Mike Pence, Pete Buttigieg and when we poke fun at paternity leave
Former Vice President Mike Pence joked about Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in his remarks at the annual White-Tie Gridiron Dinner in Washington over the weekend.
Buttigieg and Pence have a tense personal history; both hail from Indiana and clash on many partisan issues, including religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. But Pence’s comments fanned the flames of the much larger issue of paternity leave in the US – who is taking it, who can take it and why is it necessary.
Pence mentioned that Buttigieg – who is the first openly gay Cabinet member in US history to be confirmed by the Senate – took “maternity leave” after he and his husband adopted newborn twins, despite travel issues plaguing Americans.
“Pete is the only person in the history of mankind who has had a child, and everyone else gets postpartum depression,” Pence said. Aside from the homophobic nature of Pence’s comments, the heart of the matter lies in the impact on the stigma surrounding paternity leave.
Chasten Buttigieg Asks Mike Pence About Preterm Birth: “Where Would You Be?”
Buttigieg’s husband Chasten responded to Pence’s comments on social media on Monday: “An honest question for you @mikepence after your attempted joke over the weekend. If your grandchild was born prematurely and was on a ventilator at two months old – his tiny fingers wrapped around yours while the monitors beeped in the background – where would you be?”
Parents flocked to the comments to praise the former mayor for taking the time when his children were born.
“Thank you for taking paternity leave! He has to be standard and only helps women and families!” wrote one commenter on Instagram. Another added: “You and Pete are incredible parents and Pete taking paternity leave is your all business. Anyone making a judgment needs to examine themselves.”
When fathers take paid parental leave, children win
A Pew Research Center poll shows men are taking on more parenting responsibilities than ever before and are just as likely as women to say parenting is extremely important to their identity. By bonding with children early in life, fathers are empowered to educate them throughout their development. Data shows that 8% of same-sex male couples are raising children.
The majority of the public say that access to paid parental leave is important for both mothers and fathers, but the US is the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that does not have paid leave at national level base offers. and same-sex couples face additional barriers to parental recognition, which can even make accessing unpaid leave more difficult.
“The reality is that men are increasingly wanting and expecting to be fathers and caregivers. … It’s actually touchless and insulting for parents to claim that parental leave is something abnormal that people, regardless of gender, don’t want or need. Jessica Mason, senior policy analyst for economic justice at the National Partnership for Women and Families, previously told USA TODAY.
Most Americans support paid leave for mothers and fathers, although gender attitudes are also reflected in public policy polls. An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that a third give mothers twice as much vacation time as fathers.
“There’s a lot of tension between how families live and how they want to live,” Mason said. “It’s this combination of social stigma and a lack of political support.”
What happens when we fake paternity leave, dads?
Research shows that fathers may face harassment, discrimination or abuse when they take caring leave, which can make them less likely to take the leave available to them.
“Research on parenting shows that the most important thing is parenting,” Ronald Levant, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Akron, previously told USA TODAY. “There is no gender. It’s about getting your kids dressed and taking them to school in the morning, picking them up from school and getting them done with their homework.”
Buttigieg and husband Chasten were excited about fatherhood even before their twins were born, just like any parent of any gender.
“We are beyond thrilled to announce that we have become parents!” Buttigieg wrote in 2021. “The process is ongoing and we are grateful for the love, support and respect for our privacy that has been offered to us . We can’t wait to share more soon.”
Everything else you should know about Pete Buttigieg
More on Pete Buttigieg and parental leave:Experts say Tucker Carlson’s ‘insulting’ comment on fatherhood ignores the truth about American fathers
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Pence, Buttigieg Story:Tension is brewing in the ‘long and complicated’ relationship between Pete Buttigieg and Mike Pence
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“We are overjoyed”:Pete Buttigieg and husband Chasten announce they have become parents
Contribution: The Associated Press