- Alexis Ohanian says he’s “still ambitious” after taking 16 weeks of paternity leave, and is encouraging others to do the same.
- The Reddit cofounder penned an honest essay for The New York Times published on Monday in which he described taking full paternity leave as “crucial.”
- His wife, tennis star Serena Williams, nearly died following complications with childbirth.
- “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,” Ohanian wrote.
Alexis Ohanian wants you to talk to your boss about taking your full paternity leave — and you can tell them he sent you.
That’s what the Reddit cofounder said in an essay he wrote for The New York Times published on Monday, in which he described how taking 16 weeks of leave after the birth of his child, Olympia, was “crucial.”
“After my wife nearly died giving birth, I spent months at home caring for my family,” he opens, referring to the dangerous complications his wife, tennis star Serena Williams, experienced following childbirth.
“Every dad should be empowered to do the same.”
He said that 16 weeks of paid paternity leave was the policy at Reddit in 2017, at the time of Olympia’s birth, though the policy was originally not his idea.
38 PHOTOSSerena Williams and her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.See GallerySerena Williams and her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.Braiding started in Africa with the Himba people of Namibia. We have been braiding our hair for centuries. In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe. Because of the time it would take people would often take the time to socialize. It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them.The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world. I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter and add another generation of historic traditions. @olympiaohanianDay off getting reflexology at the @thepeninsulaparis @olympiaohanian joined us. She’s obsessed with the little mermaid (So am I)🙈🙈🤫🤫🤫Pink things 📸:@alexisohanianCan’t wait for @olympiaohanian to get tips from @simonebilesNothing brings me more joy than my sweet @olympiaohanian. 📸: @alexisohanianI love these pre match hugs. They are my new fav part of my job. @olympiaohanianAs I head into next year it’s not about what we can do it’s what we MUST do as working moms and working dads. Anything is possible. I am getting ready for the first match of the year and my dear sweet baby @olympiaohanian was tired and sad and simply needed mama’s love. So if it means warming up and stretching while holding my baby that’s what #thismama will do. My fellow moms and dads working- or stay home it’s equally as intense- but you inspire me. Hearing your stories makes me know I can do this. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This year is to you! What are some things you had to do while working? #thismama #thisdaddy@natashagrossmakeupartist found out @olympiaohanian Is the best assistant.This mama waited my whole life to be twins with her #thismamaJust one of those mornings with @olympiaohanianFor my 10 million followers. Thank you ❤️❤️Sandbox workouts with @olympiaohanian 📸: @alexisohanianThe countdown is on for New York! I’m so excited for my first pop-up shop in NYC from Friday – Sunday @Tictail, a female-run business like mine. If you can’t make it in person, you can still shop our exclusive NYC tee that launches this Friday.My baby is 6 months today. So yummy.She wanted to dress 80’sWelcome home mommaShe’s like “Mommmmmmmmmmm my friends are looking” #freshfacesJust how I look at herWhen I first saw this @voguemagazine cover it brought tears to my eyes. All Vogue covers are special but to share this one with my beautiful daughter @olympiaohanian also the youngest Vogue cover star makes it moment I will never forget. The article is a must read. Link in bioMommy and meMy mommy loves SnapchatMama never sleeps.When she does, I go on adventures with daddy.”Come on!”My final top 10 moment of 2017. Of course includes @olympiaohanian they say save the best for last. I could not choose so I just choose 10 random videos. They all were so cute to me 🤷🏾♀️🤷🏾♀️There are so many reasons to quit, but even more to keep playing. Even if you don’t go pro, sports can teach you so much. So keep playing. Link in bio. #sistersinsweat #gatoradepartner @gatoradeMeet Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.You have to check out link in bio for her amazing journey. Also check out my IG stories 😍😍❤️❤️We clearly don’t take enough family portraits. This one’s from the honeymoon. @olympiaohanian was not ready for the snap… 😒2017 was a year to remember for a lot of reasons (good as well as bad) so that they may all serve as motivation, inspiration, and a compass for what we know to be right.These two women are my everything. And the duty I have to them as a husband and a father is the greatest responsibility I’ll have in my life; I’m honored to bear it. And I know I’ll always find new ways to keep making you, laugh, @serenawilliams.2018 is going to be a phenomenal year. And may there be many, many more to come.Wherever you are in the world tonight, I hope you’re with people you love.Up Next
However, he took the full 16 weeks after Williams underwent an emergency C-section and “spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms.”
“When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn’t walk,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
According to Ohanian, only 9% of employers in the US offer paid paternity leave to all male employees.
He added that 76% of fathers return to work within a week after the birth or adoption of a child.
Ohanian acknowledged that modern work culture “makes it difficult” to take more leave — his own father used a vacation day when he was born in 1983.
Many don’t because of the stigma Ohanian believes still exists around men making the money.
“Men are conditioned to be breadwinners, exclusively — and another mouth to feed calls for more bread on the table (to say nothing of college tuition) — so off to work we go,” he wrote. “Our sense of duty is often fear-based: Men assume their bosses will frown on paternity leave, so we don’t dare to go there.”
Studies have shown that some men think taking leave may cause them to miss out on a promotion, while others even think they may get fired.
However, Ohanian is adamant that “taking leave pays off.”
“It’s continued to pay dividends for me two years later,” he said.
Not only did spending time with his newborn give him “confidence that I could figure this whole parenting thing out,” but it also got him off on “the right foot for sharing parental responsibilites.”
“Two years later, there is no stigma in our house about me changing diapers, feeding Olympia, doing her hair or anything else I might need to do in a pinch,” he said. “They’re all just dad things (not ‘babysitter’ things — I hate it when people refer to dads spending time with their kids as babysitting).”
He went on: “The understanding of my responsibility to care for my family that I gained during those first months after Olympia’s birth has never left me, and it gives purpose to my fatherhood today. It’s not always easy — my wife’s job takes her all over the world, as does mine — but I will do whatever I can, even if it means taking a dreaded red-eye or making a 24-hour international trip, to optimize time with Olympia and Serena.”
“No dad should feel forced to wholly prioritize work over family at a time as important as the arrival of a new baby — a time that is not only critical in the beginning, but has far-reaching impact years down the line,” he added. “Getting dads (and in turn, families) off on the right foot begins at birth, and it can’t just be up to individual businesses to ensure that happens.”
Ohanian called for a “federal bill that mandates quality paid family leave for everyone — birth parents, adoptive parents and caregivers alike.”
Until then, he’s encouraging men to speak to their employer.
“I took my full 16 weeks and I’m still ambitious and care about my career,” he said. “Talk to your bosses and tell them I sent you.”
You can read Ohanian’s essay in full on The New York Times.
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