Why Parental Leave Is So Important

Why Parental Leave Is So Important
Photo by Aditya Romansa / Unsplash

Hopefully by this point, there is no confusion about how important parental leave is for new parents. While maternity leave is unique in that new mothers often require time to recover and recuperate from the mental and physical trauma of childbirth, the more general parental leave is also supremely important to new parents.

To be clear, parental leave should be available in equal parts for mothers, fathers, and foster and adoptive parents.


The most obvious reason for the existence of parental leave is to provide time for new parents to bond with their new child. While parental bonding is often just assumed, this is not really the case. The bonding process requires significant input.

With our first child, I was only provided 4 weeks of paternity leave. At times in his first few months, I lamented that he was never going to like me. He only ever wanted mom and I was nervous that I was being pushed aside. While him and I have a great relationship now, it is still clearly mom who is is go-to for comfort in tough situations.

With our second child, I was provided 16 weeks of parental leave. I got to spend 4 months with our new little girl and the bonding journey with her was much different. She is now a proverbial "daddy's girl" who clings to me at almost every chance. It is clear that the additional bonding time with her was influential in our relationship.

The bonding that happens early in an infant's life will have ramifications for their entire life.

Keeping Your Sanity

While bonding is the most important aspect of parental leave and should be the priority, parental leave can also help parents to keep their sanity. Lost sleep, stress of a new family member, being baby-locked to the couch, not having more than an hour to do anything without the baby, making formula, cleaning bottles, etc. The list could go on forever. These new stressors take a mental (if not physical) toll on new parents.

The extra time that is provided during parental leave helps parents to have some "breathing room" and often the ability to take a break (if both parents get leave) so that they can stay on top of their mental health. Taking away the stress of work affords a much needed reprieve that can help parents to bond more effectively and maintain their marital relationship in a much more healthy way.

Taking Care of Life

The house still has to be cleaning, the other kids still have to get to school, doctor's appointments for older kids and the new baby still need to be schedule and attended, the finances still need to be manages, maybe the parents still want to have a relationship and need a date night, birthdays and holidays still need to be planed. This list could also go on forever.

Having appropriate leave means that life can continue at least partially as normal. Having the time to bond and still maintain your normal life obligations does wonders for mental health but also it means that your life does not fall into shambles which can be a nasty downward spiral.

Not All Leaves Are Created Equal (A.K.A. Supporting Your Spouse)

In our case, my wife only got 4 weeks of leave (2 of that was just PTO). Because of this, my 8 weeks of leave for this baby was absolutely critically. Most daycares will not take an infant until they are 8 weeks old. For people that have less than that in parental leave, they are left scrambling to find childcare while having to return to work.

Could you imagine having to deal with the stress of work while wondering where in the world your baby is going to find care? Work performance would obviously suffer and I am not sure employers have really thought through the productivity impacts of short parental leave. They are being short-sighted when they require workers to come back to work too early.

Parental leave is absolutely necessary to bond with new children, maintain your mental health, and keep your life running. Colorado's new FAMLI Act is a great step in the right direction to guarantee worker parental leave. I hope employers continue to do more to help and support new parents so that they can built strong families on a good foundation.