News

14th August 2019


Serena Williams’ husband challenges the paternity leave stigma: “Our culture makes it difficult”

In a recent essay to The New York Times, Alexis Ohanian talks about the current situation of paid paternity leave in the US.


Alexis Ohanian, Serena Williams’ husband, admits he “never thought much about paternity leave” before becoming a father, and taking those 16 weeks off turned out to be beneficial for him, his wife and their 23-month-old daughter Alexis Olympia.

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In a recent essay for The New York Times, the Reddit co-founder, 36, opened up about the stigma of paternity leave, and why it’s so important for the family. While understanding that “not every father has the flexibility to leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career,” he stresses the importance of paid family leave for both parents.

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“Serena and I were lucky enough to have help at home and many other advantages working in our favour. 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,” Ohanian wrote. 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.”

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Ohanian cited a statistic claiming that nine per cent of work sites in the US offer paid paternity leave to all male employees, and 76 per cent of fathers are back on the job within a week after the birth or adoption of a child.

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“I don’t blame my dad, or anybody else’s dad, for not taking time off after a child’s birth,” he said. “Our culture makes it difficult. The United States is the only industrialised country that doesn’t mandate some from of paid family leave," despite the fact that most dads wish to be at home with their partners for the first months after a child’s birth or adoption.

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Ohanian says that “men are conditioned to be breadwinners,” blaming the lack of paternity leave on our culture’s stigma, adding that men’s “sense of duty is often fear-based” as well. “Nearly a third of dads think that taking leave could negatively impact their career. We could miss out on a promotion. We could become obsolete. We could get fired. Career fear is powerful,” he wrote.

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Until then, Ohanian urges dads to “talk to your bosses and tell them I sent you.”

Image Credits

Alex Ohanian Sr. / Instagram & Serena Williams / Instagram 

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