Parental leave

Mark Zuckerberg recently announced on his Facebook profile that he’ll be taking 2 months of paternity leave when his soon to be born daughter arrives. This is less than the 4 months of parental leave that Facebook offers its US employees, but a long time for the founder and CEO of the world’s largest social network.

I had two reactions to the announcement. The first is that Mark is very likely to continue working during the 2 month leave. 2 months is simply too long a time for someone in his role to completely stop working. Important decisions will still need to be made at Facebook, and Mark will spend time thinking about and making these decisions while on leave. His parental leave is therefore better described as a shift in his default status from work to parenting than as a complete leave from work.

My second reaction is that if the founder and CEO of Facebook can take a 2 month parental leave, then so can most people. In many lines of work, companies offer shorter parental leave durations, or workers themselves choose to take shorter parental leaves. However, the work responsibilities of the vast majority of people are less than Mark’s responsibilities at Facebook. So the reason why others don’t take as long of a leave isn’t because things would fall apart if they did, but because they or their company mistakenly think that things would fall apart if they did.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Your contributions to your work are very important. However, you can continue to perform any essential responsibilities while on leave, while having your less essential responsibilities partially performed by your colleagues and partially delayed until your return. On the other hand, your contributions to the first few months of your child’s life are irreplaceable.