How Mark Zuckerberg’s Example Helps Fight Stigma of Family Leave

Dec 03, 2015 · 47 comments
mai (Philippines)
I applaud Mr. Zuckerberg's decision. Here in the Philippines no all business owners would take time to leave even if they can afford it. And we office workers admire and respect our colleagues who take time for paternity leaves. Our bosses here are more understanding and respect the law.
tamora17 (Paris)
To the editor : the example of Mr Zuckerberg is to my mind hardly to be emulated. You are perhaps not aware of the privatization of secondary schools he ardently supports in Kenya, along with Mr Gates and via Pearson. After a 5 week unpaid strike by the KNUT, who were asking for a 50% in pay (average public teacher salary=170.00$/month,usually 100 pupils per class),President Uhuru Kenyatta overturned the high court's decision granting the Teacher's Union demand. The private sector teacher supported by Mr Zuckerberg have no training, are paid even less, and live in the most derelict,overcrowded,unsafe hangars the nation had known. This is charity abroad.
William C. Plumpe (Detroit, Michigan USA)
What kind of real example is Mr. Zuckerberg?
He is in a unique and very unusual position that
very few other people in the world can duplicate.
He is wealthy beyond belief and can afford to take
as much "family leave" as he wants.
In fact he could retire right now and be set for a thousand lifetimes.
Besides he's the boss and can do pretty much whatever he wants.
Again what kind of example does he set?
He sacrifices little or nothing and has nobody as his boss
telling him what he can and cannot do.
Reader (Westchester, NY)
My family could afford to support me while I took a leave of absence from working for a few years to care for a sick family member.

But you better believe that my giving up a tenured teaching position to care for a family member is not met with anything other than suspicion. This is my fourth year of under- employment since returning to work. I have excellent credentials and references, as well as a high need license area, but no matter.

If I'm having this much trouble as a woman in a female-dominated, care-taking profession, I don't see how any man can confidently take family leave- even if, like me, he can afford it.
Elise (Chicago)
Unpaid family leave is more like it. Leave policy is usually written so that you can use vacation time. Who has more than 2 weeks vacation time saved up? I read a statistic that an employer first wanted to hire a married man with children. Second choice was a single man. Third a single woman. And fourth choice a single woman with a child. That speaks to the inequality of the social norms for women carrying the burden of childcare.

Then add the problem of inadequate daycare for children. The issue of childcare falls mostly on women. So male parental leave is nice but please note it is unpaid and the woman is the one who will do all of the childcare. Sadly most woman are forced to stop working because their jobs don't pay enough to make working worthwhile over the cost of childcare.

One solution would be daycare, like the public schools. They could have a daycare center right next to each school. For example in France daycare beings at 4 months old. There is a often unpaid maternity leave expected and depending on the work contract paid. The daycare centers are next to the public schools. The cost are based on salary. The baby goes to the daycare until 3 years old.

Pre-school starts at 3 in France. So the parents only pay the sliding scale daycare until the child is 3. Then, the all day pre-school last for 3 years from 3-6. Plus, there is before and after school daycare in each public school for all ages. In the USA women really struggle with daycare.
tamora17 (Paris)
Pardon my intrusion, but public education is in shambles in France. The government is no longer speaking to the unions, the lack of pre-school is a serious problem and I fear you are quite misguided concerning "before and after daycare in each public school for all ages " as public sector employees are being laid off on an unprecedented scale.
Bob (NYC)
It's not the stigma: it's that most jobs are a cakewalk compared to taking care of a baby, so many fathers, being morally imperfect, would rather go back to work as soon as they can get away with, taking advantage of biological differences and/or social convention to let the wife have the short end of the stick.
OldManArtur (Recife, PE, Brazil)
I am from Brazil, where women have six months of paid Paternity leave, but men have only five days, which means nearly nothing. As a father of two, I know by personal experience that is awful to be forced to be away in such a moment, both by emotional and practical reasons, when both the mother and the newborn need so much assistance and support, and most times family cannot be around as needed. Reading about Mark Zuckerberg stating the obvious about Paternity while takes on his privileges to spend two months at home, it's kind of funny. Well, this is a funny planet, where the unprivileged over and over take the cause of the privileged ones, about gun control, workers' rights, and the list goes on. I guess, for a very few people, it's their world. The rest of us just work on it.
joe cantona (Newpaltz)
Did we really need a new study to tell us that spending time with a new born is a good thing ? Paid leave, adequate wages, access to education, medical care and the rest of it are only a possibility if the rich pay their fair share of taxes and corporations are required to follow sensible rules. We don't have that of course, instead we have a class society with an ever widening gap approaching realities found a century ago. Charity is no substitute for what is needed here. And what is needed is a will to redress these extremes using the same time-tested recipes that brought some justice to a long list of men women and children oppressed and discriminated. It is probably wise not to take our cues from celebrities, corporate or otherwise.

scent of of the turn with the bottom tier with the very top deciding what is important and what is not
closeplayTom (NY LI)
Are you kidding me? For Zuckerberg or any gazillioniare to make that sort of Capt. Obvious statement only points to how ignorant he is, and how daft commentators of his heroic remarks are! He could take leave to learn to surf - and he probably has for some mundane activity - and he'd never feel a blip on his life style.

I dont care what the studies say, any sort of leave-policy that favors parents and does nothing to offer reciprocity to non-parents, etc, is discriminatory! Period!

You want kids, then YOU opt-in to that life-style choice - not your co-workers who will have to pick up the slack when you leave. And then have to move aside when you come back - or not. But get no extra compensation for your choices!

You want kids, great have them - but dont put that life-style choice on me, or others who wont have 'em, cant have 'em, or are past having them and never got that break but made it work.

Im exhausted hearing that parenting is too hard these days. (So don't buy into a neighborhood and school district you cant afford without two incomes!) Boo hoo! Dont have kids if its too hard! Not being selfish appears to be extremely too hard in the US. But boy (or girl) if we're not leading the pack in personal selfishness!

I'm so done with celebrities and the uber wealthy (like Mr. Z) spouting their parental epiphanies and being lauded by the media. Who cares? And why should we? Who cares that Actress X is now "fulfilled" by giving birth! Not me!
Common Sense (New Jersey)
After making billions from a product that has shredded every notion of human privacy and human dignity, Zuckerberg, in a feat of narcissism unmatched by any baby boomer, announces a "gift" (to himself) in the form of an exhibitionistic display -- a public letter to his newborn daughter, as if he were the first human being in history to reproduce.

His new company is not a foundation or charity. It sounds more like a Super-PAC.

And of course he wreaked terrible havoc on the Newark schools with his ignorance and narcissism. The lesson: keep the Silicon Valley Millennials away from anything you care about.
G. Nowell (SUNY Albany)
Yah you hit $45 billion and keep only 1% of that ($450 million) you got room for family leave. In fact you got room to do like David Cameron and build a little biosphere at the bottom of the Marianas Trench and go way down there to get some privacy catch up on some tube and peace of mind. There must be 50 different ways to take parental leave if you got a billion.
Dave (New York)
Let's see: if you're the CEO of your own company and are worth $50 billion, give or take a few billion, you can take two months' paternity leave.

If I were worth $10 million, I would take permanent leave.
Marc (Geneva, Switzerland)
I wonder, take a bit of a distance and ask yourself how can a human society allow for some people to become so rich in such a short time? How can anyone's work come to be worth 45 billion$? Isn't there something insane, not to say unfair about how such a society is organized? "Giving" that money is not going to set things right, I guess. Old Victorian Ladies' charity ... Oliver Twist still in the street.
pvbeachbum (fl)
Ah!!! The privileged 1% families !
Kally M. (<br/>)
The point is, it doesn't have to be that way.
Monika T. (New York City)
Mark Zuckerberg's paternity leave would not affect, let alone, help any ordinary people's lives in such way this article suggests, except perhaps glorify and pamper those financially privileged in an absurdly ignorance-provoking manner. He is multi-billionaire, with no job insecurities, or a career to build and develop by earning wages and extra mileage in savings and family finance. Why wouldn't NY Times find other examples of ordinary people facing those mundane challenges by taking the paternity leaves, or corporate manager taking the sides for their employees and provide such support - instead?
Gracie (Hillsborough Nj)
Several years back, a similar topic came up in this newspaper. I commented on the article, after spending time with several young fathers. They ALL declared that taking parental leave after the birth of their children, was career suicide. While it is great that Zuckerberg can do this (he owns the company), many people that work for him or other corporations, cannot. This is still an issue. Until corporate America filters down, what those at the top, are able to do, then this is a moot point.
BH (<br/>)
My cousin teaches at a charter school that will only give her 6 weeks maternity leave. 6 weeks! FMLA mandates a maximum of 12 weeks of leave. Even a school is so cut-throat...
Charles Carroll (Vancouver, BC)
One of the important effects of fathers taking time off is how their careers suffer. Increasingly men are sacrificing their careers for that of their wives. When this happens and men take take time off to be fathers they can kiss their careers goodbye. Women say they want men who help out around the home, who do chores, etc. But for too many women the CEO is still sexier than the stay at home dad with no job because he gave it up for her and their child. Until this changes, true equality will be stalled.
CH (Hong Kong)
Claire Caine Millers piece, which suggests that Mark Zuckerberg's stated two-month paternity leave will change America's attitude toward family leave is akin to seeing a shooting star and making a wish.
Sorry, the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is taking a two-month leave is likely to have as much effect on changing parental leave policy as was the impact for on-site child care when Yahoo built a nursery outside Marissa Mayers’s office. In effect, zero.
When I had my first child in 1989 I was the first (female) partner in a professional services firm to give birth (I had male partners who had children but their wives, stay-at-home, or soon-to-be, bore those). I had to explain I was not disabled but needed time off to give birth since the managing partner couldn't understand why I objected to taking "disability leave"
I made a conscious choice to have children. I knew it would be expensive in term of childcare, education, etc. Why should my colleagues at the time have been expected to share in that expense in the form of providing me with lengthy paid leave?
Moreover, nobody has addressed the issue of equity; if people who choose to have children are given paid maternity/paternity leave, what about those who choose not to have children? They are, in essence, being paid less that people who are given paid leave for having children. And if staff members with young children want to “work from home”, why shouldn’t all staff have the same right to ask to work from home?
Sara (NC)
Is it more important to you that life be perfectly fair (in the sense that everybody gets the same thing, regardless of their needs), or that the system that we live in function to best promote the public interest. People who don't have kids are relying on other people to make the huge sacrifices involved in having and raising the kids that will grow up into the adults who will provide them with the services that make their lives possible in their old age. It is a perfectly valid choice, which I support, but if everybody made that choice, our society would fail.
cowalker (Ohio)
"Why should my colleagues at the time have been expected to share in that expense in the form of providing me with lengthy paid leave?"

A fair question. Do we, as a society, value the actions of people who choose to have children and devote the necessary energy, time and resources to raising them? Is this a contribution to our society, or is it a personal lifestyle indulgence akin to buying a boat or a dog? Do we need people to have children, and want to make it a more viable choice, or are we content to let our society be sustained by immigration alone (while it lasts) or to let our society diminish and die? Is it our ultimate concern as a society that no corporation or business ever be financially deprived by expending resources that will be "wasted" on providing a social benefit that will not be realized until a time past the next quarter's earnings?

JL (San Francisco)
This is all well and good. Kudos to MZ for taking this stand. However, it still does nothing to address the real issue of lack of childcare and consistent family leave requirements for all states, by federal legislation. It should not be ad hoc, up to the good will of some corporations or the far sightedness of some states. The U.S. is still one of the few industrial western countries that don't have this. When we leave it up to individual companies, like Facebook, we end up with a system where white collar workers have these rights, but low wage service workers do not. And wouldn't their children and families benefit from mandated paid maternity/paternity leave as well? So now we have children of the upper middle class getting even a bigger better head start compared to children born to less well off parents.
NI (Westchester, NY)
I know everyone here will be crying, S-E-X-I-S-T ! Full disclosure. I'm not. Maternity leave should be longer because -1) Breastfeeding. 2) The return of normal physiology after pregnancy changes, takes weeks , some changes after months. These involve the cardiovascular, endocrine, hematological, gastrointestinal and pulmonary systems bringing about physical, mental and social stresses. I am not saying, paternity leave is not important. It very much is, for bonding with your newborn and being there to share the huge new responsibility and protection of his new family.
Linda s (Rochester, NY)
Ok - It may not set a precedence for people who are dependent on a weekly paycheck, but it is nice to see a young guy say to the world how important his family is to him. He is making a public point of prioritizing his family, and it sets a great example to the business world!
john green (Bellingham, WA)
Fatherhood is changing for the better. There are more stay-at-home fathers. Fathers are also becoming more in tune with the intricacies of what matters in life. Dads are spending more quality time with their families. No doubt, It's exhausting to play with your toddler, devoting 100% of your attention. But this is what it takes early on in their life. It is so worth it.
Earl W. (New Bern, NC)
That's a nice spin on it, but there are more stay-at-home fathers because the real wages of males have collapsed over the past fifteen years. So it just makes sense for the one making the least money to be the one who stays home with the kids.
Bud Meyers (Las Vegas)
The Angry Bear (December 2, 2015)

"Facebook founder and his wife have decided to give away 99% of their fortune. That is $45 billion. Now, I know many will heap praise upon them for their generosity. Same deal when the Gates and Buffet did their give away announcement. But, I’m not so keen on this. I know, how heartless of me. How ungrateful..."
hen3ry (New York)
The question that applies to mothers taking maternity leave applies to fathers and paternity leave: how to pay for the necessities of life when that leave isn't paid for by the employer or society. As a society we do have an interest in supporting parental leave: who raises the children if the parents don't? We certainly don't provide affordable good quality daycare for most children and their families. Many parents, not just single mothers, make do with a patchwork arrangement that is fragile. If we value families as much as we claim to we would try to do more to make it easier to have a family and to care for them when necessary. People with elderly or sick parents face the same issues. Since all of us cannot be rich and many of us work full time jobs giving up work is impractical. It would be nice if there was a humane solution to the problem of caring for dependent family members that didn't involve exhaustion for the familial caregivers, job loss, and other interesting problems. Of course given our country's antipathy to truly helping families it won't occur.
Accounting Librarian (Southeastern US)
I wish I could recommend your comment a thousand times.
Terrell DeVilbiss (Sonoma, CA)
Any charity, including this one, committed to improving quality of life should make widely available affordable, effective birth control. It has to be a major priority. Our life sustaining resources are in a state of collapse around the world. Limiting, asap, the increasing human population pressure on them is vital.
Betty Greenwald (New York, NY)
2 months. He spends more time reading books in a year and urging others to join his book club. In Canada parents get a year of paid leave. Mark doesnt run facebook anymore. this is again a fake PR move to make him look good.

facebook is at its peak value today. it has a PE of 100 and a total market value of $300 billion. thus mark's gift should be given today. now. does he need $45 billion today?

instead he will give it away slowly because of ego. just like how oprah doesnt give her money away.

this is not giving. this is ego. bragging. he had already signed Bill Gates giving pledge in which he donated all his money so why this big show again? does he need to tell us twice that he is going to give his money away at the end of his life?

also, why didnt he give it away anonymously. that is the highest form of giving. mark is giving it to his own charity. that is a much lower form of giving as stated by the Jewish Philiosopher Maimonides. see:

by the time mark does give away his money facebook will likely be worth much much less.

warren buffet has given away very little of his money during his life. same with oprah. giving it away when you die is not giving it away today.

mark, give it away today. you would still control facebook. you dont need that much money today. the world does.
Steve Fankuchen (Oakland, CA)
I feel sorry for Zuckerberg's kid. It can't be easy growing up when Mom and Dad have the narcissistic, egotistical, and fundamentally insecure need to display every tidbit in public, trumpeting their privilege as God-given epiphanies.

I would be more impressed if they took a spare billion and paid a bunch of McDonald's small franchisees -- not McDonald's corporation -- to cover the costs of giving their workers parental leave. Do that and you will start an expectation among lower paid workers that will help in their efforts to organize for better conditions.

I certainly don't object to Zuckerberg and Chan wallowing in new-parent bliss. That is entirely appropriate. What I find unseemly is their need for public display. Hopefully, their kid will not be subject to having its diapers displayed on Facebook unto eternity. It's OK to think your kid is God. It's absurd to expect anyone else to think your kid is God. It is child abuse to tell your kid he or she is God.
Accounting Librarian (Southeastern US)
I believe their public declaration of charity is to encourage/pressure other Silicon Valley millionaires to donate money, as well as share their wealth with those in need. Not every public act is a bid for attention.
SA (Main Street USA)
This is as laughable as al the Marisa Mayer stories about how amazing she is that she can run Yahoo and have an infant at the same time.

The stigma attached to paternity leave is not that Dad does not want to take leave, but the economic devastation that can ensue once Dad is no longer "all in" at work. Lean times will make Dad the expendable one, promotions and career advancement will be nonexistent.

Zuckerberg could never go back to work again and never have to worry about paying the electric bill, mortgage, or for an unexpected car repair or broken tooth. Anyone who thinks that his taking paternity leave is going to enlighten the rest of the population to do so needs a serious reality check.
Earl W. (New Bern, NC)
A big problem with taking maternity or paternity leave is that no one may notice that you were gone. The next time there's a RIF, you will likely be one of those on the chopping block.
James D'Eramo, Ph.D. (New York City)
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,"
Matthew 6:3
Katherine Cagle (Winston-Salem, NC)
That might be true but a good example such as this often reaches far beyond the gift. It could inspire other rich people to do the same thing.
mbpman (Chicago, IL)
If he really wanted to make a statement that meant something, he could have given away 99% of his shares in Facebook yesterday, not at some distant time in the future. Perhaps his paternity leave example will be emulated by other billionaire fathers and for the two or three of them who have children in any given year, this might be life changing. For every body else, his example is totally irrelevant.
Megachulo (Long Island)
Comments posted for this article, as well as for the article about Mr. Zuckerberg's recent donation proposal, truly prove the dark side of the internet. Anonymity, mixed with spontaneity and an internet connection, brings out the worst in people. Why all the negative comments? How many of us lay people have had an epiphany regarding family right after the birth of our first child? (My hand is now raised). So billionaires are not allowed the same? Now the employees of facebook will reap the benefits of the Zuckerbergs good fortune ( I mean their new child, not their fortune). I Just wish that Jeff Bezos would have had the same epiphany after his kids were born. It would have saved the Gray Lady a lot of ink this past summer.
Urizen (Cortex, California)
Anyone who thinks that our corporate masters will allow paid family leave for anyone but the upper level managerial class doesn't understand the power dynamics of this society.

The most that the wealthy are willing to concede is unpaid leave, and the 1993 legislation mandating unpaid family leave included language intended to remind everyone of whose interests come first: the provisions shall be enacted “in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers”.

By limiting it to "unpaid family leave" in an era in which two working parents is the norm and necessity, the legislators in effect said, "if you can afford it, go ahead and take some time off for your new baby or ailing grandma".

The Democrats, who by 1993 had decided that it was no longer productive for them to advocate for the working class, beyond the rhetorical level anyway, were able to triumphantly announce their "family-friendly" legislation AND please their corporate masters by limiting the benefit to the roughly 10% of the population that the 1% depend on and interact with the most.

Everyone below that level are viewed as replaceable units - and NAFTA and other policies saw to it that increased unemployment and downward pressure on wages would keep them in the their "replaceable unit" status.

As such, you can expect Hillary to campaign on this issue, but if elected, she will quickly forget it - if the Dems really wanted to help the working class in this area, they would have done it in 1993.
Mr. Robin P Little (Conway, SC)

Not really, Ms. Cain Miller. He and his money lady, the 1% feminist, Cheryl Sandberg, are mostly elitist poseurs in the front lines for corporate reforms in one of the most sexist business segments north of Hollywood, by which I mean Silicon Valley tech. Now, Jeff Bezos, just added maternity and family leave to the Amazon package of benefits. That counts.
Darrell Tyler (Richmond, VA)
I have to ditto the two previous commenters. For a multi-billionaire to have an epiphany on family-leave after they have had a kid is nothing earth shattering. When the masses of average worker can take the same amount of leave without negative sanction – then we’ll talk.
Wornout N Weary (Brooklyn)
Fathers do not take leaves from work because in many cases their jobs are easier than raising a newborn and they get paid.
Meusbellum (Scottsdale, AZ)
Yeah...right. Given that I'm not a billionaire and live in a "right to work" state where I can be pretty much fired for wearing the wrong color tie to work....I don't think I would take family leave, even in the (very unlikely) event my state offered it. I fail to see how Zuckerberg's taking time off (from doing what exactly?) on the day he announces a donation of $45 billion is doing anything about the stigma of family leave in the U.S.. Frankly, if you have billions and you think "being there" for your kids is important, quit your job and BE THERE.
reader (CT)
Sorry, but a CEO who is worth $45 billion taking paternity leave will have exactly zero effect on whether regular employees are allowed to take or feel free to take family leave. There is no danger of Mark Zuckerberg losing his job if he takes a few months off. And does anyone really believe he's not going to work during his paternity leave?