Paternity-Leave Facebook Post Shows Dads May Not Have It All, Either

New dad Tom Stocky has struck a chord with parents on Facebook. (Photo via Facebook)While working moms deal with the well-known tangle of exhaustion, guilt, criticism and debates about having it all, there’s another species of parent that has its own complex issues: the working dad.

Specifically, those working dads who get and take paternity leave. All of their paternity leave.

It’s a land mine–laden topic that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. But on Sunday, Facebook employee Tom Stocky helped put it in the spotlight with a frank and enlightening personal essay on Facebook to his 136,026 followers. He soon made the post public and, as of Thursday afternoon, it had garnered 5,745 likes, 2,900 shares and around 100 thoughtful comments. And it’s really worth a read.

Written on the last day of his four-month paternity leave (a generous deal compared with what many other companies afford new parents), Stocky’s post reflects on various points: what staying home was really like (“harder than I thought”); the societal bias towards mothers as the primary caregiver (“Most of the parent groups were called ‘mommy groups’”); and what he referred to as the “double-standard for fathers when it comes to childcare.”

That came in three main forms, he explained: low expectations for fathers in general, negative perceptions about working moms, and equally poor perceptions of “non-working” dads.

“An example of #1 is the ridiculous praise I often get for changing a diaper or buying groceries with my daughter,” he writes. “It also still gets under my skin when people call [his caring for his daughter] ‘babysitting’ or ‘daddy daycare.’”

As for the second point in his above list, he explains, there were many backhanded compliments: “‘Your wife must work so hard. That's great that you're able to pick up the slack.’ Has someone ever said that to a woman?” he wondered.

The third problem, Stocky writes, came in the form of an assumption. “I remember one unusually direct comment from a woman who told me, ‘It's too bad you can't earn as much as your wife so she can be the one to stay home,’” he explains. “I don't mind the assumption about earning potential, but I do mind the one about my wife being the preferred at-home parent.”

Responses to his post were passionately supportive. “You really hit it—it's a societal change that needs to happen for fathers. I'm so glad you spoke up for the Dads,” wrote Hester Chang.

Roberto Figueroa thanked Stocky and shared some of his own experiences. “For me, realizing my son will continue growing with or without my ongoing interaction with him was an incredible realization that pushed me to change what I do for work and how I do it,” he wrote. “In my 20 years of working I can think of many great satisfactions that have come from my work. None however, have been as amazing as the moments shared with my son in his almost four years now.”

A recent New York Times article analyzed the issue of paid family leave, noting that the United States is woefully behind most of the world when it comes to what's on offer. And a father’s role with a newborn, noted Kenneth Matos, senior director of employment research and practice at the research group Families and Work Institute, often get overlooked.

“When only the birth parent can take paid leave, you put people in a situation where they have to follow traditional gender roles, which doesn’t always make sense,” Matos said. “If the male partner has a more flexible job it doesn’t matter, because she is the one who gets the leave. A lot of people are beginning to talk about how these issues need to be looked at as overall family issues, and the decisions need to be made in the context of all of the people involved.”

Hear, hear. And thanks, Tom Stocky, for speaking up.