At Facebook, parents can take up to four months of paid time off to take care of their newborn child. But nationwide, nearly a third of men say taking leave — paid or not — is not an option. Many men report they are reluctant to take time off, even if offered, for fear it will hurt their careers. Researchers found that dads who reduced their hours or went to flexible schedules for family reasons got lower raises and received poorer scores on evaluations. We discuss the decision to take paternity leave.

The New Dad: Take Your Leave

Tom Stocky, vice president for search at Facebook who authored a viral post about the end of his four-month paternity leave
Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family
Loren Crippin, development and marketing associate at the nonprofit First Graduate who recently returned to work after taking three weeks of paternity leave after his son was born
Julia Parish, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center

  • Noelle

    As usual, the United States’ lack of a national daycare program creates more pressures for families(financial and personal). France’s early childhood programs are fantastic for families. Socialism, yay!

  • Ben

    We are expecting our first child within the month, so thank you for this topic! I am also cofounder of a two year old startup, and have a lot of responsibilities with the company. As much as I would love to take an 8-week leave, I’ve had to compromise with both my family and my company and plan to take 4 weeks off after my wife returns to work following her 6 months of leave.

    When I brought this up with our CEO, she asked me if was sure I could handle that much paternity leave. I told her no, and that is exactly the point!

  • ES Trader

    The FIRST Rule of finance, as every finance prof taught me, is “There is no FREE Lunch”.

    It would be great in a Utopian world, if everyone enjoyed the joys and none of the stress but that is not how life evolved.

    If government subsidies the cost, that means more government and more taxes or debt.

    It’s great for Facebook or any tech firm to offer it as a benefit but what happens when that cycle turns, as it inevitably will and tech is no longer in boom times or worse, gpes out of business ?

    All businesses operate on an expected profit margin, thus even tech companies will pass on the cost which ultimately leads to higher cost to consumers.

    • Kenji Yamada

      This sounds like a zero-sum view of the economy. What if some government benefits actually cause the pie to grow, and don’t only reallocate existing pie?

      • ES Trader

        It is a zero-sum game of monopoly money…. think about it currency, is simply the perception of credit worthiness of government of which the value vis a vis other sovereign currencies fluctuates daily based on the perceived value vs other currencies.

        Sovereign governments because they say so is the sole producer of that currency. If suddenly no one is willing to accept the paper in exchange for goods and services regardless of the dead president or numerical value printed on it is worthless paper.

        Its all a psychological game

  • David

    I took four weeks at the front and then another two weeks once my wife went back to work at six months for both our children. It was invaluable for my relationships with them. It was hard work, but it was also a lot of fun, especially to see their development one-on-one. It’s worth mentioning: I definitely value and respect the company I work for more for supporting me!

  • Sam Badger

    I think it’s great that your guest talked about the importance of paternity leave regarding gender roles. This issue is a fundamentally feminist cause which benefits men – proof that feminism isn’t misandry!

  • amyj1276

    CA is one of only three states that has a paid family leave program, but few people know about it and even fewer are able to take advantage of it because they can’t afford to live on only 50% of their salary. And, incredibly enough, public employees are excluded from paid family leave!

  • Bill

    I took a different direction when I first became a father back in the 80s knowing that it was going to be very difficult to balance the time I wanted to spend with my children and working at a high growth internet company – I was fortunate enough to be able to cash in on my stock options and retire to become a full-time dad for my kids and that’s what I did.

    My wife and I spent less than an hour talking about it and for us it was a simple and easy decision. I was going to leave millions of $ of un-vested options behind but we had enough to do what we wanted since we married – to raise a family where at least one parent would be at home. We did and no regrets.

    I’m glad times have changed and society is more accepting of a father’s role in parenting and the need to balance personal with professional life. Is society there yet with respect to this specific issue? No, but progress is being made and for this reason I’m very optimistic that my son, who’ll be graduating from college this year, won’t have to struggle to balance parenthood and career as dads did back in the 80s.


  • Momma KAC

    When my husband was out pushing the stroller with our first born, someone he knew commented that he must be on babysitting duty. He said, “No, I’m the father”. He felt incenesed that he wasn’t seen as the parent. Kathryn from Mountain View

  • I own a small business in San Francisco, and right now we do not offer paid leave of our own. However, we do assist our staff who need to take leave with the state forms for paid family leave and encourage folks to take the time they need. We have had 4 people take family leave in the last few years, including our most senior manager who took paternity leave a few years ago, and we were thrilled for him and his wife. For him to take this leave did not effect his position in the company, his year end bonus, his raises or ability to achieve promotion within the company. He certainly remains our most valuable person and we want him to be happy and to remain with us for as long as possible.

  • Kiki

    Just to give a different view point….becoming a parent is a choice. What about those who don’t choose to add to the population? Why should someone else’s choice be given a benefit over those who don’t add to a population of the greatest consumers on the planet, like the US?

    • amyj1276

      Because creating the next generation of our society is a public good, not an individual good. I’m pretty sure that when you’re old and feeble you’ll be grateful for having another generation of doctors, researchers, nurses, nursing home staff, teachers, etc. The hyperindividualism that plagues American culture will ultimately be its downfall.

      • Lance

        With our current gains with efficiency in our economies, we don’t need as many people to accomplish the same tasks. There is a need for a shift in thinking that stability requires constant population growth.

        • Noelle

          Yes, no one addresses this issue. It’s always “there will be new jobs created” but I think we are at a point where we will have Surplus Army of Labor and this will be a huge problem.
          But I also agree we have to see family leave in the collective context, not just for the individuals involved.

  • Parisa

    While there is certainly social discomfort with men being an integral part of their families (Mad Men, anyone?), the career concern that men have about taking any paternity leave is also a byproduct of not having equality in the workplace/workforce. Many of the men that have expressed their concerns today have said that they feel this might impact their careers and they can’t take that amount of time away from work. Yet, we expect women to do just that. If men and women are properly represented at all levels of an organization, the pressures of the career-world won’t be so lopsidedly on the men, nor the pressures of the family-world so lopsidedly on the women.

  • ned in berkeley

    In Denmark, couples are given 52 weeks of parental leave to share between them and are allowed to decide for themselves how to divide it up. Part of the reasoning behind the policy is that they found that when father’s were more involved in the beginning of their children’s lives, they were then much more involved going forward.

    • City Resident

      So many European nations have similar, family friendly programs – in Austria parents get three years total (per child) that they can share between them.

  • KRD

    Great topic! As one half of a dual income professional couple with a baby on the way, I think it’s critical that employers understand how valuable “generous” leave policies are as an effective recruiting and retention tool. My law firm recently increased it’s paid “primary caregiver” parental leave to 18 weeks, with additional unpaid time off available at the parent’s discretion. Additionally, the firm offers paid leave to “non-primary” caregivers, and the expectation (at least here in California) is that fathers will and should take that time. My sense is that expecting fathers to take leave has a positive impact on both their families and on the office as a whole because everyone has “on the ground” experience with the challenges and joys of raising young kids.

  • Andrea

    The comment that believes having children is a choice – we will all benefit one day from having well cared for children, as a society – your physicians and police officers when you’re old, social security funding, etc. ETC.

  • btcbtc

    I was very happy to hear your guest from Facebook talking about encouraging companies to offer Paternity leave. It is something that I have been saying over and over (as a woman/mom). The fight is not over with just winning maternity leave for women. To have a level playing field for both genders at the work place , the responsibility of child rearing has to be shared equally (or at least as equally as possible), whenever possible! I didn’t get a chance to listen to the entire program (had to drop my kid at day care while my husband was busy in meetings *wink wink*), but the point I want to make is that we need, not only policy changes, but an attitude adjustment as well! Fathers need to be okay with taking a step back once in a while to be able to be a dad (“Lean back” if you will !) I remember my boss saying once when he had to stay home to take care of his kids (while his stay-at-home wife was out of town), that he had to play “Mr Mom” that day. I was a brand-new-mom-brand-new-back-to-work, and I quipped almost immediately, saying.. Yea, I know the feeling, it’s a role I play every day !! -Cazint

  • William Phelps

    When my son was born 13 years ago, being self employed, I was able to take time off, and to this day I am glad I did. Funny story: I walked to the local cofffee shop every day with my son in a carrier on my chest. The women I met asked me how old my son was. The men would all ask me how old my grandson was.

  • My close friend Chris works as an independent consultant/contract programmer at an east coast-based investment banker firm. This company has one of the most conservative “old-boy” corporate cultures I’ve seen in SF: suit-and-tie dress code even for the IT dept., great amounts of fawning deference paid to one’s boss and mgmt in general, huge, and hugely unbalanced senior mgmt salaries, massive peer pressure to work long daily hours and weekends, and an obsession with putting forth a “family man” image–young male employees are encouraged to marry and have kids to present the “right image”.

    However, taking ANY time off is strongly discouraged. There’s this neurotically competitive daily race to get to the office as early as humanly possible, bolt down lunch at ones’ desk, and stay well past 7pm. The idea of actual efficiency; of getting better quality work done in a shorter time span is completely and totally ignored for the preference of sheer, ulcer-inducing, heart attack-causing QUANTITY. If you do dare take (gasp!) a vacation, sick day, or holiday, you are expected to be available 24/7 for emails and phone calls. Chris regularly gets emails at 11pm or 4am during the week, and all times on the weekend that he is expected to respond to ASAP, and employees wearily joke about the hours-long phone conversations they took on a daily basis during the dreaded vacations.

    Even though Chris is a consultant, the VP in charge of his project took him aside and talked to him about his unmarried status to his long-term girlfriend; “the firm” likes their employees to be married. Several of Chris’ colleagues have recently taken family paternal leave, and in each case, upper management continually and loudly gossiped about how back in “their” day, they wouldn’t have DREAMED about taking any time off at all, sharing “war stories” about how they got a phone call notifying them of their child’s birth when they were at a sales conference–and how all “the boys” helped them celebrate with a night out spent drinking and smoking cigars, this being much more manly and preferable to the “wimpy” choice of paternal leave. This is their idea of a family image.

    It’s always seemed so paradoxical to me that this firm is so very concerned with appearing “wholesome” and family-oriented, with their mostly male employees in traditional gender roles that were the norm in the 1950s, yet they do everything they can without actually breaking the law to use social pressure to discourage their employees with children from spending actual family time with them. I’m happy to hear that many Bay Area firms, notably Facebook and Genentech, are leading the way towards REAL family-friendly employer policies–Northern California has always been known as pioneers when it comes to socially progressive ideas. The entirely toxic environment at my friend’s dinosaur-like and very east-coast “old-school” firm is hopefully, like those same dinosaurs, nearing an extinction event.

  • Anastasia

    An important point to underline from this morning’s discussion: California offers a Paid Family Leave program that offers workers up to 55% of their salary for up to six weeks to care for newborns, as well as newly adopted or foster children. Most employers DO NOT offer paid leave, but we’re lucky to live in a state where we can get these benefits. Learn more at paidfamilyleave.org.

    • amyj1276

      Excellent point! Although it’s important to note that many people, including public employees, don’t qualify. And although it’s important to raise awareness about PFL, it’s also important to improve upon the program so that more people qualify and so that more people can actually take it if they want to (i.e., raise the percentage of pay; most people can’t live off of only 55% of their salary).

  • Proud of my husband

    One option is to ask one’s employer for “part-time” paternity leave, so if the company offers three weeks of leave, for example, one might ask for six weeks while working 50% time. My husband took 6 months at 50% time, and it was a terrific option. He was the very first employee in his heavily male-dominated workplace to take substantial paternity leave, and there were no negative effects of his having done so. His bond with our son is extremely strong, and he continues to be a very hands-on dad. From what I can see, this has been extremely positive for our son, for my husband, and for us as a family. I’m so proud of him for having stuck his neck out and been pioneer in this way.
    Another point– the Swedes have created a change in the culture whereby it is praise-worthy to be a dad who is deeply involved in caring for his kids. This needs to happen here too if more men are to want to take leave and more companies to allow it. I believe the Swedes did it in part with a government billboard poster campaign of a very manly sports celebrity posing with his baby and visibly enjoying fathering. Something we can do here is praise men who take substantial paternity leave, and talk to other men about their doing so.

  • geraldfnord

    Many companies are headed by driven men (usually) for whom the firm is the single most important fixture of their life, and consider any other attitude dodgy at best or treacherous at worst.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor