Millennials get their shot at changing parenting rules

Millennials, you’ve got a problem ahead. Two-thirds of you say you expect your partner will handle the child-rearing in your family, according to a recent survey from Harvard. About half of the Millennial women expect bringing up baby will fall on them. See the math, there?

Leigh Hafrey says this generation — if Generation Y will lead when it finally gets the chance to do so — has a way to make the numbers add up better. In his Cognoscenti column today, he pitches paid paternity leave.

Does this disconnect, both with regard to the future and across gender lines, warrant alarm? Generation Y, which comprises the largest population cohort the U.S. has ever seen, will soon have a determinative voice on these matters. By 2020, they will comprise nearly half of the U.S. labor force. Some members of their generation will wield considerable power in shaping the modern workplace and the social contract between employers and employees, the private sector, and the larger society.

One reason for their lack of foresight is their life stage: They’re young! While some of my students are married, and a few already have children, most of them are dependent-free. It’s hard to imagine what it feels like to have children before you actually do.

A second reason they’re not thinking about these issues is organizational indifference. For all the talk in corporate America about the importance of work-life balance, the reality is that most companies don’t promote these quality-of-life policies. According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, the share of companies that offer paternity leave declined five percentage points from 2010 to 2014.

Worse still, many companies subtly punish men who take paternity leave, similar to the ways in which working women are marginalized for taking maternity leave. Research shows that men who scale back or take time off to be with their children are often penalized for taking advantage of flexible arrangements, passed over for promotions or even demoted. For Sandra and me, it was Cambridge or New York or the People Express shuttle on weekends, complete with 2-year-old. I left my job, and we survived and thrived.

Paternity leave? Don’t get your hopes up. The U.S. is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave and they’re more important. Just ask the Millennials who one day expect to be fathers.

Related: Paternity Leave Isn’t a Paid, Drunken Vacation (TIME).

Can the U.S. Ever Fix Its Messed-Up Maternity Leave System? (Businessweek).