Alexis Ohanian's emotional experience shines a light on why *all* dads deserve paid leave

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History has recognized Reddit co-founder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian as a key player in the evolution of the internet and years from now it might recognize him as a key player in the evolution of paid parental leave in America. Since taking leave after the birth of his daughter, Olympia, Ohanian has been repeatedly telling the world that, of all the impressive things he's done in his life, taking the time to be with his newborn daughter and support his wife, Serena Williams, was one of the most important decisions he's ever made.

That's why Ohanian joined fellow fathers, with the support of Dove Men+Care and the non-profit Paid Leave US (PL+US), on Capitol Hill this month to press lawmakers for change. He wants all fathers to be able to do what he did and for paternity leave to be normalized in the American workplace. Ohanian met with Senators and Members of Congress and took time to speak with Motherly about why the fight for paid leave is so important.

Here are five reasons Alexis Ohanian is so obsessed with advancing paternity leave:

1. Mothers need not just time to heal, but support to do so 

Serena Williams' birth experience was traumatic and required a long recovery period. She was lucky to be alive after suffering a pulmonary embolism after her emergency C-section.

She was also lucky to have a partner who had the privilege of taking leave. "A lot of folks saw a glimpse into this through the HBO documentary. The reality was, after all the complications and a number of surgeries that my wife had including a C-section but then multiple others, there was very little she could do in those first few weeks just physically. And I had to help her with a lot of it," Ohanian tells Motherly.

Williams' birth experience was difficult, but the truth is that recovering from birth (especially a C-section) is generally difficult even under the best of circumstances. It takes time to recover. Mothers need help. And when a mom's partner has to head back to work just a couple of days after it takes a toll physically and mentally.

Research shows that when dads take paternity leave, moms are 14% less likely to be admitted to a hospital for birth-related issues within the first six months of childbirth.

Ohanian was there to change the diapers or pick up his daughter in the middle of the night, actions that helped his wife heal. "[These] were things that I was very willing to take on because it felt like the least I could do for a woman who had already sacrificed so much to just bring her into the world, to bring Olympia into the world," he explains.

2. Dads need time to bond with their babies 

When dads get to take parental leave they become more confident parents and are more likely to be equal participants in childcare years later. Ohanian has experienced this firsthand. He tells Motherly he went from having no experience with babies to having a crash course in caring for his daughter. Spending those early weeks with her taught him he was completely capable of overcoming parenting challenges.

"I was quickly learning how to thaw breast milk in the middle of the night, and feed my kid and change her diaper. I got really good at using the Snoo, the smart bed, to help her get back to sleep," he explains. "These are all just things that I was in no way qualified to do but was able to learn and that really gave me the confidence. Now, Olympia is a super active 2-year-old, and it gives me confidence anytime there's some new challenge or new thing. It gives me the confidence to know that I can handle it. And that's a true gift that came from having that paternity leave."

3. Paid parental leave impacts productivity (in a good way)

Ohanian tells Motherly making paid leave available to fathers (and encouraging them to actually take it) is an opportunity for businesses to get more value out of an employee. "When they are back in the office they are going to be more engaged because they're not as worried about the things going on at home with their newborn and their family. They're going to be more productive," he tells Motherly.

Surveys of businesses in states with paid leave laws suggest implementing paid leave has a positive impact on worker productivity and that employers notice workers who take parental leave are less stressed when they come back to work. "There's a growing body of work that just shows this is, from a business standpoint, this is a smart, smart decision," he explains.

4. Fathers want to be more involved than ever before

Ohanian says he is happy to see the men of his generation flipping the script on the bumbling dad trope and talking about how they are just as capable parents as mothers are. "It is like a lazy shtick that has been ingrained in such a big part of the popular culture. But the reality is social media has allowed us to push from the bottom up messages and examples of dads being competent dads," Ohanian says.

Olympia loves her mama, but she's growing up knowing that her dad, too, is fully capable of helping her with whatever she needs. "Admittedly Olympia at this age is basically Serena's shadow. She loves her mom, like adores her, which is great," he explains.

The Reddit co-founder loves to see examples of great fathers on Reddit and in his social media feeds. "That's normalizing behavior that we've never really seen from the top down," he explains.

5. Paid parental leave shouldn't be a privilege—but a right 

Ohanian has talked a lot about how lucky he was to be able to take paternity leave in the first place. "It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company," he previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

He took 16 weeks of parental leave in a country where there is no national paid parental leave plan, but even in countries where parents do have access to paid leave, dads don't take all that they can. As Motherly previously reported, a report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Ohanian wants all fathers in America to have access to paid leave, and wants all fathers who already have access to feel comfortable taking it. In his conversation with Motherly, Ohanian offered this advice to dads to want to take leave but are afraid how their bosses will react:

"Look, if they're one of the few American men who even have the opportunity, (less than one in five men in the US), you're already one of the lucky few. And so I would say, if you're that fortunate to even have the opportunity, absolutely take advantage of it. And if your boss tries to give you any sass, tell him that the guy who created Reddit and runs a half billion dollar early stage venture capital fund felt like he was—not just a worthy business leader—but was better because he took that time off."

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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For parents of babies and toddlers, diapers are a big expense that can represent a substantial portion of a family's monthly grocery budget, but when families fall on hard times and get support paying for groceries, diapers aren't covered. Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are meant to fill families nutritional needs, not hygiene needs, so you can't buy diapers with a SNAP card (also known as food stamps).

This week San Fransisco county became the first county in America to offer free diapers to families who use SNAP, (known at the state level as CalFresh). Starting this month, parents in San Fransisco who use CalFresh qualify for a free monthly supply of diapers thanks to the San Francisco Diaper Bank, a partnership between the Human Services Agency (HSA) and Help a Mother Out (HAMO). This is made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the California Department of Social Services.

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It's good to see communities recognizing that diapers are as necessary as food. Studies indicate that when mothers don't have the diapers they need for their babies their mental health suffers, but that an "an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development"

"It costs like $25 for one box of diapers. I remember the time when I had to decide between buying milk and buying diapers. No parent should have to go through that. You have no idea what this program has meant for me," San Francisco Diaper Bank participant Hanen Bouzidi explains.

Without the extra help, parents like Hanen end up at the mercy of convenience stores that separate the large boxes of diapers to sell them individually. It's one of those times when being poor means you have to spend more money: You can't afford a $25 box containing 96 diapers, so you have to spend $1 on one individual diaper at the corner store just to get your baby through the day.

And while many people are quick to suggest low-income parents take up cloth diapering, it is not practical for every family. If the only laundry machines you have access to are coin-operated and outside your home, you may not have the money or the time to launder them. Plus, most laundromats won't let you wash them and some childcare providers will only take kids who are wearing disposables. In short, cloth diapers are a wonderful solution for many families, but they are not a practical solution many families using SNAP cards. That's why San Fransisco's move to provide free diapers is so important.

Some lawmakers in other parts of the country are trying to introduce legislation to provide free diapers to families who need them, so we could see other areas following San Fransisco's lead in the coming years. This is important because no child should be at risk for the physical problems that can happen when parents feel they have no choice but to reuse or overuse diapers, and no mother should be forced to carry the weight of the guilt of diaper need.

Providing diapers to families who desperately need them improves the health of moms and babies, and removes a barrier that keeps moms from accessing childcare and early childhood education programs.

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This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

They absolutely do!

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The sweetest little neighbors

The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

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As a business person, Aston Kutcher did better than anyone ever expected the kid from That 70's Show to do, and his wife and former co-star, Mila Kunis has also made a ton of money—she's among the highest-paid actresses of her generation. These two are wildly successful and they recognize how privileged their kids are because of it, but they have a plan to teach their children work ethic. Kutcher explained the plan last year on an episode of Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," he told Shepard. "And they'll never know it, because this is the only one that they'll know."

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He goes on to explain how he and Kunis don't plan to create trust funds for the kids and want to put their wealth into philanthropic efforts instead. "I'm not setting up a trust for them. We'll end up giving our money away to charity and to various things," he said.

According to Kutcher, the only way his two kids are getting money from him is if they come to dad with a good business plan. If they do that, he'll be happy to invest in their vision. "I want them to be really resourceful. Hopefully they'll be motivated to have what they had, or some version of what they had," he explained.

We all want our kids to be successful, but sometimes too much help can stunt their growth. It's good to hear Kutcher and Kunis are so dedicated to making sure their children understand the value of money and can stand on their own two feet.


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Becoming a parent also means becoming a magnet for unsolicited advice. It can feel like every random person at the grocery store has an opinion on how you're caring for your baby, and that fact that certain safety recommendations have evolved in recent decades doesn't help.

That's why a post by reddit user MindyS1719 is going viral again. It was first posted last year, but as winter temperatures return, Mindy's message is resonating again: She wants people who haven't recently had a baby to understand why babies and little kids may not be wearing coats when families are unloading in parking lots this winter.

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"New car seat guidelines avidly warn against children wearing coats in car seats—and this makes it really challenging for caregivers (particularly those with multiple small children) to get kids out of the house then in the car then out of the car again and into the destination," she wrote.

i.redd.it


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This reddit user is so right. It does seem counterintuitive. If it's cold out of course you'd dress your little one all warm and cozy before strapping them into their car seat, but safety experts say parents should take off kids' winter coats before strapping them into car seats. A coat that protects a kid from cold could prevent them from being protected in the event of a crash.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky coats and snowsuits can compress in a car crash, leaving the straps too loose to keep a child safely in their seat.

With temperatures falling in much of the country, a video demonstrating just how this works is having a resurgence online. Back in 2015, Sue Auriemma from safety non-profit Kids and Cars took The TODAY Show to an official crash test lab in Michigan and strapped a child sized crash test dummy into a car seat while it was wearing a winter coat. During the crash, the coat compressed. Like the AAP warns, the dummy came hurtling out of the car seat.

In the video Miriam Manary, a safety expert in the University of Michigan's crash test lab, tells a TODAY reporter that parents should remove puffy coats before strapping kids in. “We want to see a nice tight harness to the child's body, you should not be able to pinch any webbing up the shoulder, and [the] harness clip should be at armpit level."

In the video, after Manary straps the dummy back in without a coat, the crash test is repeated and the dummy remained safely in its car seat.

In the two years since the video aired more and more parents have heard about the dangers of mixing car seats and bulky winter clothing, but first time parents or those from warmer climates may still be surprised to hear of the recommendation as it's not something they're used to dealing with.

In cold states or places like Canada, parents might worry about a child freezing in the event of a crash, but experts say you can still prepare your child for cold weather without preventing the car seat or booster from doing its job.

"Families can dress their babies and children in layers to keep them warm and safe—fleece is a good top layer for trapping heat without adding padding under the harness or seat belt," Katherine Hutka, president of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, told the Globe and Mail, noting that just because a kid can't wear a bulky winter coat doesn't mean they can't wear a thinner fleece jacket as well as their boots, mittens and hat.

"When it's really cold, kids can wear their puffy coats over top of these layers on the way to the car," Hutka said. "After they are safely buckled, they can wear their coat backwards over their arms to stay warm."

Kids and Cars director Amber Rollins takes a hard line on the issue of bulky coats and snowsuits, telling the Washington Post that parents should never make exceptions, and shouldn't worry about how cold their backseat might become after a crash. “First you have to survive the accident. If you don't survive the accident, then this is not an issue."

Those are chilling words, for sure, but if we make sure to follow proper car seat safety and remove bulky coats before buckling up, the chances of coming home safe and warm go way up.

It's important for parents to know the guidelines, but it's also important that other people don't judge parents who are just trying to do their best in this situation. As Reddit's Mindy suggested, we all need to "cut parents some slack. We're trying. And we're doing everything we can to keep our kids warm while maintaining what's left of our sanity."

To all the mamas bundling and unbundling kids in parking lots this winter, we salute you.

[A version of this post was originally published December 1, 2017. It has been updated.]

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