From potentially raising their child without gender stereotypes to celebrating the “embryonic kicking of feminism” to designing a chic-sounding gray-and-white nursery, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seem to be taking a progressive approach to parenting. Now, reports suggest that Prince Harry will take paternity leave from his royal duties after his and Meghan’s child is born.
Harry wouldn’t be the first royal to take paternity leave — Cosmopolitan points out that Prince William also took two weeks’ paternity leave from his royal duties after the birth of his two eldest children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, though he was back at work (and looking very sleepy) two days after Prince Louis was born.
In the U.K., fathers are eligible to take one or two weeks’ of partially paid leave within the first 56 days following the child’s birth or adoption. In the U.S., there are no policies requiring paid parental leave. But the Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with more than 50 employees to offer 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
But research indicates that millennials, especially, want this to change. A 2017 Pew Research Study found that 69% of Americans support paid paternity leave, with the support highest among 18-to-29 year-olds (82%). A 2017 Ernst & Young survey of 9,700 people found that 83% of American millennials said that they would be more likely to join a company that offered paid parental leave, and 38% said they would consider moving away from the U.S. to a country with paid parental leave. A 2014 Boston College study found that almost all men believed their companies should offer paid paternity leave, but 86% said they’d need at least 70% of their salaries to be able to use it.
And it's completely understandable why Prince Harry and other millennial men would want to take paternity leave. A 2016 Cornell University study found that paternity leave, particularly over several weeks or months, promotes parent-child bonding and can increase gender equality at home and at work. As the study authors put it, “Longer leaves mean dads have more time to bond with a new child, and will be more involved in caring for their children right from the start. This hands-on engagement can set a pattern that lasts long after the leave ends.”
Even though we have a long way to go towards paid paternity leave becoming mandatory, data shows that millennial men are taking a more hands-on approach to parenting than previous generations. A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that fathers and mothers are almost equally likely to say parenting is an extremely important part of their identity, and a 2016 Pew Research Center study found that fathers spend an average of eight hours a week on child care, three times as much as fathers did in 1965. However, there’s still a long way to go towards gender equality: in the same study, mothers spent an average of 14 hours a week on child care.