came up with an outline for The Full-Time Father's Handbook, pitched it to publishers, and was actually given a verbal offer from one of the big ones to do the book. Except, shortly afterward the deal fell apart when the publisher was sold, though I still took lots of extra time from work to be with baby.

Obviously then, I'm a big supporter of fathers being involved with their kids (mine are 19 and 15 now; sunrise sunset!). Therefore I would encourage you to go with your instincts here. If it really is important for you to be home with your young child for a while, then consider doing so. Canada has a provision for ''parental leave'' where either the mom, the dad, or a combination of each can collect benefits for up to 35 weeks after mom's initial 15 week maternity benefit. And some employers offer a ''topping up'' provision that covers the gap between your regular salary and Parental Benefits.

Now, will taking daddy leave affect your employment prospects? It could, especially if you're in a very competitive work environment where one step off the perfection treadmill will set you back. Some employers will view your desire to nurture a beautiful living being as some kind of weakness in your masculine drive, or figure you're lazy and want time off work for any excuse. But would you really want to be employed by these backward thinkers anyway? Conversely, a number of employers (and colleagues) will view your decision as courageous, generous, and open minded. Wouldn't you rather work with these kinds of folks?

Your choice here is clearly a very personal one. If you do elect to stay home with baby for a while, you may want to keep your work skills fairly fresh by either taking a relevant course or two (online, if necessary, to accommodate your child's schedule), or even do some part-time work in your field - on a paid basis or as a volunteer. This way you get the benefit of enjoying the miracle of your little one's early growth, while staying reasonably marketable for when it's time to re-enter the workforce full-time. In any event, your child will never regret seeing more of you and having you so fully in their life.

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