Well, yes and no. I definitely take your point about our country’s parental leave offerings. My wife and I would both have taken more time off, or at least maxed out the 12 week entitlement under FMLA, if we could afford it. At the same time, FMLA itself is gender neutral, but the way parents act within the framework of our current system is still very gendered.
I have heard of women who scrimp on their vacation days for years in anticipation of having a baby, to take their leave. The way most women under employers who don’t offer benefits beyond FMLA (like mine) is to cobble together all of their paid time off, disability leave, and as much unpaid leave as they can afford to take (if possible). There isn’t (in mist employers) any special allowance for maternity leave. At the same time, I have seen fathers who send their babies to daycare while they still have vacation days left. This disparity is entirely down to societal expectations, in my opinion.
I’m on paternity leave using all my accrued vacation days, unpaid leave, and some overtime hours. I also attempted to negotiate a reduced leave schedule to extend my leave additional weeks, but my supervisor denied the proposal because they didn’t want me out so long (even though I would still have been under 12 weeks total). I think many male managers probably suffer from a lack of understanding of these issues.
This whole issue probably merits a whole post on its own. It’s certainly been an interesting journey for me just making the decision/plans for leave in the first place (including researching/advocating for my own rights to my employer).