Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook yesterday to share his plans for a 2-month paternity leave following the birth of his first child with wife Priscilla Chan. Facebook is known for it’s progressive parental leave policies and Zuckerberg used this announcement as a chance to remind us that it’s crucially important for paid leave to become the rule rather than the exception.
Mark and Priscilla have been very candid so far on their parenthood journey, sharing their experiences with miscarriage and infertility along with lovely photos of Priscilla’s growing belly. The Facebook post about their struggle to get and stay pregnant gathered over 1.7 million likes and was shared over 50,000 times, proving the reach they have. Now, they’ve posted their thoughts on paid parental leave, and here’s hoping that message spreads just as widely.
After sharing his plan to take the time off, Zuckerberg went on to say, “Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families. At Facebook we offer our US employees up to 4 months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year.”
His claim shouldn’t come as a shock. Those first months are so important for parents to get their footing and establish bonding. When mothers (and fathers) are forced back to work too soon after the birth of a child, it can be harmful to the whole family. Studies show that paid leave can improve mental health outcomes and decrease the likelihood of developing postpartum depression, along with increasing breastfeeding and vaccination rates. It’s not simply a matter of giving moms time to rest and get to know their babies — it actually improves the health of both mother and child in significant ways.
Four months is great and far more than most companies offer their employees, and the fact that the paternal leave is equally generous is noteworthy. After the birth of our first child, my husband cobbled together two weeks of vacation along with the two weeks of paid paternity leave his company offers. As new parents, we had no idea how much we would end up needing that time and also, cherishing it. After a difficult c-section with a lot of blood loss, I was severely anemic and exhausted, napping several hours each day. If he hadn’t been home, I’m not sure how I would’ve handled those first weeks. Not only is the baby in need of attention, the mother might be too.
A figure as well-known as Mark Zuckerberg taking a stand on paid parental leave might be enough to affect actual change, with other companies choosing to follow suit. As he and his wife continue to navigate parenthood, they can be a voice for any cause close to their hearts and are in a position to make a difference. Let’s hope they keep putting their clout behind topics like this that could truly help us all.