In a recent essay for The New York Times Parenting section, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian got real about career expectations, becoming a father and paternity leave.

While Ohanian was lucky enough to take 16 weeks of paid paternity leave after his wife, tennis star Serena Williams, gave birth to daughter Olympia in 2017, not all dads are as fortunate.

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In his essay, Ohanian writes, “Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit’s company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?”

But after Williams’s complication-filled delivery of Olympia, Ohanian realized just how important his paid paternity leave was, writing, “Nothing could have dragged me away from my wife and daughter in those hours, days and weeks—and I’m grateful that I was never forced to choose between my family and my job.”

So why does Ohanian think men aren’t asking for paternity leave? He wrote, “The short answer is stigma. Men are conditioned to be breadwinners, exclusively—and another mouth to feed calls for more bread on the table (to say nothing of college tuition)—so off to work we go. Our sense of duty is often fear-based: Men assume their bosses will frown on paternity leave, so we don’t dare to go there.”

Underscoring the importance of the post-birth time for dads, Ohanian added, “I took my full 16 weeks and I’m still ambitious and care about my career. Talk to your bosses and tell them I sent you.” While a direct order from the Reddit co-founder may not score your S.O. paternity leave, it may start a conversation that’s all too necessary.

—Erica Loop

Featured photo: Alexis Ohanian via Instagram

 

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