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Athletes and politicians discuss challenges of working fathers | Deseret News National
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Seth Wenig, Associated Press
Family

Athletes and politicians discuss challenges of working fathers

Much of the discussion surrounding gender equity in the workplace deals with how mothers can balance work and a family. But this week, the conversation turned to fathers and the challenges they face when it comes to both providing for and nurturing their children.

A discussion on the rights and responsibilities of working fathers took place Monday at the White House. It was in reaction to the heated debate that errupted in April when New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took a company-approved, three-day paternity leave to be with his wife while she delivered their baby.

Murphy was attacked by sports commentators at the time.

"You're a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse," WFAN host Mike Francesa said live on the radio after he heard of Murphy's decision, according to ESPN. "What are you gonna do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?"

And Murphy was supported by family advocates and even his general manager, according to a Washington Post column by Amy Joyce, editor and a writer for On Parenting.

"I’m happy he was able to be with his wife and the fact that he only really missed two games is a positive for us,” said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.

Murphy, along with business leaders, politicians and leading experts, was invited to the White House to discuss new policies with the Council of Economic Advisors. They hope to alleviate some of the problems facing working fathers, according to a post on the White House blog the day of the gathering.

According to a Pew Research Center report from June 2013, "About six-in-10 Americans (58 percent) say it is 'extremely important' for a father to provide values and morals to his children, the top ranked paternal role of the four tested in the survey."

Despite the support for fathers "to be more of a moral teacher and emotional comforter than a breadwinner or disciplinarian," as the Pew report says, current workplace policies and societal stigmas occasionally makes it difficult for fathers to be there for their children, especially in the early days.

According to the National Study of Employers, only around 14 percent of employers offer any kind of paid paternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires that all eligible employees give employees 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

Even when paid leave is offered, fathers may hesitate to take it because there is a "general perception that it would be frowned upon despite policy," according to a study by Boston College's Center for Work and Family Studies released Monday. Caregiving is still seen to be the woman's role, the study said.

The study points out that fathers often want to establish a close bond with their newborn children, but often don't have the time. They thus become "supporting actors," secondary figures in their sons' or daughters' lives.

The White House discussion, a precursor to the working families summit to be held June 23, advocated increased workplace flexibility that will allow fathers to better share caretaking responsibilities and still provide for their families.

Emily Hales is an intern on the national team, covering issues facing families in the United States. She is a communications major at Brigham Young University.