Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, welcomed twins Penelope Rose and Joseph August, in August. Even though Buttigieg has an important role in the president's cabinet, he decided to take two months of paternity leave to care for his newborn twins.
As a new parent, Buttigieg learned pretty quickly that paternity leave isn't about rest and relaxation.
"The big thing is having a newly personal appreciation for the fact that this is work," Buttigieg told The New York Times. "It may be time away from a professional role, but it's very much time on."
Even though he took leave, he has stressed that he's been available "24/7" to handle any issues.
Buttigieg received a lot of criticism from conservatives for taking leave at a time when the U.S. is having major supply-chain issues and the president is working to pass a massive $3.5 trillion transportation bill.
His decision also came during a time when Democrats are debating whether to include a historic 12 weeks of paid parental leave in the bill.
Conservative political commentator Candace Owens called Buttigieg "sickeningly pathetic" for taking time off from his professional life during the transportation crisis. "Privileged times have produced the weakest men that have ever lived in America. Remove this little boy from office," she tweeted with the hashtag #BringBackManlyMen.
Owens' criticism isn't much more than a repeat of the old sexist trope that men who take care of the children are somehow weak.
Tucker Carlson from Fox News mocked Buttigieg on his show. "Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went," Carlson quipped.
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MSNBC's Nicole Wallace found Carlson's remark to be both sexist and anti-gay.
"I guess I want to push on where this is coming from because it's misogynistic I guess to think that dads shouldn't be home," she told Buttigieg on Friday. "It feels homophobic to suggest that you were trying to figure out breastfeeding. It feels dirtier than that."
Buttigieg has a long history of making quick work of Fox News critics and it took him very little time to point out Carlson's hypocrisy as a member of the party that once stood for family values.
"Well, look, in his case, I guess he just doesn't understand the concept of bottle feeding, let alone the concept of paternity leave. But what is really strange is that, you know, this is from a side of the aisle that used to claim the mantle of being pro-family. What we have right now is an administration that's actually pro-family," Buttigieg said in the interview with Wallace.
He then made himself a living example of the type of family leave policies that the Biden administration is pursuing.
"And I'm blessed to be able to experience that as an employee, being able to have the flexibility to take care of our newborn children, which is, by the way, work. It's a joyful work. It's wonderful work, but it's—it's definitely work," he added.
To Buttigieg, it's all about practicing what you preach.
"It's one thing to believe something as a matter of policy," Buttigieg said to The New York Times. "It's another to live it and see how much of a difference it could make."
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