“Take the job, I have 3 months of paternity leave too. We will make this work together”
These were my husband’s words when I got a new job 7 months pregnant with my first child. I was evaluating giving up 6 months of paid paternity leave for a 3-month leave.
8 years into being a parent, I can say without a doubt that my husband taking 3 months of paternity leave was one of the best decisions for our family, our marriage, our kids, and both of us thriving in our personal and professional lives.
Interestingly enough, my husband was promoted twice, each time while he was on paternity leave. I am acutely aware of how rare this is but I also hope that this story becomes more common and normalized in the years to come.
One of the many barriers to fathers taking time off (in addition to companies offering paternity leave) is the social stigma and professional penalties men often face in the workplace. Pausing your career for a few months to take care of your OWN child and supporting your partner is not about losing points on masculinity but rather a beautiful expansion of what it means to be a man and father in today’s modern world.
We each have an opportunity to co-create and contribute to workplace cultures we are all proud of working in. Regardless of your role and title, here’s my invitation for you –
1 – When you see your male co-workers take family leave for a new child, celebrate them – ask them about their children, let them know that you value them for being committed employees but also committed parents. Don’t ask them how was the vacation? Unless they also had a nanny or another adult caregiving, taking care of a child under 1 solo is NOT a vacation, and if the child has any kind of special needs, the complexity compounds. And while we are at this point, don’t ever ask a mother who has come back from maternity leave – How was her “vacation.”?
2 – Advocate for paternity leave and other benefits to support parents. Give your fathers more than a few days or weeks of paternity leave, the dividends over the long run will be huge.
3 – And managers, please don’t penalize them professionally – don’t make assumptions about their career aspirations without asking them. Don’t exclude them from strategic projects once they are back because they now have “young children ” unless they want that route for themselves. Even better, create a safe space where they can bring up these topics and you can partner with them to design a career that enables them to thrive.