I'm a better dad than billionaire Mark Zuckerberg could ever hope to be
I’m not though, at least I don’t really know. But since the founder of Facebook all but single-handedly made it necessary to rope people into articles with obscene claims to trigger an emotional chord with readers, I had to clickbait. I just had to.
But now that you’re here …
Zuck and his wife Priscilla Chan are soon expecting their second daughter — a bundle of tireless cells that has no idea what's in store for itself during the next 80 or so years. Ironically enough, her birth — an absolute miracle of evolution — is already being overshadowed by another social phenomenon that will inevitably force Americans to choose sides on and rudely banter with one another until something else fills the void, on her father’s product no less. The zygote has already gone viral at negative years old.
Mark Zuckerberg is taking a few months off to spend time with his family when the new baby is born, and for some reason, this necessary act of fatherhood is a "thing" on the Internet.
I had a daughter with my wife almost four years ago. I wasn’t working a lot at the time — writing here and there for beer money — so it naturally fell on both of us that I’d stick around while she went back to work after eight weeks of maternity leave. Childcare for an infant can cost upwards of $2,000 a month, even if I wanted to leave her in the care of a stranger, it wouldn’t have made financial sense for us to do so.
Plus, I’m old-fashioned I guess: I think at least one parent should stick around for a bit so the kid knows what family is. Tossing a newborn into a farm-like facility with teenage shepherds on a molly comedown is something I’ll gladly avoid if I can. Strange how this kind of thinking isn’t the norm.
Nonetheless, I spent about a year and a half raising our daughter until going to the office more. Looking back, I can’t tell you how glad I am we could both manage that time in our lives, even though it was a struggle. Making $35k a year stretch between a family of four in a growing city isn’t the easiest thing, but it’s possible. We’re all better off for it.
Though comparing our two families — us with a poverty-line income and the Zuckerbergs’ worth literally 2 million times that — isn’t necessarily a fair analysis, at least not to adults. But money doesn’t mean anything to children, even when they figure out what it is (like where my 10-year-old step-daughter is now); they often understand there are more important things in life to be concerned with. Like dragons. And trampolines. And complaining about every sliver they have like it’s the end of the world.
Which is why maternity leave (what the mother does) and paternity leave (what the father sometimes gets as an option) is important to the family as a whole — regardless of the sexuality or identity of the parents. It’s a necessary component, something even the experts agree on.
“We know from the literature that men who take paternity leave to care for newborns develop a different kind of bond with those children, a very close bond,” says Myra Strober, labor economist and professor at Stanford. “And when men begin to have a closer relationship with their children, that’s good for gender equity in the whole society.”
Though faces of corporations worth billions, like Facebook, never hit “post” without thinking very carefully of its implications. In doing so, Zuckerberg took a stand against the pathetic system America has in regard to early childcare and leave. According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, only 13 percent of the private sector in this country has access to paid family leave through their employer. In Japan, 30 weeks are earmarked for new births; in Estonia, a year and a half. When placed next to other countries on a sliding scale, America is on the lowest rung of success by a long-shot.
Adding to the GDP is valued more than building a strong foundation for the future of the country. Rich or poor, the gap doesn't matter here. Either you’re an important hedge fund manager working 80 hours a week and on your phone for the other 80, or you’re ringing up orders at three different restaurants just to turn the lights back on at home. In a schedule like that, only one person loses, the one hanging out with the strangers still trying to figure out this weird concept of “mom” and “dad.”
Yet even outside of the headline grabbing issue of equality, or effects on the economy, being a father is simply a responsibility. You can’t just make a human being and then forget it exists working yourself to the point of absence. In their eyes, the newer version of a toy isn’t any different than the old, used up one another kid had before them. It’s not flashy things they want, it’s you.
As Zuckerberg said in his post about the whole thing, “I'm pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back.” It will be. Her childhood? It won’t. Take advantage of it while it still exists.
Besides, they’re the ones choosing the old folks home when you start wetting diapers again. Payback’s a bitch.