But men can also benefit from paid parental leave. Spending time with your child and partner early on can have psychological, physical, and even professional benefits in the long run. Paid holidays should also be their fight.
CNN spoke with Reddit co-founder, venture capitalist and paid time off advocate Alexis Ohanian – also known as the husband of professional tennis player Serena Williams and – why time off is good for men, why they should fight for the holidays and why they are reluctant to speak.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
CNN: Paternity leave can help men in their family relationships. How has this helped you as a parent?
Alexis Ohanian: I didn’t grow up with younger siblings, and I had never been around a baby, or conceived to be around a baby, until I was a dad. Paternity leave is the way I have gained confidence with the children, because I have been able to spend that time learning, making mistakes and understanding.
Now even with a 4 year old I see the effects of this even in the most subtle ways because I know we got through that time when they were newborns and we can’t tell you what. they feel. Having that first experience makes each of the upcoming issues seem much more manageable, as I was able to develop confidence that I would never have gained otherwise.
CNN: What kind of positive effects has paternity leave had on your marriage?
Ohanien: The arrival of a child is a time in our life when everything we know is turned upside down. And even if we don’t carry the child or deliver the child, men have a role to play. Even in the best of circumstances, with a totally healthy pregnancy and childbirth, it allows you to be there for your partner and support them emotionally and physically.
My wife has had a very public and difficult pregnancy, and in these scenarios, it’s vital. She was recovering from a number of surgeries after the birth of our daughter. And although we are in a situation where we have tremendous access, privileges and support, it was still a very difficult time. I am so grateful that I was able to spend time not only with our newborn baby but also to be there for my wife. It was essential.
But then again, even if everything is going well, those first few weeks are when you figure out how life is going to work out now and what your new routines are. Having a little more time to spend together, supporting each other, and being able to truly empathize with each other goes a long way in relationships. It’s always very difficult, but taking parental leave allows you to ensure that you have the best chance of getting off to a good start. It’s the kind of thing that has a ripple effect.
CNN: How can paternity leave benefit men professionally?
Ohanien: If your home is in a good location when you return to work after the birth of a baby, you are able to be more productive. This is one of the reasons I offer paternity leave as an employer and one of the reasons I really impose it on men. It pays to spend some time making sure the castle is in order and the family is ready, because then you can do your best.
There is no such thing as work and life being separate. They are absolutely interconnected and it is in the best interest of employers to have employees who can take time off when they need it. Paid time off can pay dividends for years and years and years to come.
CNN: How can the experience of caring for children change men?
Ohanien: You will have to ask my team if I am more compassionate or empathetic. I’m not sure if I can answer this question, but there is one thing I see among Type A, alpha men leaders in all industries including sports and entertainment. Taking time off and using that time to care for your child or partner is such a humbling experience.
As a man who has been obsessed with this career all his life – and I still am, I love the work I do – but I really thought it was the center of my universe. I made so many decisions in my life based on my career, then I became a dad and a switch flipped. And I hear that over and over again from other men. I have this family that I know will be my real legacy, and that puts into perspective how important these times with my family are. My family is what I will truly remember by the people I really care about.
I don’t think that makes us any less competitive. On the contrary, I think I have become more competitive since I was a father. But I look at all of my decisions through the lens of having a future conversation with my child, and I want her to be very proud of what I’ve done, the decisions I’ve made, including stakes are now stakes of my legacy.
CNN: How did you get into the paid vacation campaign?
CNN: Why don’t you think more men are arguing for paid parental leave?
Ohanien: I think the tide is turning. More and more successful fathers are talking about it and posting on social media how important it is for them to be involved in the lives of their children, which is a huge step forward compared to there was to. barely a generation, when my father took maybe a day without work after I was born. In the 1980s, let alone the 1950s or 1960s, it was inconceivable that Dad would even admit that he had a life outside of work.
We are seeing a culture change, and many successful men are normalizing behavior that will make it easier for insecure fathers to say “no” at work, because being with their families is important to them. I think there are a lot of fathers who wish they could take paternity leave but just don’t get it and aren’t in contexts where they can talk about it. But once again, the tide is turning.
Elissa strauss covers the culture and politics of parenthood. His book on the radical power of parenting and caregiving will be published in 2023.