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'It’s a toxic-masculinity thing': Pete Buttigieg faces backlash for taking paternity leave — a stigma many dads know well

Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others have criticized the transportation secretary for his recent paternity leave, but others have asserted the value of...

10/16/2021 4:56:00 PM

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is facing criticism over his decision to take paternity leave. But the controversy is also prompting renewed discussion among parents about the need for men to have time off following the birth of a child.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others have criticized the transportation secretary for his recent paternity leave, but others have asserted the value of...

Buttigieg, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and his husband, Chasten, recently became parents of twins through adoption. In an early September tweet, Buttigieg introduced the couple’s infant twins, saying, “We are delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family.”

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Buttigieg was mostly “offline” from work during the first four weeks of parenting, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, as reported by Politico. That prompted charges that the transportation secretary was neglecting his duties at a pivotal time, a situation he also navigated when service in the U.S. Navy Reserve required absences from South Bend’s city hall.

Among the most vocal critics was Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said on his program: “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it. Trying to figure out how to breastfeed, no word on how that went.”

Some critics have accused Carlson of being insensitive and homophobic. But perhaps of equal note are the questions being raised about paternity leave and whether its value and importance is misunderstood by society.For his part, Buttigieg, in an interview late Friday on MSNBC, said Carlson had demonstrated an unfamiliarity with the concepts of both bottle feeding and parental leave.

In recent years, more companies have offered paid leave to both women and men following the birth or adoption of a child. One survey, from the Society for Human Resource Management and Oxford Economics, found that 55% of employers provide paid maternity leave and 45% provide paid paternity leave. Some states have even mandated such leaves, though the U.S. doesn’t have a federal mandate requiring paid parental leave, making it the only industrialized country in the world without one, according to the Associated Press.

Advocates say these leaves ensure that employees are in better shape, physically and mentally, when they return to work and are thus more capable of doing a good job. But they also say that offering these leaves doesn’t necessarily have to affect a company’s bottom line. If anything, they argue, a leave benefit can serve as an inducement to attract and retain talent.

Reddit co-founder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, an advocate of family-leave policies, is among those who say what’s good for parents is also good for businesses. “By introducing better policies, having an open dialogue in the office about parental leave, and finding new solutions to support teams while these new parents are jumping through hurdles at home, business leaders can create a more equitable workplace and, in turn, retain employees,” he was quoted as having told Fast Company.

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The stakes arguably become higher when the employee taking leave is a chief executive of a company or, in the case of Buttigieg, a prominent government official. But examples abound of those who have done so without issue.New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, took a six-week maternity leave in 2018. And Ohanian, married to tennis star Serena Williams, took a four-month paternity leave from Reddit. Other CEOs and high-ranking executives have done so, as well, be they the leaders of a small software company or a one-time manager of Facebook FB, -1.15%.

Still, many men and parenting advocates say there is a broader stigma attached to paternity leave, rooted in the traditional ideas that child rearing is a woman’s job and that men must continue to work and provide for their families. That may explain why men hesitate to take extended leaves: A United State Department of Labor report found that 70% of men take off 10 days or fewer in connection with the birth or adoption of a child.

On top of that, some parents — men and women alike — fear that taking any leave could affect their job security. In a 2016 Deloitte survey, 54% of respondents said they would be perceived as lacking commitment to their job if they took parental leave.

The paternity-leave situation is unsettling to men like Marley Jay, a Brooklyn, N.Y., father of two sons. He took time off after the birth of both of his boys — in the case of his younger son, an eight-week paid leave that Jay much appreciated.“It’s a toxic-masculinity thing,” he said of the backlash to paternity leave. “It’s sad that people can’t conceive why people would want to spend time with their newborn children.”

Similarly, Tim Anderson, an Austin, Texas, father, said he was grateful even for the two-week paid leave he got after the birth of his son seven years ago. For him, the leave was especially critical because he had to tend to his wife, who was recovering from an emergency C-section.

But Anderson also said the bonding time with his child proved invaluable. “I did feel more connected [to the baby]. I wasn’t just this person coming home at the end of the day,” he said.Some men, however, are responding to the issue by not only asserting the need for paternity leave, but also fighting for the legal right to take such time off. Derek Rotondo sued his employer, JPMorgan Chase JPM, +1.92%, for its alleged refusal to grant a 16-week leave. The case resulted in a $5 million class-action settlement.

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To be sure, many women note that the need for paid maternity leave is still not as widely recognized as it should be. They speak to the fact that such leaves are often falsely seen as some kind of “vacation” rather than a critical time to tend to and bond with a newborn.

“I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is a vacation,” said Emily M. Dickens, chief of staff and head of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management.Dickens balked at the idea that a top government official like Buttigieg can’t take some time off for a newborn.

Read more: MarketWatch »

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Supply chain bottlenecks causing shortages of everything all over the country and this pansy is taking paternity leave? America downfall Great story. Compelling and rich. I should get paternity leave too every time I take a s*** How can I get out of work for two months? Step 1: Adopt twin infants. Step 2: file for paternity leave Step 3: interview and hire nannies Step 4: get out of town

He can take paternity leave, except in this critical juncture of supply chain, Biden should/could appoint a temporary secretary to step in. Good for him! More father's should be given and take paternity leave. MEN don't want paternity leave. It's pretty simple. lol Empty shelves for Christmas is a good thing!!!

How does a man take maternity leave 💀🤨😂😂

Pete Buttigieg Shoots Back At Tucker Carlson's Paternity Leave Criticism'I guess he just doesn’t understand the concept of bottle feeding,' the transportation secretary said. “Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed.” WTF? Butti- whatever - your such a disgrace by not performin your job , resign & take care of what you shouldn't possess🛐🇺🇸✝️🗡️⚡💜🕊️🥰🐑 TuckerCarlson doesn't understand how to be a decent human being. His parents didn't love him. Sad.

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Tucker Carlson Torched For Homophobic Comment About Pete Buttigieg's Paternity LeaveThe Fox News host mocked the transportation secretary, who just welcomed twins with his husband. Who cares about his personal life? Do your fucking job! What has he done since becoming transportation secretary? 🤡 Tucker..🤮 Carlson🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮 Is there anything else to say? Good for Fox because it appears he is doing a really bad Job as transportation secretary.

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