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Paternity leave is fit for a prince

His Royal Highness The Prince of Cambridge George

His Royal Highness The Prince of Cambridge George Alexander Louis, the first child of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and third heir to the British throne. (Credit: Getty Images)

Prince William isn’t just the world’s most famous new dad -- he’s also the world’s most famous beneficiary of paternity leave. The heir to the British crown just returned to work after two weeks of leave, which he used to get to know his infant son, international superstar George Alexander Louis.

News of Prince William’s leave sparked a flurry of questions from the media and spectators. Does Prince William really need the $206 per week afforded under British law? (Probably not. He has an estimated net worth of $40 million.) Do princes have jobs from which to take leave? (This one does. William is a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.) Has Britain always had paid paternal leave? (No. It was introduced 10 years ago.)

I, for one, feel good for Prince William, because the experience of being home with a newborn child is critical for a father’s learning process. I used two weeks of vacation time in September 2011, when my wife and I had just welcomed our son into the world, for this purpose. It was an amazing time, in part because it was a self-guided crash course in parenting. Those two weeks were when I learned how to change a diaper, fasten a car seat belt, heat up a bottle of milk, carry the baby in a ring-sling, fold shirts and pants that were tinier than doll clothes, and build up the confidence to be home alone with our son when my wife couldn’t be around because of work or other responsibilities.

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Statistics about paternity leave suggest that it hasn’t taken off in popularity yet. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that a 2012 study of college professors found only 12 percent of fathers took paid parental leave when offered -- compared with 69 percent for mothers. However, paternity leave is actually more readily available than maternity leave -- in 2011, 11 percent of companies offered paid maternity leave beyond paid disability leave, while 13 percent offered paid paternity leave, the Journal reported.

My advice to any new father -- royal or otherwise -- is to take paternity leave if you are able, and if not, save up your vacation time and use it when your baby is born. You have a lot to learn, and your baby will thank you.

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