TIME Family

Paternity Leave and Why Men Need Feminism Too

455465857
Kei Uesugi—Getty Images

A dad who wants to stay at home, or take more time off, is not just considered less of a man, but less committed as an employee. That needs to change.

Happy Fathers’ Day, American dads: our society still does a crappy job of encouraging you to be fathers! A new study from the Boston College Center for Work and Family has found that new dads take paternity leave only to the extent that they’re paid to–i.e., not a lot. As the Washington Post reports, the majority of men who get two weeks’ paid leave take two weeks, those with three weeks take three, and so on. And per the Families and Work Institute, those lucky guys are few; only 14% of employers offer any pay for “spouse or partner” leave, compared with 58% for maternity leave (mostly through temporary disability insurance and very rarely at full salary).

I can believe those studies because I lived them. When my first son was born, I took six weeks off–the one week of paid parental leave my company offered at the time, plus some accumulated vacation. I wanted to take more, but it would have been unpaid, my wife was getting ready to take leave from her own job at the time (as a librarian, so you do the math) and they’re not giving diapers away.

Spending those few weeks at home with a cranky, leaky, smelly baby was exhausting and overwhelming–and to this day I wish I’d had more of it. And I was one of the lucky ones, by U.S. standards; unlike most fathers, I at least had some paid leave, fairly generous vacation, and, once I went back to work, a reasonably flexible job that allowed working from home. (It’s worth noting that the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave, and that a number of countries also require paid paternity leave.)

As the Post article says, dads’ choices about leave (and moms’) are largely pocketbook decisions–a lot of those fathers are principal breadwinners and don’t have the luxury to decide otherwise. But all that’s intertwined with social expectations. Women get mommy-tracked and end up earning less. Dads are considered providers first and nurturers second. A dad who wants to stay at home, or at least take more time off, is not just considered less of a man but less committed as an employee–a slacker, a scammer, a liability, a beta.

It’s true no matter how successful you are–say, New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who missed all of two games from a 162-game season for the birth of his baby and got blasted by male sportscasters. (Some suggested he “hire a nurse” or tell his wife “C-section before the season starts.” Love you too, honey!)

It’s fitting that these studies should come along at the same time that pundits are debatingCan men be feminists?” because few issues so clearly answer that question: Yes, duh, no matter what Pharrell Williams says.

We have a habit of talking about feminism as if it’s something women do to men or men do for women–that feminism uplifts women at men’s expense. (See the Shailene Woodley “I’m not a feminist because I love men” argument.) If men identify as feminists at all, goes the corollary, they’re “allies” who are being altruistic (or trying to get laid). The cultural politics of this attitude aside, it just doesn’t square with the real world of running a household and paying the bills. Paternity leave is a practical lesson in why men should be feminists, not just because it’s right and fair but because feminism–in its simplest sense of treating people equally and not constraining them with artificial gender roles–benefits men too.

OK, to borrow the famous phrase: “Not all men.” Sexism hurts and limits women much more than it does men, and women experience forms of misogyny that men will never experience (see the #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign). As a man, you can profit handsomely from sexism–but you profit most if you want to be a certain kind of man as the culture defines it: one who derives his self-worth from work and money, who conforms to traditional masculine roles, who sees himself as the backup parent who “babysits” his kids occasionally but delegates most of that work to the little woman. Don’t like that setup? Man up, candyass! Get back to work!

Not everyone is in a heterosexual relationship and has kids, of course. But when you’re raising kids with an opposite-sex partner, the whole op-ed page, Internet-comments-section caricature of feminism as a zero-sum game looks especially silly and disconnected from nuts-and-bolts, bill-paying, time-managing life. When you’re in a family, you’re not an isolated representative of your demographic group. You’re part of a team, and something that holds back your partner holds you back too. If women are paid unfairly, sure, that’s worse for women. But for a husband, that’s also a wife who’s bringing less money into the household. It’s less security if he loses his own job. A husband who can take paternity leave means a wife who doesn’t have to shortchange her career, which means more stable finances. Women who lean in give men the option to lean out, and vice-versa.

When women have more choices, in other words, so do men–including the choice to actually be present as parents to their own babies. A saner set of policies for parental leave and a more open-minded attitude toward parents’ roles would be the best Fathers’ Day gift we could give America’s dads. And for that matter, its moms and kids.

MONEY Kids and Money

WATCH: Tips from the Pros: Best Money Advice for Teenagers

Financial planner Allan Katz talks about the most important financial habit a teenager can develop

TIME Family

This Iggy Azalea Parody Will Remind You That Being Pregnant Is Anything But Fancy

You already know.

+ READ ARTICLE

First a dad and daughter lip-sync to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” in the car goes viral. Now moms want to get in on the fun.

“I’m So Pregnant” boasts more than 1 million views on the YouTube channel What’s Up Moms?. The refrain: “I’m so pregnant, you already know. I’m in the last month. I can’t even see my toes. I’m so pregnant. Can’t get in any clothes. Don’t ask me the name, I don’t know.”

Is this the new Mozart effect?

WATCH: Rapper Iggy Azalea On Her Worst Job Ever

LISTEN: Iggy Azalea Mashed Up With Reba McEntire Is Your New Summer Jam

TIME Parenting

Dads Claim They’re Pulling Their Weight at Home

496480291
Proud father and his son in nature Maartje Van Caspel—Getty Images

Study finds that 45% of dads say they share childcare tasks equally, but only 27% of moms say the same

A new survey of dads conducted by NBC’s TODAY Show reveals that fathers are really good at pretending to do chores.

The survey found that 54% of dads say they change diapers. But hold your applause, because that means 46% of dads never change diapers. Which is funny, because 45% of dads say they share childcare tasks equally with moms. And only 27% of moms agree.

But if they’re not changing diapers it’s probably the moms’ fault, because 21% of dads say they feel criticized for not doing childcare tasks the way their wives do.

Three out of ten dads say they do the majority of the grocery shopping, and 26% of dads say making meals is their job. Which means that 70% of women do the majority of the grocery shopping, and 74% of moms do the cooking.

Three cheers for the illusion of progress!

 

TIME Family

Infants Can Finally Treat Themselves at a Baby Spa

Because it's hard out there for a baby.

Between the napping and feeding and gurgling and napping, being a baby can be a pretty tough job. Thank goodness there is a spa where babies to treat themselves after a long day of staring at the mobile.

Float Baby recently opened in Houston, Texas, and it provides 130 (and counting) newborns to one-year-olds hydrotherapy and neonatal massages. Parents perform the massages with instruction from Float Baby staff. A visit costs $65.

“What we find is that the babies find the water very soothing and relaxing,” owner Kristi Ison told the TODAY Show. “The newborns especially like it, we see them float and then have a little cat nap while they’re floating. The older babies, they really like to kick around and splash and socialize.”

They do seem pretty peaceful.

TIME Family

Boys of Divorced Parents Twice as Likely to Be Obese

72472453
Mike Kemp—Brand X/Getty Images

Girls' weight is affected too, but not as much.

Researchers in Norway have discovered a possible link between divorce and childhood obesity, especially among boys. The researchers looked at health data from school nurses on more than 1,000 third grade kids (about 8 years old) at 127 different schools in the Scandinavian country. About a fifth of the kids were overweight or obese as defined by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). Almost a 10th were abdominally or centrally obese, which means they had a waist circumference that is at least half their height. (A large girth has been connected to several adverse health outcomes, including heart disease and diabetes.) That’s worrying enough. But the boys and girls whose parents were divorced were 50% more likely to obese and almost 90% more likely to be abdominally obese than those whose parents were married. They were even more likely to be obese than kids whose parents had never married. Even when other factors were taken into account, including how educated the mother was—usually the highest predictor of childhood obesity—the findings held true. And for boys, the likelihood of unhealthy weight was even higher. They were 63% more likely to be generally overweight than boys with married parents. And they were 104% more likely to have too much weight on their waist. “We wanted to understand how ongoing changes in society and in children’s daily lives can be related to the development of overweight and obesity,” says Dr. Anna Biehl, an epidemiologist at Norwegian Institute of Public Health and one of the authors of the paper. “Since 1975, the number of divorces has increased and a greater proportion of children today are living for much of their childhood with divorced parents. Knowledge about this is important for preventive work.” It’s not completely clear that the parental divorce was the cause of the obesity, although other studies have found similar effects. There is ongoing discussion among sociologists as to whether divorce leads to poverty or if it’s more true that poverty leads to divorce. Poverty, at least in developed countries, is linked with childhood obesity. So poverty could be the cause of both the divorce and the obesity. Or, as the study notes, there could be other variables: “Health, socioeconomic resources, psychological characteristics, values and preferences affect the chance of marrying and remaining married,” it says, “and has previously been found to account for some of the differences between children of divorced and married parents.” One way to adjust for that in future studies would be to compare the kids’ measurements before and after the marriage dissolved, but this study was not able to do that. Biehl is very reluctant to speculate on why kids of divorce have weight issues. But other research has indicated that women usually take a bigger financial hit when divorced, they usually get custody of minor children and they usually do the bulk of the cooking in most households. All of those things will be harder to do as a single parent which could have health repercussions. There may simply be less household income to spend on food, less time spent on cooking, less mental bandwidth to spend on watching over kids’ health and exercise regime. But there could also be an emotional component. It’s rare that a divorce doesn’t lead to disruption in a child’s life, either through conflict or merely the selling or moving out of a family home, all of which can cause stress. “Such emotional stress may impact on eating behavior and physical activity level,” says the study. Previous studies have hinted that parents might become less strict about healthy lifestyles—allowing children more screen time or to eat when they weren’t hungry, for example—as a way to curry favor with the kids or out of guilt. As to why it hits boys harder? Again, it’s largely speculation, but they tend to have fewer mechanisms for expressing their feelings and often lose a male role model and are therefore more vulnerable when families dissolve.

TIME Religion

Elizabeth Wurtzel: The Pope Is Right—Kids Are the Point of Life

Pope Francis Child
Pope Francis blesses a child upon his arrival to lead a mass at Amman International Stadium in Amman, Jordan, May 24, 2014. Amel Pain—EPA

Whether you're Catholic—or religious at all—doesn't matter. As a human being, it's your scientific duty and destiny to procreate.

As a Jew, I am not much concerned with the Pope. It seems to me that he has a difficult job as the head of a corrupt organization run by men who do not have sex and claim to know God personally. But Pope Francis has charm galore. It is quite something. He wants everybody, including people he does not like, to like him, and he has kind words for gay people and murderers—not that they are comparable.

So it is surprising when the Pope comes out with statements suggesting that Catholics ought to, for Christ’s sake, be Catholic: reprimands are so unlike the Francis we have come to know. They’re somehow too Pope-ish. Just the other day Pope Francis said that people who think having a cat or two and a dog is as good as having kids are missing out. All the benefits of child-free life—the vacations and villas, the barefoot dancing, the sex on the kitchen floor—all that will come to naught. “Have you seen it?” Pope Francis asked. “Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

As it happens, I’m with Francis.

When I see married people who don’t have kids, I wonder what’s wrong. Really. Because something is. Of course it is. I mean, if you aren’t going to have children, why bother with the rest? Why bother with the $30,000 bash and the white crinoline dress? And you can say that about everything. What do you think we are doing here, biding our time on this planet with our misspent years, justifying our days with our ridiculous schemes of leisure? Is anyone’s life so meaningful? Really? Really, really, really? Is yours?

The existential nightmare of the everyday is way more than even those of us with enormous egos who love what we do can possibly cope with. We are on this earth to keep on keeping on. We are here to reproduce. We are here to leave something behind that is more meaningful than a tech startup or a masterpiece of literature. Everybody knows this. The biggest idiot in the world who thinks he knows better—even he deep down knows this.

And I say this not as religious person but as someone who believes in science. I took human behavioral biology with the amazing Irv Devore my freshman year of college, and early on he taught us that human beings serve our genes—we are here only as temporary vessels to pass along their permanence. This made immediate sense to me because it explains everything: the desire to reproduce is so extreme, so innate, that even people who cannot (and some who really should not) have children at all cannot be stopped from doing so. Look at the abracadabra we do to create fertility when it fails. It seems crazy only if you don’t accept that it is a biological imperative in the absolute. Or as University of Washington psychologist and zoologist David P. Barash writes in the journal BioScience, “Living things are survival vehicles for their potentially immortal genes. Biologically speaking, this is what they are, and it is all they are.” He adds, “For most biologists, the promulgation of genes is neither good nor bad. It just is.”

I am 46 and I don’t have children, which is a bit of a problem, because I believe everything I am saying. I also was not married, but I recently got engaged, so I will be soon—and I hope to have a child. If I don’t, I will figure that out. I am very good at figuring things out. And science is even better at it. (Maybe the Pope should reconsider the Catholic Church’s stance on IVF, though.)

And I am not saying I want to have a kid because of something I learned in a college course when I was 18 years old. I am saying that we are all stuck with our humanity, and it is lovely. I don’t feel some awesome urge to have children and I don’t look at babies longingly at all, but I know if I missed out on that part of life, I would be missing a huge part of what makes us alive. It is just silly to argue otherwise, and I have lived it—happily—so I don’t need to hear it.

This is one of the many instances when science and religion dovetail in a conclusion about human behavior for different reasons. Surely the two reinforce each other so often because the urge to be spiritual and to love is also part of our cells and our chemistry. And when both agree, I don’t argue.

Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of Prozac Nation, Bitch and More, Now, Again. She is a lawyer who works for David Boies in New York City. She lives with her dog, her cat and her fiancé.

MONEY deals

Cheap Flicks: Air-Conditioned Movie Theaters and Kid-Friendly Films for $1

kids at movie theaters
You can't beat a $1 movie ticket, even if the film isn't a brand new release. Fuse—Getty Images

Two big movie theater companies are showing kid-friendly films, and tickets (for kids and adults) are just $1 each, sometimes cheaper.

The average movie ticket runs about $8 nowadays. For that same amount, you could pay for eight admissions at hundreds of movie theaters around the country this summer.

Granted, the movies that you’ll see aren’t this summer’s newest, hottest blockbusters. But hey, what would you expect for tickets that sell for a fraction of the price of a small popcorn?

Cinemark, which runs movie theater brands including Rave, Tinseltown, and, of course, Cinemark, is hosting a Summer Movie Clubhouse series. At hundreds of participating theaters around the country—64 in Texas alone—admission is $1 per person (kids and adults) for 10 G- and PG-rated films that aren’t new releases, but are child-pleasers nonetheless. Among the movies in the new program are “Walking with Dinosaurs,” “Epic,” and “The Lego Movie.”

The special shows and special pricing are typically available during the middle of the week, early in the day. For example, the $1 shows at Cinemark in Colorado Springs, Colo., are for 10 a.m. showings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from June 3 through August 6. If even the $1 ticket is too expensive for your blood, Cinemark is offering more bang for the buck via a ten-pack of tickets for $5, or just 50 cents per show.

Meanwhile, the Regal Entertainment Group is hosting a similar midweek $1 family-friendly movie program, the 2014 Summer Movie Express. For nine weeks this summer, participating theaters are screening movies such as “Rio 2,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Madagascar 3,” “The Croods,” “The Lego Movie,” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m., with a flat admission of $1 per person. A portion of the proceeds goes to that mainstay of movie-theater fundraising, the Will Rogers Institute.

TIME Parenting

How News Coverage of the Boston Marathon Manhunt Affected Local Kids

Explosions At 117th Boston Marathon
Women and children are evacuated from the scene on Boylston Street after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Bill Greene—Boston Globe/Getty Images

You may not be surprised to learn that children who attended the 2013 Boston Marathon were six times more likely than non-attendees to suffer from PTSD. Given the carnage and panic wrought by the bombs, which caused 3 deaths and 264 injuries, you’d expect more trauma symptoms from those on the scene. But a new study reports that kids who had up-close views of the ensuing manhunt were just as likely to suffer PTSD as those with near exposure to the bombing. And kids who may not have had first-hand experience of either—well, the more news coverage they watched, the more mental health disturbances they suffered.

The study, published online June 2 in Pediatrics, surveyed 460 parents of children who lived within 25 miles of the marathon or of Watertown, where the manhunt took place. They were asked about their children’s experiences during the week of the attack and about their psychological and social functioning in the following six months. The investigators, led by psychologist Jonathan Comer, formerly of Boston University and now at Florida International University, were interested in the impact both of the bombing and of its ripple effects afterward. They also wanted to measure both PTSD and less severe mental health issues such as conduct and peer problems, hyperactivity and inattention. Interestingly, they found an even stronger link between broad mental health problems among the kids with dramatic exposure to the manhunt (hearing shots, having their house searched, for example) than among kids with similar sensory experience of the bombing itself.

The investigators also measured both the time the children spent glued to the set and whether parents had tried to limit their news viewing. Overall, the kids watched an average of 1.5 hours of attack coverage and more than 20% watched for over three hours. “Two thirds of the parents did not attempt to restrict their children’s viewing at all,” Comer says. “Yet we saw after Oklahoma City and 911 that TV exposure can have negative mental health effects on children, both near and far.”

Experts on children and media tend to agree that restricting children’s media exposure to violent events is critical. Casey Jordan, a criminologist and justice professor at Western Connecticut State University, says that adults can put in context the sensationalism of media coverage designed to create a sense of danger. But children generally cannot. “The best rule,” he says, “is TURN IT OFF unless you really have a suspect on the lam in your neighborhood.” Just get the basic facts, he suggests, and do so by Internet if possible.

Parents can help their children through these scary times by speaking to them honestly but calmly about what is happening and letting them express their reactions and fears. “It’s important to reassure them that they are safe,” says psychologist Daniel J. Flannery, who directs the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University. “Explain,” he says, “that the event was very unusual, and sometimes bad people do bad things but not everybody is like that. Their sense of normalcy has been taken away from them, and they need to get that back. “

Calm matters, agrees Jordan. “Do not go off on a tangent about ‘those people’ or a rant about who is to blame,” he says. “Children are sponges, they will learn from parents’ own reaction to crime and chaos, and absorb all the fall-out from what they hear and see.”

This new study suggests that parents be alert to changes in their kids even months after—and miles away from—a violent incident. Are they eating or sleeping less—or more? Are they more withdrawn or anxious, acting out at school or with friends? The children may not have been personally involved in the traumatic event, suggests this research, but they may still be suffering trauma. “The reach of terror and associated fear,” write the authors, “is not confined to the boundaries of an attack itself.”

MONEY Shopping

SPF? UVB? PhD! The Complex Science of Sunscreen Shopping

Woman in swimsuit applying suntan lotion or sun block
Tom Merton—Ocean/Corbis

If you're not worried about choosing the wrong sunscreen, you haven't been paying attention.

Everybody knows that they should wear sunscreen to avoid sunburns and skin cancer. But apparently, you can’t just slather on any old product. These days, the risks of using the wrong sunscreen are said to include hormonal imbalances, nanoparticle inhalation, and the outside chance of setting oneself on fire.

Hey, we were just getting the hang of the traditional acronyms associated with sunscreens—SPF (sun protection factor), UVA, UVB (the two varieties of ultraviolet rays). Now we also have to think about oxybenzone, avobenzone, and titanium dioxide, just to name a few. Because many of these scary-sounding chemicals are, indeed, tied to legitimate health concerns, the question is not Should I wear sunscreen? but, to paraphrase a Slate writer, Which sunscreen won’t kill my kid?

In light of all the complications, the common-sense approach might just be to go with a well-known brand like Coppertone. In a post for the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Abby Yancey, an associate professor at the school, explained that’s what she did, sending a double pack of Coppertone spray with her child to daycare.

Then Yancey got an e-mail from the daycare service stating that children should not bring sunscreens containing oxybenzone. Sure enough, there was oxybenzone in the Coppertone. And when Yancey went back to Target, there was oxybenzone in pretty much every sunscreen in the store. What’s so bad about oxybenzone? Yancey didn’t know, so she Googled it—yes, even pharmacy college professors have to Google this stuff—and found out that it’s absorbed into the skin, and some people “believe oxybenzone can cause hormonal imbalance” in users.

So there you are: Even pharmacists are flummoxed. Which would be reassuring if it weren’t also frightening.

There are plenty of other sunscreen-related concerns to freak out about not mentioned by Yancey. Like, oh, the possibility that using spray sunscreen could mean you’ll burst into flames, or at least get a bad burn—not a sunburn, a regular fire-type burn—if you’re near an open flame, such as a barbecue grill. That’s according to the FDA, which warns that because many of these products contain alcohol, which is flammable, “if you apply certain sunscreen sprays and then come close to a source of flame, you may risk the sunscreen catching fire and giving you a serious burn.”

As for some other basics, such as the proper distance for applying spray sunscreen—again, far away from any open flames!—the experts aren’t always on the same page. Yancey’s post recommends that users “be sure to hold the container 4 to 6 inches from the skin.” In the June issue of Health, meanwhile, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “Hold the nozzle 1 to 2 inches away from the skin.” At least everyone agrees that you should rub in the sunscreen after applying. (Ideally, not while you’re also flipping burgers on the grill.)

Experts also tend to agree on something that seems rather disconcerting to the consumer who doesn’t want to spend more than three seconds picking out a sunscreen: A lot of what’s on store shelves should be avoided.

In the latest tests of 20 sunscreens by Consumer Reports, only two of the products provided the SPF protection claimed on their packages after the wearer was immersed in water. One of the sunscreens tested offered only half the claimed SPF after being in water.

After running its own tests, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) issued a guide promising that “Sun Safety Gets Easier,” while offering a dire warning about the majority of products on the market:

Two-thirds of the sunscreens in our analysis don’t work well enough or contain ingredients that may be toxic. American stores are still stocked with inferior products.

The EWG “Easier” guide features page after page of alarming info, including the idea that many high SPF claims are misleading (SPF100 isn’t twice as effective as SPF50), that Vitamin A, found in 20% of sunscreens, “may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions,” and that mineral sunscreens, which are generally zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based, and which actually get a favorable rating from the EWG and most experts, are of concern because they contain nanoparticles, which are dangerous if inhaled. (Side note: The FDA has also issued warnings about the dangers of inhaling spray sunscreens. And Consumer Reports notes that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide “have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects in animals.”)

Even so, deep within the EWG guide, you’ll find the seemingly straightforward recommendation: “Zinc oxide is EWG’s first choice for sun protection.” Overwhelmingly, however, the EWG hammers home the point that every effort should be made to limit sun exposure and sunburn. “Don’t depend on sunscreen,” the study states. “People who rely on sunscreens tend to burn, and burns are linked to cancer.”

Likewise, there’s this shocking finding from CR:

Research shows that people who rely on sunscreens alone tend to burn more than those who stay in the shade and wear long sleeves.

Wow. Who would have guessed?

Seriously, for those who feel compelled to escape the shade occasionally, and who want to buy a sunscreen without having to get a PhD in chemistry, do the bare minimum and be sure the product has an SPF of at least 15, and that the FDA-approved phrase “broad spectrum” is on the label. That should help protect you from the most harmful rays. And take CR’s helpful, common-sense reminder to heart: “Using any sunscreen is better than using none.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,108 other followers