New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

I knew taking paternity leave was still stigmatized. But I didn’t realize how controversial it was in professional sports. ESPN reports that New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy is taking flak for his decision to miss the first two games of the season for the birth of his first child:

After receiving word about 11:30 p.m. Sunday that his wife’s water had broken, Murphy traveled from New York to Florida and arrived in time for the birth of 8-pound, 2-ounce son Noah at 12:02 p.m. Monday — about an hour before the first pitch of the Mets’ opener against the Washington Nationals.

The Mets had Tuesday off before resuming the series Wednesday. Murphy remained with his family through Wednesday, as he was placed on paternity leave, and rejoined the Mets in time for Thursday’s afternoon game against the Nats.

“You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse,” Mike Francesa reportedly said of Murphy on WFAN Radio during Wednesday’s show. “What are you gonna do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”

Murphy’s decision to miss two games as a result of his wife’s childbirth was clearly brave. And it makes me sad that even in the year 2014, bravery is required to justify taking a paternity leave that lasts a whopping three days, the maximum length allowed in Major League Baseball. I wonder how many other professional athletes have missed the birth of their own children.

There are ways to reduce the stigma associated with parental leave, including by imposing daddy-leave quotas, as Sweden, Denmark, Quebec and many other jurisdictions have done. Maybe it’s still too soon for sports commentators to accept the importance of parental involvement, but there’s still hope for the rest of us.

Catherine Rampell is an opinion columnist at The Washington Post.