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: "It's a poisonous masculinity factor": Pete Buttigieg has confronted bitter backlash for taking paternity depart – why it's time to finish the stigma

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg faces criticism for his decision to take paternity leave while the country faces major supply chain problems. However, the controversy has also led to renewed discussion among parents, education experts and others about the need for men to take time off after having a child.

Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic nominee and former Mayor of South Bend, Ind., And his husband Chasten were recently adopted by twins. In a tweet in early September, Buttigieg introduced the couple's little twins and said, "We are excited to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg into our family."

Buttigieg was mostly "offline" from work in the first four weeks of parenting, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, as Politico reported. This led to allegations that the Secretary of Transportation was neglecting his duties at a crucial point in time, a situation he also navigated when serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve absenteeism from South Bend Town Hall required.

""The mental health siege from the pandemic is real, and companies report that employee productivity spurts have given way to exhaustion."

– McKinsey Report on Paternity Leave During the COVID-19 Pandemic

One of the most vocal critics was Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said on his show: “Pete Buttigieg went on leave from work in August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, it is said. I'm trying to figure out how to breastfeed, but not a word about how it went. "

Some critics have accused Carlson of being insensitive and homophobic. But perhaps equally noteworthy are the questions raised about paternity leave and whether its value and meaning are misunderstood by society.

For his part, Buttigieg said in an interview late Friday on MSNBC that Carlson had shown he was unfamiliar with the concepts of bottle feeding and parental leave.

Contrary to Carlson's biting criticism, McKinsey & Co., a management consultancy, interviewed 130 new fathers in 10 countries and found that paternity leave helps families by strengthening partnerships, supporting women – who are overwhelmingly responsible for childcare – sharing responsibility from the start and creating a lifelong paternal bond with the child.

"The men insisted that their experiences were positive, although some had concerns about what it could mean for their careers," it said. “Although our research has focused on heterosexual fathers taking paternity leave, we recognize that there are many other types of families (families with two mothers or two fathers, adoptive families, etc.) who face similar challenges and can therefore benefit from parental leave . ”

"Proponents say that parental leave ensures employees are in better physical and mental health when they return to work and are therefore better able to do a good job.

In recent years, more and more companies have offered paid leave to both women and men after the birth or adoption of a child. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and Oxford Economics found that 55% of employers give paid maternity leave and 45% give paid paternity leave.

Some states have even mandated such vacation, although the U.S. doesn't have a federal mandate mandating paid parental leave, making it the only developed nation in the world without one, according to the Associated Press.

Proponents say that these leave of absence help employees return to work in better physical and mental health and thus better able to do a good job. But they also say that the supply of these sheets doesn't necessarily have to affect a company's bottom line. They argue that a vacation pay can serve more as an incentive to attract and retain talent.

Reddit co-founder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, a family vacation policy advocate, is among those who say what's good for parents is good for businesses too. "By adopting better policies, having an open office dialogue about parental leave, and finding new solutions to support teams as these new parents overcome hurdles at home, leaders can create a fairer workplace and, in turn, retain employees," he said Company.

The stakes are arguably higher if the employee on leave is a CEO of a company or, in the case of Buttigieg, a prominent government official. But there are many examples of those who have done this with no problem.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took a six-week maternity leave in 2018. And Ohanian, married to tennis star Serena Williams, took a four-month paternity leave from Reddit. Other CEOs and senior executives have done the same, be it the executive of a small software company or a former manager of Facebook
FB,
-1.15%.

Tim Anderson says the time he took to be with his child was invaluable.

Courtesy Tim Anderson

Still, many men and proponents of parenting say that paternity leave comes with a broader stigma rooted in the traditional notion that raising children is a women's job and that men must continue to work and care for their families. This could explain why men are reluctant to take extended vacations: A report from the U.S. Department of Labor found that 70% of men take 10 days or less of time off related to the birth or adoption of a child.

In addition, some parents – both men and women – fear that vacation could compromise their job security. In a Deloitte survey from 2016, 54% of those questioned said that they would be perceived as insufficiently committed to their job if they took parental leave.

The situation of paternity leave is worrying for men like Marley Jay, a Brooklyn, N.Y., father of two sons. After the birth of his two boys, he took time off – in the case of his younger son, an eight-week paid vacation, which Jay held in high esteem.

"It's a toxic masculinity thing," he said of the backlash to paternity leave. "It's sad that people can't imagine why people would want to spend time with their newborn children."

Similarly, Tim Anderson, a father from Austin, Texas, said he was even grateful for the two-week paid vacation he got after his son was born seven years ago. The vacation was particularly critical for him because he had to take care of his wife, who was recovering from an emergency caesarean section.

""It's sad that people can't imagine why people would want to spend time with their newborn children."

– Tim Anderson, a father from Austin, Texas

But Anderson also said that bonding time with his child had proven invaluable. “I felt more connected (with the baby). I wasn't just that person who came home at the end of the day, ”he said.

However, some men respond by not only claiming the need for paternity leave, but also fighting for legal entitlement to such leave. Derek Rotondo is suing his employer, JPMorgan Chase
JPM,
+ 1.92%,
for alleged refusal to grant a 16-week vacation. The case resulted in a $ 5 million class action lawsuit.

And the pandemic has also increased the stakes for men who want or need to take paternity leave. "While the challenge of getting men to take paternity leave has been a long one, the COVID-19 crisis has created a new urgency for companies grappling with supporting employee wellbeing," the McKinsey report found.

"The mental health siege from the pandemic is real, and companies are reporting that employee productivity spurts have given way to exhaustion," she added. "A wide range of employees are particularly hard hit – including working parents who still feel the stress of combining work and childcare."

Additionally, McKinsey found that many of the 130 fathers surveyed by the company “said they felt more motivated after vacation and were thinking about staying longer with their organization. They also said the vacation made them change the way they work, become more productive, and better prioritize their time. "

True, many women find that the need for paid maternity leave is not yet as widespread as it should be. They suggest that such sheets are often mistakenly viewed as a kind of “vacation” rather than a critical time to care for and bond with a newborn.

"I can't imagine anyone thinking this is a vacation," said Emily M. Dickens, chief of staff and director of government for the Society for Human Resource Management.

Dickens resisted the idea that a high-ranking government official like Buttigieg couldn't take time off to look after a newborn baby.

“Nobody is irreplaceable. … Federal employees are talented and trained to step in, "she said when such needs arise.

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