Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans to take two months of paternity leave when his wife, Priscilla Chan, gives birth to their second daughter. Zuckerberg chose to take time off when his first daughter, Max, was born back in 2015, too.
"I will always be grateful I could spend so much time with her in the first months of her life," he wrote on Facebook. "This time, I'm going to take advantage of Facebook's option to take leave in parts. I'll take a month off to be with Priscilla and the girls at the beginning, and then we'll spend the whole month of December together as well. I'm looking forward to bonding with our new little one and taking Max on adventures."
Facebook offers US employees up to four months of paid maternity and paternity leave. As Zuckerberg mentioned, employees can take the time off throughout the year.
"Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it's good for the entire family," Zuckerberg wrote. "And I'm pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back."
In just five days, his post has been shared over 21,000 times on Facebook, has over 751,000 likes, and more than 27,000 comments which is no surprise considering Zuckerberg's announcement is significant on a few different levels.
For one, it draws attention to the abysmal parent leave policies in the United States. While Facebook employees are fortunate enough to have a great policy, the United States is the only developed country that doesn't have guaranteed paid parental leave across the nation. In fact, 86 percent of American employees don’t have access to paid parental leave. Companies like Facebook can help to pave the way toward change, leading by example.
Secondly, Zuckerberg's post highlights the importance of fathers taking time off. When someone such as Zuckerberg shows dads should take advantage of paternity leave, it helps encourage other fathers to do the same. It also helps normalize the idea that dads should take just as active of a parenting role as moms.
Unsurprisingly, researchers have found that paid family leave benefits both parents and children. It can reduce infant mortality by as much as 10 percent and increase the likelihood of infants getting vaccinations. In one study, fathers who went on paternity leave for 10 days or longer were more involved with their children and with child care activities than dads who took no leave. Another study found that longer paternity leaves and increased time fathers spent caring for their babies is associated with higher cognitive test scores for their children.
Plus, taking paternity leave helps to remove the stigma that's still unfortunately associated with women in the workforce.
Lastly, Zuckerberg's choice to space out his paternal leave is one that many other families may want to consider. Spacing out leave can be beneficial for parents for a few different reasons. This option can help parents take off during different stages to prolong the need for expensive child care. So, if one parent takes off the first two months then the other parent can take the following two months ensuring the baby spends more of the first few months of life with his or her parents. And, instead of only getting to spend quality time with the baby right after he or she is born, parents who space out their leave will get the opportunity to watch them grow during different stages of life.
It also could make things easier at work. Instead of taking a huge chunk of time off all at once, parents can space out their time in and out of the office. This can help them to better balance their family and career, while also allowing them to get back into their work flow at a pace that works for them.
This is, of course, not an option for everyone, but it's worth considering if you do have the opportunity.
All in all, Zuckerberg's post may not have seemed like such a big deal upon first read, but the implications are surely significant.
Cover image via Kobby Dagan/ Shutterstock.com