On the Spot: Liza Mundy, journalist and author

Liza-Mundy

Can paternity leave help women succeed at work? That’s the argument Mundy makes in “Daddy Track,” her Atlantic story looking at the trend toward paid paternity leave. The leave, financed by workplaces or in some states by a payroll-tax contribution, gives couples time to split child care more evenly, which helps moms when they get back to work. She’ll talk with The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates at Sixth and I.

So what’s the verdict?
Men are delighted when they can get paternity leave, and that it’s good for women.

How does leave for dads help moms?
When men are involved in the care of a newborn and become confident in the care of a child, this has permanent effects. Holding and feeding and bathing and diapering: Patterns fall into place pretty quickly. If a man is not home, the mother becomes kind of the keeper of these tasks. These routine chores that have to be done day after day have tended to fall to women in a way that’s really stressful and can hurt them in the workplace. [Help from dads] frees women up to be able to spend more time at work.

How long should a paternity leave be to reap these benefits?
The longer the better. Three days isn’t going to make a difference, but six weeks can. The other thing that’s really important is that it be paid leave. When a child is born, I think men feel their breadwinning responsibility very keenly.

How have new dads historically been treated at work?
In general, workplaces have tended to reward men when they become fathers. Men tend to get paid more, they tend to be seen as more committed and responsible and promotable, whereas the opposite has been true for women.

If more workplaces are doing this, why are states offering it, too?
The states make it available to people who aren’t in white-collar workplaces — roofers and firefighters and bartenders — who were not going to get offered this by their workplaces.

What will you and Ta-Nehisi Coates discuss at Sixth and I?
When men are engaged fathers and leaving work early, are they stigmatized for that? That seems to be a topic that studies are inconsistent on.

 Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW; Tue., 7 p.m., $15; 202-408-3100, sixthandi.org. (Gallery Place)

Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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