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Men are either extremely pragmatic about taking paternity leaves or they’re not really into it as much as women would like to believe.

According to a new survey of married male professionals, men are not inclined to take paternity leave unless it’s paid. The study by Boston College Center for Work and Family says:

The large majority (86%) of respondents said they would not make use of paternity leave or parental leave unless at least 70% of their salaries were paid, and 45% said compensation needed to be at 100%.

In other words, men aren’t rushing to stay home with their darling (screaming) new baby just because they can—unless they’re sure it’s not a money-losing proposition. So much for the nesting instinct of the new male!

Okay, I know what you’re going to say: Fathers don’t want to take unpaid leave because they’re worried about family finances—all that head-of-the-family/provider stuff. That’s undoubtedly part of the equation, except that the men in the survey aren’t ordinary working stiffs but professionals who, presumably, could afford to take some unpaid leave.

The Wall Street Journal, which reports on the study, says that the survey “skewed high for those who were married (97%), employed (96%), in a professional job (95%) and highly educated (95%).” What’s more, 67 percent of the participants in the study had access to paid paternity leave, while only 20 percent of U.S. employees do so.

The survey does show widespread support for leave: Of the participants, 89 percent say that it’s “important for employers to provide paid paternity or paid parental leave.” Not surprisingly, the report says that millennials “felt most strongly about this (93% said it was extremely, very or somewhat important), Gen X fathers somewhat less (88%) and Boomers least strongly (77%).”

That big support for parental leave leads the researchers to feel “optimism” that the traditional division of labor between the sexes is on the wane. But the report also admits that the change is more hype than reality:

While it’s true that our research has shown that men want to spend more time with their children, more than 3/4 of fathers said they were also looking for jobs with greater responsibility. While 2/3 wanted to share caregiving equally, less than 1/3 said they actually do. While more than half said they would consider being at-home dads, only 1 in 25 at-home parents is a man.

The report notes the strong correlation between the availability of paid leave and the amount of time that fathers took off, except for this: “The more children fathers had, the lower the number of weeks they took off.”

So there! You can’t even pay a guy to stay home with a bunch of kids! All things considered, life at the office is easier and more pleasing.

Which leads us back to my original question: Do fathers really want paternity leave? I think the answer is yes. Kinda. Well, only if the circumstances are just right.

Related post: Fathers and Daughters.

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