When I am interviewed about paternity leave, my book, and other “working dad” issues, I always get the question about why, even in companies that provide paid paternity leave, many dads don’t feel they can actually take an extended leave without significant career consequences. My typical answer goes something like this:
Yes, it is true that in many workplaces, it is not safe to “out yourself” as an involved dad. What we need is for brave dads to stand up and use paternity leave to show that being a great dad is not incompatible with being a great employee.
What my id really wants to scream is:
What we need are dads who kick ass at work to take all available paternity leave and even agitate for more. Then come back from paternity leave and keep kicking ass, proving to even the Neanderthals out there that REAL MEN take paternity leave!
This, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road, and we can start making progress. IBM recently expanded their parental leave policy and new dads now can take 6 paid weeks of paternity leave. That’s incredibly awesome! After all, paternity leave is good for business, for families, for working women, for dads, and for kids.
But will IBM’s paternity leave be a policy that gathers dust in the IBM employee manual? Not if Aaron has anything to say about it:
This is where we, as a generation of working dads, can have the most impact. We need to start role-modeling how fatherhood and career success can be complementary, not oppositional, forces. I wrote a whole book about it. And I speak in the media, to policy makers in government and leaders in business about it.
It’s one thing to convince others; action is more important. “Being the change we wish to see” will make change happen more quickly. We all need to follow Aaron’s example and step up. After all, as I conclude in The Working Dad’s Survival Guide:
I’m going to take my leave as publicly as possible. I’m going to write about it and chronicle it on these pages. I’m going to talk to my male coworkers whose partners are expecting, and urge them to take all six weeks too. As one of a select few who have the privilege of taking this time off, I feel that’s my duty. I view it as my responsibility to help make paternity leave normal instead of shameful. To be proud of being a family man instead of doing it on the sly or worried it might cost me my job.
More companies like IBM are being progressive in offering paid leave, and that’s great. Now it’s up to dads to step up to the plate and make our priorities known. So if you don’t have paid leave, advocate for it. And if you have it, take it. All of it.
You won’t regret it.
And you’ll make it easier for the next dad to take his paternity leave. Go, Aaron!
What do you think about paternity leave? IBM’s new policy? Aaron’s decision? Let’s discuss in the comments.
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