November 11, 2013 — Meet Senior Membership Manager Anthony Mitchell, who works for Catalyst in Atlanta, Georgia. Anthony and his wife, Huyen, had a baby in May and Anthony took advantage of Catalyst’s generous parental leave policy to spend a month and a half getting to know his new son, An. We recently sat down with Anthony to chat about new fathers and paternity leave.
What was it like to go on paternity leave?
Being able to take paternity leave was an amazing experience! I was originally hesitant to take it, mostly from a job performance perspective. But eventually I realized it was important to my family that I take advantage of it. A new family needs to do things after a child is born that are time-consuming for both parents, especially if there’s no extended family nearby to help.
How did your coworkers and family members react?
My coworkers were glad for me. The expectation at Catalyst is that new parents of either gender will take time off. My family was very pleased, particularly since my wife is getting acclimated to a new city (having relocated to Atlanta from Vietnam by way of California).
Do you think men face a double standard when it comes to taking time off to be with their families?
Men definitely face a double standard. Often when I mentioned my leave to friends or associates, I was asked, only half-jokingly, “What did you do to deserve time away from work?” or “Why would you want to stay at home with your family for that long?” and even “Can your wife not handle the household?” A few people said, “So you’re basically on vacation for the next few weeks?”
That said, most of the women I spoke with were supportive of my choice and impressed with Catalyst for offering me the opportunity to take time off. Men who’d recently had babies of their own were supportive—and envious. Older men without young children were mostly just confused. Two business owners (one man and one woman) told me that parental leave was a benefit they would never offer to male employees!
What was the best part of being able to spend time with your newly expanded family?
The best part was watching a new life that I was partly responsible for evolve. Also, learning how the process of caring for a newborn works and the teamwork that developed between my wife and me.
Would more men take paternity leave if their employers allowed and encouraged them to do so?
I do think more men would take time off, if permitted. Most men today want to be involved fathers from the start and appreciate fatherhood for the rich and rewarding experience that it is.
I think when organizations and leaders model behaviors, it has a big impact. For me, hearing the stories of other men who took advantage of paternity leave and seeing firsthand how much Catalyst believes in work-life effectiveness made a huge difference.