Written With Two Dads in Mind
When my husband, Chris, and I decided to have a baby, we didn’t really think about how our employers would react. However, once we had a confirmed pregnancy it hit us – how much time would we want to take off (and could we take off) to be together just the three of us?
I decided that I wanted to stay home with our daughter, CJ, for six weeks and then a friend of ours would take the next six weeks before CJ started “school.” This seemed like a great transition plan. Then the question came up as to how we could make this work. Both Chris and I are dedicated to our careers – we are passionate about what we do and committed to our chosen professions.
At the time of CJ’s arrival (March 2013), I was employed as the Director of Safety and Security with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (“Children’s”). As the lead security and safety official for one of the nation’s largest pediatric healthcare providers, I had a lot on my plate leading a team of 100 professionals across 20+ locations. How could I simply walk away for 6 weeks? Chris was working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leading their drug overdose portfolio for the Agency and serving as a senior expert for the Administration on this issue. Could he take any time away?
When I reviewed Children’s policies around parental leave, they were gender-neutral but it was evident that they were written with moms in mind. Children’s workforce was about 80% female at the time; after meeting with my Human Resources Director, it became evident very quickly why Fortune magazine has included Children’s on its elite list of 100 Best Companies to Work For for ten consecutive years. The HR team made it clear that my benefits package included up to six weeks of paid leave for new parents – not just moms. I was entitled to take six weeks off and it would not count against my vacation or other leave categories. I was ecstatic and very happy to be working for this forward-thinking corporation.
Next, I sat down with my boss, our Vice President. Donnie was incredibly understanding and encouraged me not only to take the time off, but to truly disconnect and embrace the time with Chris and CJ. I could not have had the quality time off without his support. In addition, my peers were amazing. They eagerly bolstered my direct reports and made the senior-level decisions in my absence.
By providing this benefit, Children’s allowed me to preserve my leave so that I could be present for all of CJ’s appointments, school functions, and other family commitments. They not only permitted me to be out of the office, but they were actively interested in our daughter’s arrival. The CEO and several Executive Team leaders sent me notes and asked about our family. To this day I am grateful for the time and compassion shown to us during those first (crazy!) weeks.
Now, I work for the federal government in Washington, DC. When I came on board, my supervisor made it clear from the outset that we are a “family first” organization. And he leads by example. Todd does not stay late, generally, because he wants to be home with his family and he wants us to be able to leave to be with ours. He also encourages us to use our accrued leave to be with our kids for the school functions, field trips, doctors’ appointments, and vacations.
"It is critical that employers do their part to encourage parents to maintain a good balance between personal and professional commitments."
Times are changing. Of both same-sex and heterosexual couples we know, an overwhelming number of the dads and moms evenly share childcare duties. It is critical that employers do their part to encourage parents to maintain a good balance between personal and professional commitments. As a supervisor, I advocate this regularly with my team. I do not believe you can “leave work at the door” – whether coming or going – so I never expect them to do the same with their families. Each of us is one person, not a “work person” and a “family person,” so our policies and accepted practices must reflect that concept.
Bio: Josh Bornstein lives in Washington, DC, with his husband, Chris, and their daughter, CJ. Josh works for the federal government on national security issues.