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Paternal Leave: Why You Should Take It, If Offered (and Push For It, If Not)

Parental Leave

Traditionally, parental leave was seen as a “mother’s issue”, but that is not the case anymore. Paternal leave is becoming increasingly more common, and it’s a good thing for everyone. Here are some reasons why new parents should take advantage of paternity leave. Additionally, while this article focuses primarily on fathers in heterosexual relationships, it’s paramount to acknowledge that there are many types of families, and they would all benefit from having more family leave.

Better relationships with spouse and children

Paternal leave can have powerful and positive effects on families. Paternal leave allows fathers a bigger part of their children's lives from the very beginning. Studies have shown that dads having a more active role in parenting leads to better behavioral, social, and psychological outcomes for children. Paternity leave has also been shown to strengthen romantic partnerships, and even correlates with lower divorce rates. When both parents are able to take time off, they learn together how to navigate the new responsibilities of parenthood, together. This builds trust and understanding and sets up a strong foundation for their relationship as partners and co-parents.

Improved gender equality in the workplace

It’s well-known that women, on average, earn less than men and that this wage gap is especially large for women of color. A contributing factor is that women are disproportionately driven out of the workforce due to the caregiving expected from them. This also contributes to hiring bias. Employers may subconsciously choose a man over a woman expecting that the man will have fewer responsibilities at home, and therefore have better availability for work. Normalizing paternal leave helps to level the playing field at work. Additionally, research shows that with every additional month of parental leave taken by the father, the mother’s earnings increase by about 7%. And mothers whose spouses take paternal leave tend to return to work more quickly.

Help fight the stigma that caregiving is a woman's responsibility

The idea that keeping house is a woman’s responsibility is obviously problematic and outdated. Caregiving is valuable and rewarding for people of all genders. In fact, qualities that are often strengthened during caregiving like empathy and patience are also qualities of great leaders at work. Studies have shown that dads who take paternity leave continue to have a greater role in housework and childcare long after they return to work, which not only contributes to better equality and satisfaction at home but leads to them being more well-rounded individuals.

Better work-life balance

Half of fathers say that they have missed out on important milestones and events in their children’s life because of work conflicts. Dads who take paternity leave often report better job satisfaction. Better job satisfaction allows them to be more productive at work and home. They also frequently report the time they spend at home is very fulfilling. While on leave, they don’t have to worry about missing out on important parenting moments. Paternity leave gives them the time they need to establish routines and get used to parenting, so it’s not quite as overwhelming once they go back to work.

What prevents fathers from taking it?

Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of paternal leave, it’s important to talk about why not everyone takes it. Some of the main reasons are economic pressures and stigma.

Economic Factors

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows up to 12 weeks of job-protected (but unpaid) leave for specific family and medical reasons. Of course, with no source of income, it can be a challenge for parents to take much time off. Some parents even report fear of losing their jobs due to taking too much time off. That is why Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) is crucial. Many people are working to expand paid family leave and allow both mothers and fathers to take time off to raise their families without penalty. Celebrities like Chance the Rapper, Anne Hathaway, and John Legend are even joining the fight.

Social Stigma

The old-fashioned idea that men are supposed to be the sole breadwinners of the family may be outdated, but it still leads many men to feel as though they shouldn’t take time off for family. What’s more, just 26% of managers encourage men to take leave. But choosing to take paternal leave, even if it is not already encouraged, is a huge step fathers can take in breaking the stigma. 73% of fathers believe there is little support for fathers in the workplace, and 72% of men said they would have taken longer parental leave if they had seen their co-workers do so. Being brave enough to push for paternal leave at companies where it’s not already offered will help employers understand that it’s something employees value, and this is a huge step toward changing the culture. Plus, because companies that offer paternal leave generally have happier and more productive employees, it is beneficial to the companies as well.

Taking paternal leave improves dads’ relationships with their children and spouse, leads to a better work-life balance, enables better gender quality at home and in the workplaces, and even benefits companies by creating happier and more productive employees. However, it is not universally accessible and there is still a stigma surrounding it. If paternity leave is offered at your company, you should take it. If it’s not, we greatly encourage you to push for it.

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Open post A collection of matches lined up in rows, with one of them burnt out. Text: How to Avoid Mid-Career Burnout

How to Avoid Mid-Career Burnout

How to Avoid Mid-career Burnout_cover

Career burnout is a genuine phenomenon, with nearly two-thirds of full-time workers having experienced it at one time or another. Rates of burnout are particularly high when people are in the middle of their career. Professionals who were once energized by their jobs can start to feel drained and diminished by them. You deserve to have a career that inspires you, challenges you, and is meaningful, and aligns with your values, but doesn’t take more from you than it gives back.

So, what measures can you take to avoid mid-career burnout?

Look for jobs that will serve you well

Choosing a position that will allow you to achieve your desired lifestyle is an incredibly important proactive action that will help you avoid mid-career burnout. Check-in with yourself:

  • What is essential for you in a job or career long-term?
  • What kinds of stressors you can handle and not handle?
  • What volume of work are you willing to take on?

Look for work that excites you and that you find meaningful. Also, consider how much autonomy a position will offer you. When researching, look for employers that are taking actions to increase employee satisfaction.

 

Recognize when you’re at your breaking point

It’s normal to feel tired or overwhelmed from time-to-time, but if these states are dominating your life, it may mean that you’re reaching your limit. Burnout looks slightly different for everyone. Burnt-out individuals may become apathetic about the outcomes of their work and have trouble focusing. They may feel constantly stressed, fatigued, or uncharacteristically bothered by small annoyances. They might notice that their performance is slipping. If you notice some of these signs in yourself, it might be time to take action.

 

How to Avoid Mid-career Burnout

Be mindful of how you spend your free time

The activities you do outside of work have the power to either exacerbate or to assuage burnout. Some unhealthy habits may actually be contributing to your burnout more than you realize. For example, you might think that mindlessly scrolling through social media is helping you decompress, when it’s actually eating up more time than you’re aware of and worsening your anxiety. Spending time exercising, learning a new hobby, or with friends and family can be very rewarding and beneficial for your mental state. That being said, it’s your time, and you can spend it however the heck you want to! Do what brings you the most delight and fulfillment. Regardless of which activities you prefer it’s critical that you’re active, rather than passive, in deciding what to do with your time.

Set boundaries

While it’s admirable to be responsible and to go above and beyond at your job, it’s important to notice when you may be taking on more than you can handle.  Being available for work 24/7 is very taxing, and if you take on too much it’s only a matter of time before your performance-and your mental health-start to suffer. If you were the last person to take the lead on the last three projects, and you’re feeling exhausted, maybe it’s time to let someone else take charge this time. You may wish to have a conversation with your employer or your co-workers clarifying when they can expect you to be online, and when you are on your own time.

Ask for support

Mid-career burnout can be extremely frustrating and upsetting but know that you are not stuck and you don’t have to go through it alone. Talk to a therapist, or ask for advice from friends who may have had similar experiences. It may also be helpful to express your feelings to your boss, and explore ways that you can be challenged or supported in your position. After all, employee dissatisfaction is not only harmful to the employee, but to the company as well. It is in everyone’s best interest that they hear out your concerns and help you make the changes that you need to.

Add joy to your workday

Whether it’s listening to your favorite playlist while you work, treating yourself to a delicious lunch, or focusing on the parts of your job that you find the most enjoyable, a little joy can go a long way in combatting burnout.

Consider a job change

If you’ve done everything you can and you still feel deeply unsatisfied with your current position, consider your options, and what it might look like to change jobs, or even to shift your career direction. If you decide that changing paths is what’s best, get specific about what you like and dislike about your current job. Use your findings to propel your job search and find a position that better aligns with your goals, strengths, and values.

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The Best Kept Secret of Top Performers

A common parallel among successful people is that they score highly in Emotional Intelligence. Even people who may not have the highest IQ can surpass their colleagues because of the ability to tap into their EQ to appropriately connect with those around them.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been thought of as an aptitude, something you either possess or don’t; however, it seems clear that the science is pointing to just the opposite. In fact, there is much you can do to assess and improve your EQ, the critical factor to both personal and professional success.

EQ is a nebulous thing we all possess at differing levels that affects how we understand ourselves and through the lens that we practice self-management, social empathy, and relationship building. Because it is so nebulous it is difficult to measure and to understand what you need to do in order to improve.

The good news is that there are seemingly infinite resources to help with both of these tasks – first figuring out where you stand currently on the EQ spectrum and second to practice and learn to improve where you can. The following are two resources by highly recognized researchers, consultants, and speakers, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

These books are a great introduction, assessment tool, and action plan toward greater abilities in EQ. There are also many online resources for assessments (paid and free) and skill building. It seems well worth the time to work on these skills as highly emotional intelligent people are the most productive and in turn the most successful.

High Emotional Intelligence = Top Performer = Career and Life Success

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