Facebook Employee Writes About What He Learned on Paternity Leave

Illustration for article titled Facebook Employee Writes About What He Learned on Paternity Leave

On Sunday, Tom Stocky, a manager at Facebook, wrote a post on his um, Facebook about his experience taking paternity leave at a company that actually allows its employees to take a respectable paternity leave. The result is a totally unsurprising look at the ways that men are discouraged by those around them from taking time off to care for their children, even though the emotions they experience are strikingly similar to those of women raising their kids.


Facebook has a very generous parental leave policy, one that allows mothers and fathers to take four months paid leave, plus gives them $4,000 for every child. Despite wanting to take advantage of his leave time, a glance at the mixed responses Stocky received from those around him indicate that for many, it's difficult to grapple with a man who wants to spend time with his children and doesn't worry that more time with them is a poor career move.

Stocky describes going through waves of emotions that sound pretty gender-neutral: at first, he felt exhausted and wanted to return to his old job. But after two months "a switch flipped...when I could more easily imagine myself being happy doing this full time." That didn't mean, however, that he felt like he was accepted amongst female-dominated support communities:

"I didn't like being the only dad at the playground, getting cautiously eyed as moms pulled their kids a bit closer. It probably didn't help that I tried to lighten the mood the first time by saying, 'Don't worry, I'm not going to nab your kid, I already got this one.' I felt awkward at the mid-day baby music class, like I was impinging on an established mom circle, so I switched to the 5pm one that had more dads."

Stocky acknowledges that it makes sense that many child-care groups and activities are largely full of mothers because women are usually the primary caregiver, but his experience is definitely not rare. What he had a bigger issue with was what he calls "the double-standard for fathers when it comes to childcare":

" I experienced it predominantly in three forms: (1) low expectations for fathers, (2) negative perceptions of working mothers, and (3) negative perceptions of "non-working" fathers."

Stocky had outsiders shower him praise for doing basic tasks that parents, regardless of gender, do to care for their kids so they don't die and stuff. These same individuals would also comment on how great it was that he was able to "pick up the slack" for his wife who was working. And there were the people who would assume that he was the back-up parent:

"I remember one unusually direct comment from a women who told me, 'It's too bad you can't earn as much as your wife so she can be the one to stay home.' I don't mind the assumption about earning potential, but I do mind the one about my wife being the preferred at-home parent."


The entirety of Stocky's letter is worth a read; as he concludes, the only things that will drastically change the inequality between the genders when it comes to parenting are if a. more dads start choosing to take advantage of their paternity leave (one study indicated that new dads often take less than a week off when a child is born) and b. if more companies start offering the option in the first place.


Stocky's words seemed to hit home with many other mothers and fathers (after getting positive feedback, he switched the letter to public visibility), including a new dad co-worker at Facebook, who wrote in a comment, "Seeing you embrace leave so whole heartedly over the last four months and setting that expectation before you left made it so much more comfortable for me to plan for my own leave." That dad also wrote:

"I also read Lean In while on this first parental stint (thanks Sheryl!) and found it really valuable for being a better co-parent and hopefully for being a better manager."


TL;DR everyone should be strive to be like Facebook.

Image via Melissa Mosely/What to Expect with You're Expecting


I literally just sat down and read this after taking my 5 year old son to the local park and wading pool.

This letter is spot-on. It is a very disconcerting feeling being the only father in the pool with about 20+ other families but all the adults were the mothers (or grandmothers). When my son went to slide down the kids whale slide, one said "Oh you should ask your mommy for help" and when I mentioned I've got him, she kind of gave me that look, like I was going to either drop him or molest him...or molest while dropping him.

Yeah...being the primary "at home" parent for a 5 year old (especially one with special needs, my son being autistic and developmentally delayed) is really an interesting situation. Changing him while out and about is nearly impossible since the vast majority of places not labeled "WAL-MART" don't have changing rooms in the men's room.

Not to mention the constant condescending tone you get from various adults you run into when they find out it is just daddy and kiddo out and about. They get this attitude that runs the gamut of: (Paraphrased)

1. You poor thing, you have this unwanted burden that has been thrust upon you.
2. Really? Are you sure you don't need help? It is a child after all.
3. Where's mommy? ........................oh....
4. Where's Mommy? Are you SURE that's your daddy?

There are so few support systems that are male-friendly at all, most are so feminine focused that walking into one has gotten me a death stare and was actually asked "Will your son's mom be attending next week instead?" All of the support suggestions were completely designed for mothers and stay-at-home women. Period. No Literally, one of the first days of this "Ideas for parents of autistic kids" class was discussing how to manage your PMS with an autistic kid around, and how to explain various techniques of handling children with special needs to your husband. (Because we only understand beer, sex and uhm.....beer?)

It really can be frustrating, but I am proud to be the primary caregiver for my son, so my wife can enjoy her career for which she worked very hard.
I still work evenings to help out with bills and such and we very much work together to make everything work out, but the only thing most of society sees is "Why is DADDY here? Isn't mommy coming?"