Although Alexis Ohanian admits he “never thought much about paternity leave” before becoming a dad, taking those 16 weeks off turned out to be a big confidence booster and a foundation builder for him, his wife Serena Williams and their 23-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia.
In a recent essay for The New York Times, the Reddit co-founder, 36, opened up about why paternity leave is so important, despite men feeling a “stigma” around it.
While Ohanian understands that “not every father has the flexibility to leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career,” he stresses the importance of paid family leave for everyone.
“Serena and I were lucky enough to have help at home and many other advantages working in our favor. But even with all of that privilege, including my ability to focus solely on my family and not worry about keeping my job, it was still incredibly difficult,” Ohanian wrote.
“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.”
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I took my full 16 weeks of #PaternityLeave and I’m still ambitious AF and (clearly) care about my career. Talk to your bosses and tell them I sent you. Here’s my op-ed about it in the @nytimes (link in bio)
A post shared by Alexis Ohanian Sr. (@alexisohanian) on Aug 12, 2019 at 9:22am PDT
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My 100th post had to be special. @serena
A post shared by Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. (@olympiaohanian) on Jul 1, 2019 at 6:37am PDT
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Ohanian cited a statistic claiming only 9% of work sites in the United States offer paid paternity leave to all male employees, and 76% of fathers are back to work within a week after the birth or adoption of a child.
“I don’t blame my dad, or anybody else’s dad, for not taking time off after a child’s birth,” he shared. “Our culture makes it difficult. The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t mandate some form of paid family leave,” despite the fact that most dads want to be at home for the first months after a child’s birth.
Ohanian blames the lack of paternity leave on our culture’s “stigma” and that “men are conditioned to be breadwinners,” adding that men’s “sense of duty is often fear-based” as well.
“Nearly a third of dads think that taking leave could negatively impact their career. We could miss out on a promotion. We could become obsolete. We could get fired. Career fear is powerful,” he wrote.