5 reasons why Mark Zuckerberg's upcoming parental leave matters for the rest of us.

For the moms and dads in the room, do you remember what it was like when you laid eyes on your baby for the first time?

Even something as routine as watching your baby receiving his or her first bath from the gentle hands of the hospital's nursing staff became the best spectator sport ever.


In the early moments of your child's life, you were probably overwhelmed by the desire to spend as much time as possible with the tiny human that you'd completely fallen in love with.

Then it hit you. Based on your employment situation, you may not be afforded the opportunity to properly bond with your child. And that sucks.

I could easily rant about the egregious lack of maternity and paternity leave in America, but we should also give credit where it's due. Some companies are doing an admirable job of giving parents time with their newborns, paving the way for what it means to value employees inside and outside the workplace.

One of the champions of maternity and paternity leave is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Now he's also leading by example.

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Photo by Getty Images News.

Zuckerberg recently announced that he's taking two months of paternity leave once his baby girl is born. Here are five reasons why it's so important:

1. Being a dad comes first.

Even as the leader of one of the most powerful companies in the world, Zuckerberg knows that the most important job title he'll ever have is "Dad."

Studies have shown that dads who take bonding time with their newborn babies are more likely to dive into the often-messy trenches of childcare (and stay there) than the dads who don't.

It makes me smile knowing it won't be long before Zuckerberg becomes familiarized with the "dad face" as he approaches his daughter's first blowout diaper.

2. Respect for child-rearing starts at the top.

By "the top," I mean the top of the food chain in terms of industries and executive leadership. Facebook offers full-time employees working anywhere in the world up to four months of paid leave to bond with a baby — and that time can be taken at any point during the first year of the child's life.

Notice the terminology there. It's not called maternity leave or paternity leave. It's parental leave because moms, dads, and people in same-sex relationships are entitled to the same amount of time for baby bonding. That's a big deal.

Photo by Chandan Khanna/AFP.

I know, I know ... Zuckerberg's a billionaire. Of course he can afford to take the time off, right?

Well, that's what makes his company special. He's not a "do as I say but not as I do" leader who enjoys the perks and everyone else fights for the scraps. Facebook is focused on encouraging its employees to enjoy the same leave benefits that he does.

Here's what Lori Goler, Facebook's vice president of people, had to say about the importance of Facebook's parental leave policy:

"Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families. For too long, paid baby leave has been granted only to a mother who is giving birth. We believe that fathers and mothers alike deserve the same level of support when they are starting and growing a family, regardless of how they define family."

Facebook employees should feel honored to work for such amazing leaders who value the importance of family.

3. Facebook is setting the tone for other employers.

This will help pave the way for other companies to do the same thing or risk being left behind.

You know those millennials everyone keeps talking about? Well, they're interested in a lot more than this young lady:

GIF of "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

The best and brightest of the group have little desire to work for companies that don't view them holistically. Facebook, Netflix, Adobe, Johnson & Johnson, and others have demonstrated with their leave policies how much they value their employees.

And guess what? They attract and retain the top talent in their respective industries because of it.

As many of us lament America's parental leave policies, it's promising to know that companies are being forced (OK, more like "strongly nudged") to accommodate their employees for fear they may walk to another company that actually gets it.

4. Zuckerberg is challenging what it means to be a working dad.

For some men, having a baby ends up like just another agenda item on a busy schedule. They're at the hospital in the morning taking photos while holding their newborns like trophies from a weekend softball league, and moments later they're heading back to the office.

Sadly, there are thousands of new dads who have to get back to work quickly or risk their jobs. That's another story entirely, and we're not talking about them.

We're talking about the dads who do this because they actually think it's the manly thing to do.

And yes, those men exist. Remember the 2014 story of New York Mets player Daniel Murphy?

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Sports.

Radio hosts ripped him for taking three days off to bond with his new baby (they thought three days was too much time, not too little). If you're not familiar with the story, I hope you're sitting down before you click the link above, because it will make you angry.

We already know what today's dads look like. And in a roundabout way, a man as powerful as Zuckerberg gives working dads in America permission to embrace fatherhood.

It's OK and expected for dads to take the full parental leave allotted by a company.

It's OK and expected for fellow employees and supervisors to cheer a man's decision to take parental leave and not roll their eyes in disgust for "not being dedicated to the job."

Of course, change takes time, but when influential corporate leaders are the ones initiating change, others seem to follow suit.

Which leads to my next point...

5. Time is important. Let's cherish it.

The most valuable resource we have is time.

No, it's not health, wealth, or love — because the possibility exists of getting those things back once they're gone.

Time? Not so much. Once it's gone, it's gone. That's why it's so precious.

Regardless of the amount of money and influence Zuckerberg has, he's smart enough to know that the time he'll spend with his newborn daughter is invaluable — and I give him huge props for choosing to be a dad first.

Speaking from personal experience, many of my favorite fatherhood memories with my young daughters occurred while I was on paternity leave from my previous corporate job.

Like this one.

Photo courtesy of Doyin Richards.

We need to create a world where parents are able to embrace all aspects of parenthood without fearing scrutiny, passive-aggressive ridicule, or on-the-job consequences from their employers.

Hopefully, Zuckerberg's upcoming parental leave and Facebook's amazing policies and culture that allow him and his employees to take it will trickle down to other companies and our government.

Because every parent should enjoy the sleepless nights, diaper changes, and infant giggles without checking email at the same time. It's only fair.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash
smiling woman in gray hoodie beside smiling boy in blue and red jacket

After a year and a half of a global pandemic and domestic upheaval, most of us are feeling some variation of tired, fried, exhausted and generally done with everything. We've been swimming through choppy and uncharted waters, and even strong swimmers need a life jacket under such conditions.

We can all use an extra measure of grace and understanding as we navigate these waters, which is why this email from a professor to her English 101 class is so dang heartwarming. This message went out to students the day after their first essay was due, with the subject line, "You need a break today."

Here's what it said:

"All,

The pandemic is kicking everyone's ass. Can I say that? I don't know, but I did.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!