Alexis Ohanian Writes Emotional Essay On Why Men Need Paternity Leave

The Reddit co-founder shared on NYT Parenting about the complications his wife, Serena Williams, experienced when giving birth to their daughter, Olympia, in 2017.

Alexis Ohanian wants men in the United States to break the stigma that taking paternity leave means they’re not focused on their careers and urges them to spend time with their families.

“The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t mandate some form of paid family leave,” explains the Reddit co-founder in an essay for The New York Times’ beta site NYT Parenting.

Ohanian and his wife, tennis star Serena Williams, welcomed their daughter, Olympia, in September 2017. (Williams is a global adviser to Verizon Media, HuffPost’s parent company.)

After his daughter’s birth, Ohanian took the 16 weeks of paid paternity leave he was granted at Reddit.

The 36-year-old detailed the near-fatal complications Williams experienced during the birth of their daughter, which Williams herself has talked about openly before. After Olympia was born via cesarean section, Williams experienced a pulmonary embolism (a blockage that occurs in the lungs, usually due to blood clots) and had one of her C-section scars pop open, leading doctors to find a hematoma in her abdomen.

“Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn’t walk,” writes Ohanian, before explaining why it was so helpful to have paternity leave at that time.

“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,” he says.

Ohanian adds that, in addition to helping his recovering wife, being with his daughter early on helped him grow comfortable with parenting.

“Spending a big chunk of time with Olympia when she was a newborn gave me confidence that I could figure this whole parenting thing out. As an only child with no cousins, I didn’t grow up around babies; in fact, I had never held one until my daughter was born,” he writes.

“At first, holding her terrified me. I am a giant and she’s so tiny. … What if I break her? I didn’t ― which was encouraging ― and then I learned how to calm her crying, rock her to sleep and handle her toddler years with grace,” he adds.

The tech mogul implored men to not “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.”

“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. We need a federal bill that mandates quality paid family leave for everyone — birth parents, adoptive parents and caregivers alike,” he explains, adding that men should tell their bosses why they need paternity leave.

Read the entire piece at NYT Parenting.

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