Having a child in America is a sickness. Or maybe it’s more like a week on the beach, at least in the eyes of most employers. In this country, new parents are often forced to cobble together a hodgepodge of vacation or sick days to spend any time with their newborn. If they even can.

Companies with 50 or more employees can’t fire someone for taking up to 12 weeks off to be with their newborn—whether it’s a man or a woman—thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. But these companies don’t have to pay them for the time off (though some generous employers do). Last year, only 13 percent of workers received part of their paycheck in a period following a childbirth; that number dropped to 7 percent in fields like the service industry or retail, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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That gives the U.S. the dubious distinction of being one of the few countries in the world—not just rich countries, but countries altogether—that does not have any sort of paid parental leave law at the federal level.

This may be changing, somewhat. The president’s proposed budget outlined a plan to provide six weeks of paid time off to new mothers and fathers funded by the states, similar to unemployment insurance programs.

In the meantime, a handful of states have enacted policies for paid leave, including California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York, but it simply makes no sense to not have a federal policy on parental leave—and one that includes new fathers—especially when we spend so much time as a culture talking about the importance of raising children. Studies have shown children benefit from spending more time with their mothers and fathers in their early days, just as more and more households are seeing both parents employed. Last year, both parents held jobs in 61 percent of married couples with children.

It is clear that having time off for bonding with a newborn is beneficial and becoming more accepted. To find out exactly how its existence, or lack thereof, has affected fathers young and old, we asked 22 dads around the country to share their experiences after the birth of their child. Many of them only provided their first names and, in a couple instances, no name at all, because they feared repercussions for talking about their employer.

My job at the Garment District, a clothing store in Cambridge, gave me paid paternity leave for 30 days, twice, which was amazing. The outrageous part is my wife, who worked for a massive luxury retail business, got zero days. I was basically the first person at Garment District to have a kid, so there wasn’t necessarily a policy in place, so they kinda made the decision on the fly. I had been there 13 years when my first was born and 17 years when the second was born, and I’d also worked plenty of salary overtime—a.k.a. unpaid—so they considered me worth the investment.

As a personal shopper, my wife was directly responsible for well over a million dollars a year in sales, but they didn’t give her any paid maternity leave. She was directed to register as “temporarily disabled” with the state, and she got a measly couple hundred bucks over the three months she was out. She also worked up until the week she went into labor both times, and still was working from home via text, email, and phone while on “leave.” Basically maternity leave for her company meant: You can have three months off unpaid before we’ll hire someone else to do your job.

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