"This is a very personal decision, and I've decided to take two months of paternity leave when our daughter arrives," he wrote. "Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families."
Zuckerberg is right, of course, to call his choice personal. Every family is different and people's private decisions shouldn't be up for public dissection. But while no one has the right to question any individual's choices on these matters, it is worth noting that Zuckerberg's decision to take advantage of his company's generous leave policy also has very public -- and very positive -- consequences.
As Ron Lieber pointed out in The New York Times back when Zuckerberg first announced he and his wife were expecting, "Mr. Zuckerberg may have the biggest opportunity to help members of the paternity fraternity by using every last day of his leave." He deserves a big round of applause for taking this opportunity.
Helping paternity leave go mainstream
Lieber's article lays out some of the research that an extended stay at home by new fathers benefits the entire family. "Academic research, set mostly in Europe, provides additional evidence of how paternity leaves help mothers. In Norway, women are absent from work less because of sickness if their husbands take longer leaves. In France, mothers are less likely to experience depression. Among the Swedes, each month of parental leave appears to increase mothers' earnings by 6.7 percent," he writes. Plenty of research also attests that having dad at home longer is great for baby's development too.
But it's not just babies and partners who benefit when a new father stays home for more than a few weeks. When men -- particularly senior or high-profile men -- opt to take longer leaves, they're also giving a powerful boost to both workplace equality and less powerful male colleagues who would like to follow suit but might fear the consequences of doing so.
"Bias against leave-takers probably won't go away entirely until there are men in positions of authority who have taken it themselves," Lieber stressed, noting that "widespread, lengthy paternity leaves also have the potential to help female colleagues... some bosses may look at a woman and a man of childbearing age and favor the male for a promotion because of concern about the woman taking a six-month maternity leave." But if both men and women start taking extended time off to welcome a new baby, then there would no longer be any basis for that sort of bias.
"The normalization of paternity leave can only happen when larger numbers of men publicly declare their intention to take one and then shout from the rooftops about how spectacular it was," concluded Lieber. Zuckerberg, I'm sure he'll be thrilled to see, decided to do just that. Good for him.