Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian pleads for more men to take parental leave

Sep 05, 2019
Serena Williams' husband Alexis Ohanian is calling for more men to take paternity leave. Source: Instagram - Serena Williams

Serena Williams’ husband and world famous Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian has sent a powerful message on the importance of men taking paternity leave – adding his voice to a trend that has largely emerged over recent decades.

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the father-of-one, who was speaking at a conference in Boston this week, said: “It’s sad that it had to affect me so personally to care as much as I do now… but it has also given me some perspective that I think will allow a lot of men to care long before they become fathers themselves.”

Ohanian said male workers and bosses should be discussing their leave plans more openly, adding: “If everyone takes time off when they have a kid, it is no longer a liability to have a uterus – and that’s an exciting thing.”

Paternity leave has been a hot topic in recent years, with many dads choosing to stay home for the first few weeks after their partner gives birth, however there’s still a stigma around taking extended leave. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only one in 20 fathers take primary parental leave, while fathers took 95 per cent of all secondary parental leave. In Australia, an eligible working dad or partner will receive up to two weeks of government-funded pay.

However, Ohanian’s comments were met with mixed responses online, with one writing: “Well if you want men to take up the same parental roles you should provide them the same parental leave.” Another added: “I can just imagine telling my wife no you go to work I will stay home… wouldn’t fly in my house. How about letting people work it out for themselves?”

However, others agreed, with one commenting: “I think it’s important for bonding and supporting each other during the earliest stage of a newborn’s life.”

This isn’t the first time Ohanian has spoken out about paternity leave. Last month, the American entrepreneur opened up about his decision to take 16 weeks of leave when he and his wife Serena welcomed their baby daughter into the world in a personal essay for the New York Times.

“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,” he wrote.

“Taking leave also set me off on the right foot for sharing parental responsibilities. 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 added.

It comes after New Zealand was praised for stepping away from tradition and embracing the modern world after Speaker Trevor Mallard was captured cradling and feeding an MP’s baby in parliament last month. Photos of the 65-year-old sent the internet wild after he was filmed cradling Tāmati Coffey’s new baby on social media at the time following a parliamentary sitting.

Coffey had only recently returned from paternity leave and Mallard took it upon himself to take the pressure away from the new dad by taking on some babysitting duties throughout a debate. Later Mallard took to Twitter to share the adorable snaps of himself, writing in a post: “Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me. Congratulations @tamaticoffey and Tim on the newest member of your family.”

The beautiful photos garnered a lot of attention online with many commending the speaker and the New Zealand government as a whole for embracing family and looking after each other. “This is something wonderful that is just a pleasure to see happening in our parliament,” one person commented on Twitter.

Another added: “Keep this up and all the new parents of New Zealand will be dropping our babies off to parliament! I’ve already put you on my list of people who look like a steady pair of baby-minding hands when I need them. Congratulations @tamaticoffey I’m so thrilled for you.”

While a third said: “Everyone in the chamber seemed to be less tense while you fed Tamati’s lovely baby. There were smiles all round. I love this which doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Thank you.”

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What are your thoughts on this story? Do you think more men should take paternity leave? Did your husband take leave when you have children?

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