Alexis Ohanian is taking a stand against the stigma that surrounds paternity leave. In a recent essay for The New York Times, the Reddit cofounder and father to 23-month-old Alexis Olympia explained why giving dads the option to stay home with their newborns is so important.
"Not every father has the flexibility to leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career," wrote the 36-year-old dad. "Serena and I were lucky enough to have help at home and many other advantages working in our favour. But even with all of that privilege, including my ability to focus solely on my family and not worry about keeping my job, it was still incredibly difficult."
For Alexis, spending time with Olympia was absolutely critical. "Nothing could have dragged me away from my wife and daughter in those hours, days, and weeks — and I'm grateful that I was never forced to choose between my family and my job," he said, adding that this should be a option for fathers everywhere. "Nearly a third of dads think that taking leave could negatively impact their career. We could miss out on a promotion. We could become obsolete. We could get fired. Career fear is powerful."
"Two years later, there is no stigma in our house about me changing nappies, feeding Olympia, doing her hair, or anything else I might need to do in a pinch."
While Alexis wasn't exactly sure what to do with a baby at first, he learned on the job. "Spending a big chunk of time with Olympia when she was a newborn gave me confidence that I could figure this whole parenting thing out," he said. "As an only child with no cousins, I didn't grow up around babies; in fact, I had never held one until my daughter was born."
Now, Alexis helps out Serena in any way he can. "Two years later, there is no stigma in our house about me changing nappies, feeding Olympia, doing her hair, or anything else I might need to do in a pinch," he said. "They're all just dad things (not 'babysitter' things — I hate it when people refer to dads spending time with their kids as babysitting)."
Although taking care of children is certainly a wild ride, Alexis is grateful for the time he got to spend with his daughter — and still does — hectic schedules, and all.
"The understanding of my responsibility to care for my family that I gained during those first months after Olympia's birth has never left me, and it gives purpose to my fatherhood today," he said. "It's not always easy — my wife's job takes her all over the world, as does mine — but I will do whatever I can, even if it means taking a dreaded red-eye or making a 24-hour international trip, to optimise time with Olympia and Serena."