An Open Letter to the Dads of Netflix: You Must Take Parental Leave

Dad and son

Dear Dads of Netflix,

When news broke of Netflix’s paid parental leave policy, you instantly became the envy of every parent who suffered through those sleepless nights during the first 12 months of his or her child’s life. You have been spared the stressful dance of early morning commutes and meetings that drag past 6pm only to rush home to start bath time before your little one falls asleep for the day. What most fathers wouldn’t give to be in your shoes right now.

But now we are seeing articles stating that fathers at Netflix are unlikely to take advantage of this very rare opportunity.  Dads of Netflix – listen closely – you must take this leave. If you don’t take this leave, then nobody can.

Let me back up a bit. My husband stayed at home for six months when our daughter was a baby. He was a professional dad with 80% salary—paid for by our taxes and his employer. How is this possible? In 2012, we moved to Sweden from Atlanta with our 9-month-old son in tow. We moved for adventure but mostly because Sweden values family life—something we weren’t seeing in the US. Sweden provides both parents 480 days of paid parental leave. After our daughter was born in late 2013, my husband struggled with the decision to take so much time off work. Fortunately, he had his Swedish peers to guide him and answer his questions about how they spent their six to twelve months of parental leave. They informed him that he was trading one job for a much tougher but more rewarding job. His new boss was 10-months-old and was very much running the show. He accepted this challenge and we know firsthand the unimaginable benefits of a long parental leave taken by good ole Dad.

Let me tell you a hard truth—you are not irreplaceable at your job. Wisely, Netflix realized that long absences are much easier to cover than shorter ones and family-friendly policies result in lower attrition rates and improved employee satisfaction. Larger companies have diverse human resources to shuffle around and fill all of those long-term vacancies. Netflix has already invested in your family, now it’s your turn.

You owe it to yourself to take this parental leave. You owe it to the 1 in 4 mothers who have to heart achingly return to work a mere two weeks after giving birth. You owe it to your spouse. You owe it to your newborn baby. Why? Everyone is watching you, Dads of Netflix. Everyone is waiting to see how this policy will shake out. Will the investment in family be worthwhile from a business perspective? The free market will evaluate the success of Netflix’s policy and will determine if it becomes the new standard of parental benefit.

And it so desperately needs to become America’s new standard of parental leave.

Parental leave is a foreign concept. The US, Suriname and Papua New Guinea are the only countries left in the world that do not have laws mandating some form of parental leave. Have you noticed that countries with mandated parental leave do not dramatically shut down when parents leave to raise their children? Childbirth isn’t destroying society. The rest of the world sees the value in parents raising their children during these formative months.

If you’re worried about falling behind in your career, rest assured, work will still be the same when you return. Your child, however, will have undergone incredible growth in those 12 months. This policy will enable you to witness those “firsts” for yourself.

Think back on the past 12 months of work and ponder how many standout-amazing moments you would want to relive? How many would you want to keep in a photo album? Zero? One? Conversely, you will not be able to capture all of the priceless moments from your time during your parental leave. It will all be over just as you are getting into a comfortable routine and you’ll soon find yourself back at your desk.

Parental leave will also improve your marriage. Walking a mile in your partner’s shoes and experiencing what it’s like to be home with a baby all day will change the dynamics of your partnership for the better. You will become a more compassionate, understanding and sympathetic person to your partner’s experiences. This will make you a better partner, a better person.

You will face extreme social pressure to not take this extended leave. Promptly ignore anyone who may discourage you. Having never experienced your situation, they have no idea what they are talking about. Considering 56% of Americans haven’t even been on a vacation in the past 12 months, your paid parental leave may be erroneously mistaken as a vacation. This couldn’t be further from reality. Taking time off to raise your children will remain socially unacceptable until this becomes the new normal. You need to embrace this new role of fatherhood—Dad 2.0—or it will never become the social norm.

Career-driven, hard working American fathers taking parental leave en masse will not only change the dynamics of marriages and families but it will also have an economic impact. It will reduce the “child penalty” that women often bear and will raise the employment rate for mothers with young children – thereby reducing the pay gap between men and women. Not only are you benefiting from this personally but it will also have a trickle-down effect to other companies. Competitors like IBM and Microsoft have already changed their policies to match Netflix. Provided this trend, if you take your extended parental leave, our children’s children will look back at this moment in time and wonder why anyone ever had to choose between career and family. It will be such a non-issue in their lives. Just think—they won’t have to move to Europe to achieve a healthy work-life balance like we did.

Dads of Netflix, I urge you, beg you, and plead with you to take as much parental leave as possible. You are currently the only fathers with this opportunity. You are the pioneers of American parental leave and you are on the forefront of real social and political change that can make the U.S. a better country for families. Better yet, you will experience your child’s first moments that you otherwise would have missed. This time is priceless and fleeting. Don’t throw it away.


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