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The Daily Tar Heel

Daddy day care

More fathers remain at home to raise kids

Josh Levy sits with his wife, Tina Levy, and five-month-old daughter, Louisa Rose, in their dining-room-turned-playroom in the couple’s Durham home. Josh Levy works in the mornings and comes home to take care of Louisa Rose in the afternoons while Tina is as work.
Josh Levy sits with his wife, Tina Levy, and five-month-old daughter, Louisa Rose, in their dining-room-turned-playroom in the couple’s Durham home. Josh Levy works in the mornings and comes home to take care of Louisa Rose in the afternoons while Tina is as work.

Correction (July 6, 2010 12:01 p.m.): Due to reporting errors, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the last name of Tina Prevatte. The story has been changed to reflect this correction. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

The phrase “baby daddy” is taking on a whole new meaning.

In recent years, more and more fathers have been taking time off from work to care for their newborns, both in the nation as a whole and at the University.

Gone are the days when the career-oriented dad whisked away to work and mom stayed home to take care of the newborn. Dads are playing an increased role in child-rearing, especially in the first year after birth.

Frances Campbell, a senior scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, said this shift from gender-specific parenting responsibilities is a result of the feminist movement and more women entering the workforce.

“Both parents started having careers, so there was less time in the home. So fathers had to take on a larger role,” Campbell said.

UNC’s faculty-leave policy allows faculty, both male and female, 15 weeks or one semester off within a year of a birth or adoption.

The leave policy was adopted in 1997 to increase faculty recruitment and retention. The ability to provide more extensive leave options for parents would help attract faculty members to the school, said Joanna Cleveland, an associate university counsel at UNC.

While female faculty will take off from work immediately following the birth, dads will typically wait until the beginning of a semester to take paternity leave. Fathers, however, usually work reduced hours to help ensure a steady flow of income while the mother takes off work completely.

The uncertainty of financial support is a reason many fathers don’t consider paternity leave as an option, said Josh Levy, assistant director in the Office of Economic and Business Development and father of five-month-old Louisa Rose.

“Unless people qualify for family medical leave, a lot of people won’t do it because they can’t afford to do it,” Levy said.

But because of the shift from the father being the sole breadwinner to more equal pay between spouses, paternity leave has become more realistic for couples, Campbell said.

Levy and his wife, Tina Prevatte, decided on paternity leave after considering their desires to continue their careers, and after speaking with his colleague­ — who had also taken paternity leave. They quickly realized it was the right decision after their daughter was born.

“Modern couples have this value of 50/50 because they both have careers, and they think that is going to translate to child rearing. And then it’s this shocker to the mom because for the first few months you are the primary caregiver,” Prevatte said.

Levy works at the University in the mornings and returns to his home in Durham around 1 p.m. when he trades off with his wife, assuming all the baby responsibilities from feeding to changing diapers. She then leaves for her job as a business administrator at a nonprofit organization.

Paternity leave has allowed Levy to have caregiving experiences with his daughter that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. Fathers typically handle the external duties with a new child, like cooking and cleaning.

“If you just had that experience, I could see how it would seem very unfulfilling. It’s so different when you get to spend more time with her,” Levy said.

But by taking care of the baby alone, Levy said he is developing the skills necessary to raise a child.

Waldo Johnson, a research fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families, said typically men tend to think caring for a child is instinctively maternal and are reluctant to assume the role of primary caregiver.

“Many men have come to recognize their ability to provide nurturing is equal to the wives, and it is equally important,” Johnson said.

Levy said he appreciates the time he is able to spend with his daughter — time that he would have missed if he were working.

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“She changes almost on a daily basis. She just learned to laugh recently,” Levy said. “Literally every day it is something different. So it’s neat that you can see it happen.”

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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