“Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families.”
This is part of the explanation Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave when he announcing his plan to take two months paternity leave when his daughter arrives.
It’s difficult to understate the significance of this. It’s massive and it matters. Not just for Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla and their unborn daughter. And, not just the 11,500 Facebook employees around the world who are now entitled to four months paid paternity leave and have the implicit permission from their boss to take it. It’s significant for future parents everywhere.
This a man who heads up a listed company worth billions of dollars. He is one of the richest and most visible male business leaders in the world. And he is publicly and proudly placing his stake in the ground as a CEO and a father, who is willing take time out for his family.
He is not the first dad in the world to take parental leave. Two months is hardly a year. He is, obviously, in a position where financially he can take as much leave as he wants. But none of that diminishes the significance of his decision.
For every word written by, for and about working mothers over the past few decades – and they number in the millions – there has been a gaping hole in the picture. Dads.
Watch the Good Morning America team discuss the importance of Zuckerberg’s decision to take paternity leave. Post continues below.
There aren’t a million thought-pieces on men struggling to juggle work and family because they’re not expected to “juggle” it in the way women are. For men it’s a given they can work and have a family without one impeding on the other.
One of the more obvious reasons for this is because, typically, the arrival of a baby hasn’t changed the pattern of a father’s work. Becoming a father hasn’t impeded – in practical terms – on their career or working week.
For mothers it’s a different story. Mothers re-arrange their working live to accommodate their family, which explains why 3 in 4 part-time workers in Australia are women. For some families this is a perfect arrangement, but for lots it isn’t. For lots of families, the possibilities for care and work would be exponentially expanded if caring was shared by mum and dad.
The challenge for dads becoming more involved in baby-rearing and care-giving isn’t one dimensional but the stubbornly intact stigma around men taking time out for their families cannot be ignored. In too many workplaces, and social settings, a father stepping away from work to spend time with a baby isn’t warmly welcomed. It’s greeted with skepticism: a mark on his masculinity. A sign that he has no ambition.