Like most guys with a very pregnant wife, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dana Eveland had been keeping his cell phone close by for the past week. His wife, Ashley, was due to deliver their second son yesterday, and Eveland was prepared to take advantage of something many players have never had – paternity leave.
Ashley, however, went into labor early, giving birth to little Asher Perry last weekend, and giving the new dad time to fly back for his team’s Tuesday night home game against the Angels.
Because of baby Asher’s impeccable timing and the Orioles’ schedule, Eveland didn’t need to use the MLB’s allowance of father-child bonding. Introduced only last season, “the paternity leave list” allows a team to replace a player on its active roster for up to three days after having a child.
Sure, three days might not sound like much “leave” to most parents (more like a paternity “long weekend,” if you ask me).
But something’s better than nothing, right? By placing paternity leave squarely in the news (especially on sports sites that don’t usually cover pregnancy and parenting), and allowing players to take a bit of time from their grueling schedule to be with their new babies, Major League Baseball might be helping to pave the way for all the normal guys out there to ask for a week or two when their wives give birth.
After all, if professional athletes are showing their softer side, maybe the social stigma of paternity leave is finally fizzling.
Three years ago, when our son was born, it honestly never occurred to me that my husband could take any real time away from his Wall Street job. My water broke on a Wednesday, and my husband was there for the entire labor, which, to be fair, coincided with market hours (luckily, he had perfect Blackberry reception the whole time, though the nurses did ask him to put it on vibrate, for my sake).
But the next morning, he delivered a Starbucks to my hospital room, kissed our sweet new bundle, and was off to the office, only an hour later than usual.
It turns out, my husband’s company does have a pretty generous policy as large places go in the US— a full week of paid paternity leave. But like a lot of people with time-consuming careers, the issue was more of whether he could realistically step away, and put a hold on everything he had going on at that moment.
Other fathers in corporate America are finding that they can take a good chunk of time off after the birth of their baby.
Eric David, father of two, says there was absolutely no stigma taking paternity leave when he worked for a large global consulting firm, after the birth of each of his children. David’s firm has a two-week policy and he says his employer encouraged folks to actually take it. He even felt comfortable enough there to tack on two additional weeks each time of personal time off, so he ended up spending a full month at home with his wife and new baby.
“Everyone was extremely supportive,” he explains. “It was such a special experience. Truly, I could not imagine doing it differently. It was so great to have this protected time to bond as a family. Though many folks who were not employed by the same employer were surprised I had so much time off.”
In fact, some men (even dads themselves) are surprised that baseball players might want three whole days after their spouse has a baby. Last spring, Richie Whitt , a columnist for the Dallas Observer, wrote:
“Baseball players are paid millions to play baseball. If that means ‘scheduling’ births so they occur in the off-season, then so be it.”
Whitt, it seems, doesn't realize that conception is tricky business, and that newborns don’t always consult their parents’ Outlook calendars before they arrive. But sometimes, like in baby Eveland’s case, infants somehow arrive at just the right time.
Dana Eveland doesn’t “make millions”— but at $750,000, he’s paid a lot to play. And out of a 162 game season, the new dad would have missed three this week, if he’d been placed on paternity leave. Meaning, Eveland would have been out for approximately 2 percent (or $15,000 worth) of the season this year.
I just hope he enjoyed every minute of his two days with his new family, because Eveland will soon find out that parenthood goes by as quickly as his 90 mph fastball.
Jacoba Urist is a lawyer, writer, and mom in Manhattan. Her articles have appeared on MSN Money, The Altantic, & Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She is also a Forbes contributor, where she covers legal and financial news for parents. Thankfully, over the past three years, her husband has been able to spend some great down time with their new family, even if the first few weeks were a little crazy. Follow Jacoba on twitter: @Thehappiestpare.
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