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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

Daniel Murphy: From Paternity Leave to All Star

You may recall the media firestorm a few months ago, when NY Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took paternity leave and missed the first two games of the season to be at his son’s birth. A few months later, Murphy has rewarded his employer with a career year and, tonight, he makes his first all-star appearance. Here’s a look back.

Here’s what I wrote for the Wall Street Journal on this subject a few months ago:

The Good News From the Daniel Murphy Paternity Leave Kerfuffle

Sometimes, jerks bring out the best in other people.

On Wednesday, I joined the chorus of fans, commenters and media types in bashing sports broadcasters Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton and Mike Francesa for their ignorant and hateful criticism of the New York Mets’ Daniel Murphy for taking a two-game paternity leave upon the birth of his first child.

I am incredibly heartened by the response to this backlash.

First, to his credit, Esiason issued what seems to be a very sincere apology. “My flippant remark was insensitive. I’ll leave it at that,” he said, referring to comments he had made on his radio show. “I feel terrible for the Murphy family, because what should be the greatest time in their life turned out to be somewhat of a firestorm that I personally put them into.”

From Major League Baseball: “MLB and the Players Association began the paternity list in 2011 so that players could be with their families for an extraordinary time in their lives. Our Clubs recognize that it is entirely appropriate for players to receive that opportunity.”

In fact, almost 100 baseball players, including three other players this season, have taken paternity leave since MLB enacted the policy in 2011, according to Paul Mifsud, Senior Counsel for Labor Relations for Major League Baseball. None have received the public criticism Murphy had to endure. (Murphy’s leave occurred at the very beginning of the season, but I’d like to think that even if the Mets were in a tight pennant race–hard to imagine, I know–that his right to paternity leave would be respected.)

Mets manager Terry Collins, who is about as old-school as they come, also voiced support for Murphy. “This guy played 161 games last year,” Collins said. “Wore himself out. Played with all sorts of discomfort. The man had his first child. He is allowed to be there. The rules state that he can be there, so he went. There is nothing against it. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Murphy got a 90% approval rating!

Murphy got a 90% approval rating!

The good news is that when anything—even something as asinine as Wednesday’s debate—gets America talking about paternity leave, it is significant progress. As I wrote for Time, when we talk about working dads’ concerns, fathers who struggle with work-family balance will realize they are not alone and will be more willing to reach out for help and to connect with fellow dads. Supervisors and business leaders will realize this is a serious business that requires thought and attention.

And positive discussion of the role of paternity leave is needed. According to Boston College’s Center for Work and Family’s study of working dads, almost none take formal paternity leave. Seventy-five percent of men take one week or less of accumulated time off (sick, personal, vacation days) after the birth of a child, and 16% are unable to take any days off after the birth of a child.

Considering that dads’ time with children benefits everyone—kids, moms, dads, families, society—we need more support for working dads, and we certainly don’t need those with a public platform to denigrate paternity leave and those who make use of it.

My paternity leave fundamentally shaped me as a person, parent and spouse, and I believe it contributed to the strength and resiliency of my family. I wish all fathers and families were afforded the opportunity to fully experience the first few months of their children’s lives.

This special time to develop as a person, a parent and a spouse should not be reserved just for new moms, or just for the lucky few new dads with ultra-flexible jobs or awesomely progressive employers. It shouldn’t just be for the residents of the three states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) that provide for paid parental leave.

So, thank you Daniel Murphy, Major League Baseball, the Mets and 99% of the media. But the biggest thanks go to those who shot their mouths off—for putting this issue on the national agenda.

What a difference a few months make!

What do you think about the paternity-leave debate from a few months back? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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