my coworker is using paid paternity leave to work a second job instead of taking care of his baby

A reader writes:

My company recently expanded its parental leave policy so that anyone, regardless of gender, gets the same, generous leave of six months fully paid. It’s called “bonding leave” so the intent is pretty clear. One of my male colleagues told me very matter of factly that he is intending to take his full leave after his wife’s paid maternity leave is up. But, instead of caring for the baby, he is going to get a “second” job for 6 months and his wife is going to stay home with the baby and take unpaid leave from her job. In effect, he will have two salaries (but work one job), and she will have no salary. They will actually net out ahead financially because he earns more than her. He is actually going to make tremendously more money during those 6 months, because he is going to do an hourly contractor job, since his benefits are paid for by our company.

I’m appalled but can’t put my finger on why this bothers me so much. His point is that our company – a Fortune 500 company with tens of thousands of employees and plenty of money – is not paying a penny more than they would otherwise; he doesn’t want to care for the baby full-time and his wife desperately does, so they are “maximizing utility.” I didn’t want to ask too many questions because it would have been clear I disapprove. Part of it is, I’m a new mom myself but had my baby before the new policy was announced so was only able to take 18 weeks (still generous, but I’m definitely jealous and kind of mad my baby didn’t “count” in the new policy).

I think my issue is, he is ruining it for those of us who have fought for expanded childcare coverage. Is this an HR violation or just someone smartly taking advantage of the system?

Whether it’s an HR violation depends on how your company’s policy is written. If the wording makes clear that the leave is provided specifically to care for a child, then it should indeed be a violation. Even if not written that clearly, though, if it’s obvious that that’s the spirit of the policy, your company could still consider it a violation.

But I think the reason you’re so bothered isn’t that it’s an HR violation. Rather, it’s exactly what you wrote in your last paragraph: Many, many people — mostly women — have fought long and hard for better parental leave because the amount of time most American companies provide is shamefully low and a genuine hardship for families. To see this dude using a good parental leave policy in a way that it clearly wasn’t intended — not to take care of his kid but to earn more money, and being so flagrant about it — feels like a kick in the face to everyone who has fought for this and to everyone who still doesn’t have it.

I’m not as worried as you are that he’s gong to ruin it for everyone else; it’s more likely that your employer would tighten up their systems rather than revoke the benefit altogether. But it’s certainly a concern too. You get the feeling this guy is operating with a complete disregard for the impact his actions might have on people who really need the leave to actually care for new babies.

The fact that he’s a man doing this makes it burn a lot more — because it’s a pretty safe assumption that he hasn’t been out there pushing for better maternity leave and more support for breast-feeding moms and an end to the wage gap — and yet he’s perfectly happy to rip off (and maybe jeopardize) the work of the women who are still fighting those battles.

{ 993 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    I’m of two minds.

    One let HR know, so they can adjust policies as they are needed/decided-as someone whose made a career of rules lawyering, I still think people need to know when there’s a gap in their rules because it is their decision to patch it as they see fit. But I would do it in an “FYI, I’ve heard that some people are planning on taking bonding leave and work a second job–unsure if the policy lets that happen, so now you know”, so not to singular anyone out.

    But second, bonding with a kid is important-and does it matter that his wife is the one not working, as long as the kid is getting bonded with by a parent? As a Canadian, it’s hard to imagine less than a year paternal leave but obviously different countries.

    I’d still probably let HR know about the ambiguous nature of the policy, so they can decide if they want to clear it up.

    1. L-squared*

      I dont’ even like the “tell HR” idea. If they have gaps in the policy, let them figure it out on their own.

      If I found a loophole in a policy at my job, and I found out a coworker went to tattle to HR (yes, its tattling to me, because it doesn’t impact them one bit) I’d be PISSED

      1. Toodie*

        But doesn’t describing this as “tattling” also imply that you know it’s wrong? If you really believe that this is a legit use of the policy, can’t talking to HR just be done to clarify that this is OK?

        1. L-squared*

          Why does OP, who from what I can gather has nothing to do with it, need to clarify that its ok?

          That is the problem, even doing that is going to someone with the intention of getting them in trouble, but disguising it as “just asking”

          Its like if I leave work early every Friday, and my coworker is like “I just wanted to be sure its ok to do this since I see L squared doing it every week”

            1. L-squared*

              That isn’t really the point. If its not affecting others, its tattling. And if there isn’t more work to do, is sitting at my desk for 2 hours on AAM really that much better than just going home?

            2. Caroline Bowman*

              that is true – assuming work is being left undone, but unless it directly affects the person doing the telling – and of course it might – then it 100% is simple tattling.

            3. Nina*

              If L-squared has worked it out with their manager to leave early on Fridays (for whatever reason – maybe they’re like me and live in an entirely different town on weekends and it’s a long drive) by coming in earlier or leaving later on the other days or by having their contracted hours set at 36 hours/week, it’s totally feasible that a) it’s fine for them to do that and b) a coworker wouldn’t see the extra hours or the paycut, and only see the ‘L-squared leaves early on Fridays’.

            4. Nina*

              I also wanna note your assertion that leaving work when there is more work to do is bad.
              If making your best effort to get through the tasks assigned to you in the hours you’re assigned to do them doesn’t finish the tasks – that’s management’s problem, and they need to either get comfortable with you leaving lower-priority tasks unfinished at the end of the week, assign you more hours (and pay you for them), or assign you less tasks. I work in an industry where there is always more to do. Always. I could work 24/7 for a year and there would still be more to do. Every time I leave the office I leave work undone.

          1. Birb*

            How is that not a legitimate question to HR? “Hey, I noticed some employees leave work around XXXX every Friday, and wanted to double check that it’s fine for me to do that as well.” Why should you get privileges others don’t, just because you’re sneakier? If it is ok for you to leave early, why not everyone? And if it’s really not a big deal, why would you care that someone brought it up? Honestly my eyes are rolling so hard I’m worried they’ll fall out.

            1. Zennish*

              I dunno, I’ve always gone with the belief that unless I’m the supervisor it’s not my job to monitor my coworkers. It’s saved me from a vast amount of workplace drama. I don’t know if coworker X is leaving early every Friday due to some prearranged agreement, for a medical appointment they’d prefer not to share, or what. If I want to leave early on Fridays, I can ask, but bringing up that “X is doing it too” has no bearing on my particular need, and only serves to call X out. I don’t really see a reason to bring it up unless the goal is to just be vindictive.

              With the parental leave situation, maybe they’re taking advantage, maybe they’re desperate because they realized they suddenly have a new $15,000 per year (on average, to age 18) bundle of joy and need to build some savings quickly. Who knows?

              1. Birb*

                I sincerely can’t wrap my head around your thought process here.

                How about this: If everyone you worked with got up and left at the same time as you, would it be ok? Or does this only work because you’re the only clever special person who does it and your boss doesn’t notice / gives you the benefit of the doubt? If your boss did ask you “Hey where were you around 4:50 Friday, I needed your help with something.” would you feel comfortable telling them you cut out early every Friday, or would you feel like you needed to cover that bit up and pretend it was a one-off with some extenuating circumstance?

                How is it not reasonable for another employee to think “I’m not sure if this is ok or not, but if it’s ok with my boss for people to leave early on Friday, I’d LOVE the same perk!” and ask about it?

                Why are YOU specifically special and deserving of unquestioned perks? If employees leaving a little early doesn’t hurt the company, why not advocate for it to be a perk extended to everyone instead of your sneaky special little trick?

                1. Starbuck*

                  Did you reply to the wrong person? They clearly said “If I want to leave early on Fridays, I can ask” they’re not talking about sneaking out without letting their boss know!

                2. L-squared*

                  Again, because, at least to me, what their arrangement is has nothing to do with my arrangement. If I have a need to be able to leave early on Fridays, then that is something I should bring up, independent of what someone else is doing. Maybe they have a standing appointment. Maybe they are just a more efficient worker and people don’t care. But again, unless they are pawning their work off on you (and even then, that isn’t an HR issue) I’m not seeing the point except to tattle.

            2. Starbuck*

              It would be weird to go to HR first for that though, when presumably your manager/supervisor is the more relevant person for schedule questions.

        2. QuinFirefrorefiddle*

          I guess it’ll all balance out when his wife leaves him for thinking parenting somehow isn’t his job and takes that $$$ for herself. What the company will think of his ensuing midlife crisis is another question…..

          1. Less Bread More Taxes*

            This is obviously something that he and his wife agree on though. We can’t assume that they are unhappy in their traditional marriage. I personally disagree with it, but some people really just want to be homemakers and some people really just want to be providers.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              It obviously could be truly consensual, but it’s not an outlandish theory that it’s someone just surfing on gender expectations. I know so many women who put up with this and complain about the inevitability of “men, eh?” and “It’s like he’s an extra kid!” and “Oh I’m a bloody single parent almost” and it’s always said with a chuckle and an eyeroll. Then it takes a few years, but yeah they get divorced.

            2. OP*

              OP here! For what it is worth – in defense of my colleague – I don’t think it’s as much “traditional gender roles” as it is that his wife is hoping she can breastfeed, and her job isn’t necessarily conducive to pumping or nursing breaks. So it’s all tied up in a lot of … STUFF.

              1. Pennyworth*

                Well that makes sense, he is using the second job to cover his wife’s unpaid leave. Is there any chance he has approval for what he is doing? You said he was being quite open about the second job.

              2. Ellis Bell*

                In that case the leave will help their family, even if not in the way it was designed, and I think you can lay it to rest with yourself on that score.

              3. learnedthehardway*

                In that case, I don’t see it as a major problem or a devaluation of the efforts women have gone to to secure maternity/partental leave benefits. The couple is taking a hit financially by the mother leaving her job to take care of the baby, which is what she wants to do. The father taking a second job to cover the cost of his wife being off work simply means they are not losing income.

                The wife will face a job hunt when she is ready to go back to work. That’s going to take some time to accomplish. The husband is simply ensuring that she can take the time off from her career that she wants to take to care for their child, and is cushioning the financial impact by working while on leave.

                Whether the father’s employer will be cool with this – well, probably not. But it’s not inherently a blow to women for him to do this.

                1. Very Social*

                  The wife is taking unpaid leave, not quitting her job–there’s no reason to think she will need to job hunt.

              4. Meag L*

                I just want to comment that I totally agree with OP that it just feels icky. The leave is to bond and employer is covering wage for that purpose, IMO. To me, it seems the same as taking sick days to work a different job – icky.

            3. Luna*

              I don’t think this has anything to do with ‘traditional’ marriage or anything, I think that no matter what your gender, if you somehow created that baby or have legally taken on responsibility for it, yes, you dang well take responsibility and take part in raising the baby. You don’t leave it to your partner to do most of it, even if this scenario has her doing most of the bonding.

          2. Pam*

            I had the same emotional reaction. Like- really dude? You get time to bond with your child, and you’re like “nah, my wife can do that”.
            And it’s not an either/or. What if he works part time as a contractor so they can afford the arrangement, but spend more of his time bonding with the baby?

            1. Despachito*

              But you really do not know anything about their home arrangement.

              I virtually never stopped working when I had my kids. But I switched to WFH and worked evenings and nights, which left me the entire day of active time with the kids. Somebody who would know that I was working could well have said that if I worked, I of course could not have spent much time with the babies and bond with them… and would have been spectacularly wrong. And I would be livid how a total stranger who does not know anything about me/my family/our arrangement with my husband dares police what I am doing in my private life.

              OP, please let it alone. He is not a jerk for doing this, and how he structures his life does not affect you or your work.

            2. Come on.*

              We really don’t know enough about his situation to make these kinds of judgements. What if his wife isn’t ready to go back to work when her leave runs out and begged him to help her think of a solution so she can continue to stay home? We have the exact same amount of data to support that narrative as we do to support the one you’ve advanced.

          3. Some Dude*

            She makes less money than him, and if she is breastfeeding she is more integral to the child than he is. Getting two paychecks to support his family financially so that she can focus all her attention on parenting and spending time with the child is his way of contributing as a parent in this moment. Having a job that supports your family and allows your partner to focus on parenting full time is contributing to the family.
            He is sacrificing one-on-one parenting time with his child so that his partner can have it and he can support them. And maybe he’s a checked out dad who doesn’t want to be hassled with diapers and feedings, or maybe his wife isn’t ready to be away from the child and so he’s essentially giving his parental leave to her. I don’t agree with how cavalier he is being in discussing this, but I definitely see the rationale, especially if he can make enough contracting to help pay for childcare once they go back to work, or to help pay for his wife to take even more time off.

        3. CanadaFan*

          I think that unless the policy specifically says this isn’t OK, it should be left alone. They may have worded it to allow for this scenario, knowing how little leave parents actually get at other companies. Even though he isn’t the one taking the time off, his wife is now getting an additional 6 months off thanks to your company benefits. So yes, maybe you did fight for this, but it seems like the child is still getting some quality parental time and they are financially covered. OP if you were in this scenario, and your partner did the same thing to allow you more leave, would you not have taken advantage?

      2. Lauren*

        I’d be more concerned that HR takes the policy back by outing this jerk. You have to grin and bare it, because if this becomes a talking point with higher ups – then it will hurt future women at the company. One jerk will get a pass because it wasn’t expressly written that you can’t work another job during this period. Everyone else might end up on the old policy, while still fine – would suck. This new policy is better, and you can’t jeopardize that because they gut reaction would be for the company to pull the newer, better policy vs. just adding rules.

        1. JustaTech*

          I’ll offer an example of someone doing something similar and the impact in the company.

          A guy I know from college joined the same Big Tech company as my husband, at about the same time, at the same satellite office. College Guy took his parental leave (~5 months) before he’d worked at the company a whole year (OK, that happens). But then College Guy used his parental leave to get a new job at another Big Tech company, and waited to quit until his leave was up.

          As far as I know there was no response from HR, but he certainly got a reputation as “that guy”. (Now, knowing him from college, he was already “that guy”, so I don’t know how much additional damage he did to his reputation.)

          Probably the 2 important differences are 1) it wasn’t a new policy and 2) he didn’t work a second (paid) job during his leave. (I don’t know if his wife went back to work while he took leave or if she was full SAHP, which is another part of the dynamic.)

          1. Fluttervale*

            But women do that ALL THE TIME. Go on maternity, decide to stop working or find another job, come back for a month and quit. There’s nothing wrong with finding a better job while you’re on leave. No matter the reason. And people have to come back or pay back the benefits that they’ve had while on leave.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              My brother did that with the last kid. Took his entire, very generous paid leave and then gave his 2 weeks notice the day he returned. It balanced out my SIL discovering her office was being shut down and moved to Singapore 1 month after she finished maternity leave.

            2. Sasha*

              In many companies (the UK NHS being an obvious one most people will have heard of), you have to repaid your whole maternity pay if you don’t return to your job for a certain length of time (3 months in the NHS, I’ve seen 6 months in other companies). Seems fair enough.

              1. Lellow*

                No, this isn’t true. If your work pays you mat pay above the statutory level (which is paid by the government) then they can require you continue with them for 6 months or pay back *that optional employer-paid portion only*. Basically, the optional extra level is a bonus for your return. (You can also choose to get it as a lump sum if/when you return to post, which lets you keep your options open during leave.)

                1. Sasha*

                  I meant the whole employer-paid portion, which in the NHS is significant. Obviously SMP or MA can’t be clawed back, as they are benefits.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                I’d say it’s fair enough so long as the employer has the obligation of giving you back your exact same role or a promotion, and cannot fire you except for gross misconduct (like, kidnapping your boss and tying him up for ransom) during that period. Here in France you can’t fire a woman back from maternity for just two weeks, but a lot of them come back to find the person who replaced them while they were out is still in place, and they are assigned some sh1tty role nobody else wants to touch with a barge pole. And they are treated poorly, to the point that a lot end up resigning.

            3. CommanderBanana*

              Yeah, I had a coworker come back from leave, work a week and give her notice that Friday.

              1. Thunderingly*

                I did that. Because it was so hard to leave my baby that I cried every day and we found out that week that my husband was getting a promotion that would let me stay home.

            4. Saberise*

              Exactly. One of my prior jobs the woman I was replacing told me that while in theory she was going on a 3 month disability due to a high risk pregnancy in reality her husband got a job 3 states away so they were moving that weekend and she was never coming back.

            5. JustaTech*

              I think that the dynamic is slightly different in this case because (had to think about how to say this) partly because it’s more expected of women because maternity leave has existed for longer so it’s had time to happen more often, and partly because there’s a feeling that it is different if someone chooses not to come back from leave because they want to stay home with their kid, then you get a bit of “a love so intense you’d quit your career for it”, which is different from “extra time to look for a new job!”

              Also, like I said, this guy is “That Guy” where people are less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the new job fell in his lap or whatever, but that’s specific to his earned reputation. And I don’t think it’s really hurt him that much!

              At her last job my mom’s assistant didn’t come back after maternity leave. My mom was a bit hurt, not that she didn’t come back (my mom didn’t blame her about that at all) but that it was only communicated the day before the assistant was supposed to come back, and everything went through the assistant’s husband, like she was afraid of her workplace or something. That really hurt my mom’s feelings (no one likes to be treated like a potential ogre). (And yes, years later they got together socially and it was all fine.)

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                The thing is, it’s like telling your boss that you’re interviewing elsewhere. You never know if you have to change your plans because life, so you don’t tell anybody until the last possible minute.

      3. Hills to Die on*

        Especially when the guy is using to provide for his family. He’s not protecting his family financially AT anyone.
        If you want to tattle and screw this guy over in the name of the greater good, well…you would kill any good will you’d have with me even if I were not that male coworker. Leave people alone and let the guy care for his family the way that he has arranged it in his marriage.

        1. Anon for this*

          I’d personally be annoyed with this because… when my coworkers are out on PTO, that’s fine, we all get PTO, they’ll cover for me if I’m out on PTO. When my coworkers are out sick, that’s fine, sickness happens, I’ll work harder to cover the unexpected sickness because they’d do the same for me. When my coworkers are out on maternity/paternity leave, as someone with no children and no desire to ever have children, I am still willing to cover for them when they’re out because again, if anything happened to take me out for an extended period of time, they’d cover for me.

          I’m a lot less happy about the idea of covering for a coworker’s paternity leave, only to discover he was using the paternity leave to advance his own financial position. Covering for someone who is out for an extended period of time is not easy! My department doesn’t have the budget to bring on a temporary replacement, so someone being out for extended leave would result in increased hours and stress for the rest of us (we’re salaried, so no overtime). Which I’m happy to do, if needed, but knowing my coworker had manipulated the situation to increase my workload and stress for their financial gain would make me very, very unhappy, just as I’d be unhappy if they were constantly disappearing during the day to work a second job as a DoorDash driver, preventing me from ever going out and doing anything around lunch time because someone has to be in the office and if it’s never them then it has to always be me, even though we’re technically allowed to flex our schedules however we want.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            Or she could just mind her own business. I mean, tell me that all of these places with paid paternity leave in the world and NOBODY else but this guy is using it to provide for his family? Sure…
            And who SAYS he doesn’t have permission? He might have gone to HR for all the OP knows. I sure hope he did / does and they don’t care.

            1. DistantAudacity*

              They are not doing this, because it would violate the terms of the parental leave.

              The money is paid out by the state (Welfare and Social Services Dept), not the employer (the employer has some contributions through taxstuon systems), and they Will Find Out if you commit this kind of welfare fraud.


              1. Miss Muffet*

                This is almost certainly not how it’s handled at this employer, presumably based in the US based on some of the other info. Unless they happen to have some state level benefits that are being used, the $ is coming from the employer, just the same as if they were going into work each day.

              2. Latvian*

                (Latvia) Parental leave and parental support are different things in the sense that if neither of parents is on parental leave, one of them (your own choice) can still apply for parental support, but will get only 30% of what they’d get if they were on parental leave.
                In our case, my husband was working full time and I was working 10 hrs/wk; neither of us took parental leave (I only had maternity leave – pre/post birth, that goes under sick leave category and working during THAT would be welfare fraud), husband continued to work full time, I continued to work part-time (having a babysitter for those hours), and we took husband’s support money as that was 10x of mine. There were people who considered it cheating, too, but it definitely was legal.

              3. Sasha*

                Same in the UK – SMP is paid by the state, like a sick pay. which is another reason why the US should push for government-funded parental leave – it makes fraud that much easier to spot.

              4. Lenora Rose*

                This is only true if it is a governmental support thing, which it isn’t in the US.

                (I think it’s a bit skeevy, but I also think it’s possible he is getting in more bonding time by being on leave and working contract than he would be working solidly through, and if his wife has, as it sounds, no actual maternity leave pay access, I’m kind of okay with him using his access to allow her to stay home. I think the US system — that in most states has no governmental leave and leaves one dependant on the mercy of the workplace to get any kind of monetary support on leave — is itself bunk, and I don’t care as much if it’s kinda-sorta-fraud-ish as I would if there were a real, solid, universal federal leave policy. But I’m a Canuck, I’m spoiled.)

          2. Birb*

            Seriously. On top of that, he’s telling people which makes them complicit and puts them in a weird spot. Sure, the company may not drop the benefit if they find out an employee did this… but I can’t see any company taking it well that a ton of people knew and said nothing.

            1. PeterM*

              This is where I fall. I can see both sides of the argument, but it was both stupid and rude for the OP’s coworker to tell them how he’s planning to misuse the parental leave.

          3. umami*

            I think here it’s important to remember that he is using a benefit allowed to him. The how of it isn’t really relevant, any more than how someone uses their PTO. Coverage would need to happen whether he is bonding with his child or going to the golf course or working another job. I get that it ‘feels’ wrong, but the only thing this guy did wrong is mention it, and to someone it seems like he trusted with the information. He may not want to care for the baby fulltime, and doesn’t need to since the mother will be home, but the other job might offer more flexibility in what time he has to be working or more freedom in scheduling his time to be available for the baby and mom. I can’t find a reason to fault him when none of us are accountable to our coworkers for how we use our company benefits.

          4. A community? What’s that?*

            Does it help that his kid is going to be paying for your Social Security? He’s using his parental leave to support the work his partner is doing in caring for their child. I know this is an unpopular opinion on AAM, but turning babies into adults so that our society can keep on trucking is, in fact, work that benefits everyone.

            1. catsoverpeople*

              No, that doesn’t help. For all anybody knows, kid will become the next fentanyl dealer, campus rapist, or workplace shooter and spend most of his life either behind bars or otherwise not paying into anyone’s Social Security. Everyone wants to think they’re birthing Einstein Jesus, not a future drain on society’s resources.

              (to be clear, I’m not saying anything in this specific situation will lead to a life of crime, just refuting the arrogant idea that every baby born is going to pay for Future Me’s social safety nets, should they still exist by then)

                1. catsoverpeople*

                  Thanks! :)

                  I don’t like the attitude that anyone’s random kid is paying for my Social Security. I’m not paying for some random other person’s parent’s Social Security. I’m paying into a system that I hope will pay me back someday. That’s really it.

                  It’s like people who ask who will take care of childless/childfree people when they’re old. Umm, your kid is probably not seeking a career in home health care, so…not your kid? No one expects to outlive their kids or that their kids will be in prison and so on. That’s the assumption that I’m pushing back on — that a simple increase in the number of babies born is always a net positive.

                2. catsoverpeople*

                  I should state more clearly, the reason I even said all those things is because the commenter I responded to was basically saying, look the other way even if this is unethical or a misuse of a company benefit, simply because it’s for a baby, and more babies is always good, right?

          5. OP*

            OP here! This is EXACTLY part of it! I couldn’t put it into words but when I was on my own maternity leave, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt when I came back and realized how hard it had been for my team to absorb my work – and that was *before* the policy allowed extended leave. And now, I’m going to be absorbing his work, because while our company gets great accolades for our parental leave policy, they did not allocate any funding for overhires or temp roles to do the work.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              If your company has decided to offer this benefit without thinking through how to provide cover then that is a much bigger problem than just this one guy and something you should bring up.

            2. Also a Mom*

              I agree with you OP. Just because it’s a big company doesn’t make misuse of designated leave ethical. So if I were in your shoes, I’d contact HR and let them know you’d heard of coworkers who were taking this approach, and you’d like to understand if this was permissible so that you know your options for any future parental leave you may take. And if HR says that it’s perfectly fine, then perhaps getting contract work during some of your paid 6 months leave is an option for you, too.

            3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

              The fact that your company doesn’t cover leave well doesn’t mean you or your coworker doesn’t deserve leave. You did; he does.

              I’m REALLY sorry they didn’t allocate funding for overhires or temp roles. That’s terrible. THAT’S the problem. (That, and his wife not getting paid leave.)

            4. Laura*

              I’m with MCMonkeyBean – your company needs to address the big picture. If they haven’t planned for coverage, that’s on them, not on the people using the leave. I can see it causing significant resentment even if someone isn’t abusing the privilege. It’s something that impacts you regardless of how the paternity leave is being used.

              My department just addressed this a few years ago. It’s made up predominately of women in their 20s and 30s, so we’ve had six parents go on (unpaid) mat/pat leave in the last two years. We have a staff member whose primary responsibility is filling in for people on leave and serving as interim for staff transitions.

              (You’d think we’d have a problem with that person not having enough to do when we’re fully staffed, but it’s been four years and she hasn’t been bored yet lol. Fill-in coverage is enough work for a full time position, so you can imagine how overworked we’d be if we were constantly taking on the additional load.)

          6. Glen*

            He is advancing his FAMILY’S financial position. Which is allowing his wife to take additional unpaid leave to stay with their new child. It’s really not some selfish thing.

        2. Zan+Shin*

          I agree. It is 100% working for his family’s benefit and IMO he basically needed to maintain total silence about it at work because Your Employer Is Not Your Friend.

          1. ferrina*

            I think it depends if he’s making ends meet or getting ahead. It def sounded like the latter.
            If you’re making ends meet to buy your wife more time, okay, I have more sympathy.
            But it sounds like he sees it as gaming the system, which makes me think he’s not using it to build his family, he’s using it to get financially ahead. (and he already makes good money.

            Whether or not your employer is your friend, doesn’t mean you should misallocate resources. What about the folks that are covering for him while he’s out? That’s not the C-Suite taking the hit, that’s his teammates!

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                I’m agnostic on this one. I can totally see why you’d want to “get ahead” before you have to pay for childcare and daycare. That is expensive and saving for it while you can makes sense.

              2. Very Social*

                We do know, though. Per the OP’s description of the colleague’s plans: “They will actually net out ahead financially.”

                Oddly enough, this is the second time in a couple of weeks when someone’s financial picture is explicitly described in the letter and I’ve seen comments saying “we don’t know their financial picture!”

            1. Birb*

              People don’t tend to brag about the things they have to do to make ends meet / being poor, but they do brag about pulling one over on “the man”.

        3. Observer*

          Especially when the guy is using to provide for his family.

          Except that he’s not.

          And taking something that’s not yours to take is not honest, even if it’s “to provide for your family.” I’d have some sympathy if it were either that or the family is going to be homeless, but that’s not close to what’s happening here.

          1. Lynca*

            Exactly. The wife just doesn’t want to go back to work and he doesn’t want to do without her income.

            This is a choice married couples have dealt with for ages and isn’t one that paid leave will solve. There will always be people that want to be a stay at home parent.

            1. Raising kids is work*

              Isn’t it weird that when people do work that benefits society that was traditionally the role of women, that’s just their choice and something they give to their community out of the goodness of their hearts? But when people do work that benefits society that was traditionally the role of men, like fixing roads, that’s real labour that gets paid for by tax dollars.

              Huh, I wonder what the distinguishing factor could be!!

          2. Hills to Die on*

            He’s just working a full time job with a newborn at home because he enjoys sleep deprivation then. Obviously.

      4. Seriously?*

        Part of the problem is he’s running around telling everyone how clever he is. It’s his own fault that this will get back to HR. Don’t want blowback for manipulating a loophole in the system? Shut up!

        1. WillowSunstar*

          Yeah, I have to agree that he shouldn’t be bragging about it. It’s also partly the fact that we live in a capitalist system that frequently encourages people to spend more money then they can afford to. Companies should not be surprised if people find ways to get around the system to make more money. They need to spell out rules if it’s supposed to be against the rules.

        2. Hills to Die on*

          Maybe he already has permission and isn’t even bragging.
          But yeah, he needs to keep quiet around OP about this and anything else, ever.
          And if she has any sense she will not let anyone know she has her nose up this guy’s business because it won’t be smart for her politically.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yeah. I wish he wrote in because my advice would be STFU. Folks sometimes need to think more before they tell folks their plans

        4. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yeah, there are way too many people in this world who don’t know when to just keep their mouths shut and stop telling on themselves, smh. He’s goofy as hell for this.

      5. Morgan Proctor*

        Yeah, I’m leaning toward this take. This isn’t even a concrete situation—this is a hypothetical situation LW’s coworker told them about. It hasn’t even happened yet. It might never happen. Also, LW’s coworker’s finances are really none of their business.

        I understand why LW is peeved about this, but if their coworker has decided to be a bad parent, offering or not offering “bonding leave” isn’t going to change that. What if LW’s coworker announced that he was going to take the leave but instead of “bonding” with his child, he was going to play video games all day? Would they still feel the need to tattle? This feels like a clear case of “mind my own business.”

        1. Latvian*

          When I had our third, I was in same hospital ward with a woman whose husband thought the paternal leave was so he could go out drinking.

      6. Shirley Keeldar*

        But it does affect the OP, and other (potential) parents at this company, and maybe even all of us, in a “this is why we can’t have nice things” way. It’s a reasonable worry that HR or the higher-ups might react to something like this by tightening up rules or even cutting back the generous leave.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. Think about Return to Office- certain CEOs are clinging to excuses and ignoring data to get what they want. They are grabbing at rare bad actors to claim that everyone needs to be in office.

          Do you really think those same CEOs are going to see this as “oh, we should better define our expecations”? No. They’ll use this anecdote to say why this benefit should be repealed.

          1. Florida Fan 15*

            If this is true, it makes even less sense for OP to tell them. They can’t repeal what they don’t know, and if OP doesn’t want them to repeal the policy, why on Earth should they tell them about it? Sure, they might learn about it anyway, but the risk is less than 100%. It’s illogical to make it 100%.

      7. ABCYaBye*

        The impact to the LW is that if the company gets wind of someone taking advantage of a situation or a benefit, they might just change the policy and everyone loses out. So those who would use the benefit and follow the spirit of the rule might not get the same opportunity as this person taking advantage.

        1. Curious*

          If your concern is about how the company will act in the future — whether they will cut parental leave back to the legal minimum of time or pay — I think that if the company sees employees leaving immediately or shortly after their (paid? partially paid?) leave ends, they would be more incentivized to cut back than they would be affected by the very occasional a-hat who takes another job — they can fix the latter by clarifying the policy.
          Yet, just this morning, folks were advising the OP who was being jerked around on their promotion to do just that. And, that would indeed make sense for that OP. But, if you are concerned about what will happen to the policy, there are additional considerations.

      8. Majnoona*

        I saw something like this in academia, men with SAHMs would take a paid semester off, spend it doing research that got them way ahead of women coming up for tenure, women like me who spent the semester physically recovering and bonding with the baby. It did affect me.

        1. Meg Murry*

          I was coming to say the same thing – this was a major concern for women faculty at my alma mater. Female faculty would take a semester leave and ACTUALLY use it for childbirth recovery and taking care of an infant, often before they reached their tenure review (because waiting until after could mean delaying trying for kids until their mid-late 30s). Meanwhile, male faculty would take “paternity” leave but spend the semester more like a sabbatical – advancing their research or going off to do high paid consulting jobs or even founding new startup ventures, while their partner did the baby care and childbirth recovery. And more often than not, the male faculty tended to be older than their wives and therefore able to wait until after they received tenure before having kids, not having to worry so much about a pesky limited childbearing timeframe.

          This wasn’t hypothetical either – I saw it play out several times while I was in college. Women took maternity leave and got behind on their careers, men took paternity leave and got ahead.

          1. Media Monkey*

            this is a chapter in Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. really good but don’t read before bed if you don’t want to be in too much of a rage to sleep…

      9. Essess*

        “Tattling” doesn’t exist in an adult professional world. In the office, professional and ethical behavior is required by an employer. If someone is doing something that is ethically questionable, then it is valid and necessary to share that with HR. Every company that I’ve worked at had ethical reporting required as a condition of employment. If someone was found to be doing something against policy, and if it was found out that I knew about it and didn’t report it, I could be disciplined or terminated along with the person who broke the rules.

        If HR found out this guy was working a second job during leave, and if it is a violation of policy, then OP could lose their job if HR found out they knew about it.

      10. Luna*

        But those ‘tattlers’ are just as pissed that you (the general you) are abusing something that was probably a long fight to finally get, simply because you want to make money instead of caring for a human being that you helped bring into the world.
        In a sense, it *is* impacting the tattling coworkers because if you get found out, the policy might be changed or removed entirely, so you screwed over every current and even future employee.

        And not informing people of loopholes because you want them to figure it out themself is also not really that good, in my opinion. They cannot figure out and work on loopholes if they don’t know they exist, and I would presume HR has more to do than to double-check their policies for loopholes all the time. Especially in a large company like this.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      But second, bonding with a kid is important-and does it matter that his wife is the one not working, as long as the kid is getting bonded with by a parent?

      The bonding leave is a company benefit, for company employees. So yes, it matters. The husband in the one who works for this company, so the leave is intended for him, the company employee, to bond with his child.

      1. Viki*

        I know which is why I still think you report a vague policy to HR.

        However, the net outcome is still the kid bonding with a parent-just not the right one per policy, which is overall beneficial.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          But not really.

          The wife is now using unpaid leave to take care of the child, which is setting her back in her career. A lot of the idea behind paternity leave is to allow women to be able to return to their jobs without the issues of a non-parent caring for the child and having to pay for infant care. With this, it’s a lose-lose in a lot of ways for women because it’s still adhering to gender roles for childcare, not increasing mothers’ employment, AND potentially ruining a great policy for those who WOULD use it properly.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              Not something we know. But if her wanting to spend more time with her kid jeopardizes paternity leave in general at husband’s work, I’m against it.

              1. Constance Lloyd*

                LW does specify that her coworker and his wife came to this plan because he does not want to provide full time care and she “desperately” does. In the context of this benefit though, it doesn’t matter what the wife wants. Whether LW notifies HR or not, I do think they will eventually find out and adjust the policy as they see fit.

            2. Sasha*

              She can work as much or as little as she likes. Nobody is saying she can’t take unpaid leave. The question is whether OP’s company should be paying the husband to facilitate this, and I would personally say “no”.

              1. Avril Ludgateaux*

                The question is whether OP’s company should be paying the husband to facilitate this, and I would personally say “no”.

                My kneejerk reaction when reading the title of this post was the same as yours, but after doing some contemplation, I don’t agree anymore. In so far as it is parental bonding leave, and this leave allows at least one parent to continue to bond (and for all we know, coworker-dad will work from home for his freelancing gigs and end up doing some childrearing regardless of his bad attitude – so maybe even both parents). I just can’t get on board denying that to somebody, even if it is indirectly the wife. My understanding is that the only reason the wife can take an additional 6 months unpaid, is BECAUSE coworker is going to be doing freelance work during his leave. If this is the arrangement that the two of them have agreed upon as being the ideal, and if the wife is aware and amenable to the fact that he will be advancing her career while hers may stall (which is an unfair criticism* I’m seeing in this thread), in the end the kid gets to spend more time with both parents.

                *Unfair in that I don’t think it is her personal responsibility to sacrifice her personal goals and dreams in order to challenge a patriarchal system, and in fact, her individual actions will not meaningfully change the discrimination mothers (and women and female-presenting individuals who are not mothers) face in the workplace.

                1. PersephoneUnderground*

                  Yeah, I expected this to be more obvious, like men in academia using paternity leave for publishing extra papers. But the specific situation given is right on the line of being actually legit and feeling uncomfortable. It’s a creative allocation of resources that does end up with the same net result of more parental bonding time/leave for the couple. Just because it’s not how the company exactly envisioned it doesn’t make it wrong.

                  I think this is a grey enough area that OP shouldn’t say anything, except maybe to the coworker in question. I’d ask him not to talk so openly about this because if it got back to HR it could jeopardize the benefit for everyone if they have a problem with the way he’s using it, and OP would have killed for six months of leave if you’d had it available so it’s not something to take lightly.

                2. Annony*

                  I agree. I can see why it upsets the OP and it does feel somewhat wrong, but I don’t think he is trying to pull a fast one. He is just trying to financially take care of his family while she is on unpaid leave. Having a kid means a lot of tough choices to make everything work. I would probably leave this alone in the OP’s shoes.

            3. allathian*

              She’s taking unpaid leave because she wants to breastfeed her child after 6 months, and some jobs are a lot more conducive to pumping at work than others. For office jobs, it can usually be arranged somehow, but it’s a lot more difficult in some others. Keeping the milk refrigerated would be more difficult if you’re out in the field all day, for example. Or if you’re an ICU nurse who has to wear something like hazmat gear that requires most of your break time just to put on. Or work in a clean room, or…

              We aren’t talking about a newborn here.

              On the one hand, I think he’s gaming the system. But on the other, I think that the OP and other employees have a lot more to lose than to gain if they tell HR, if the employer decides to roll back the benefit.

              The coworker should’ve kept his mouth shut about his plans, and there would’ve been no fuss.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            While I’m all for women’s career advancement, how they divide up their career opportunities is up to the couple. The company is not providing a benefit for someone else’s employee, they’re providing a benefit for its employee.

            1. Polly*

              Agree, and I’m a little surprised a comment section that so often proclaims “my personal life is none of my employer’s business!” (and rightfully so!) thinks this employer should be concerned about the eventual future impact of their employee’s actions on his wife’s career…

            2. Butterfly Counter*

              The company won’t worry about the couple’s marriage or someone else’s employee. They’ll worry about whether the money they’re spending is being put to good use for what it’s intended for. If the company thinks they’re getting screwed over because this couple chose this, they’re likely to discontinue this policy, which, again, hurts women more than men.

          2. Despachito*

            But it is absolutely not OP’s business how the coworker has arranged it in his own marriage, as well as the bonding thing.

            It is sort of a jerky move from him to be telling around, and I understand why OP is pissed, but if the policy is “give each new parent X time of paid leave” it is and should be really up to him/her how they wish to use it.

            1. ferrina*

              Not really. The guy knows what the leave is intended for, and he’s deliberately going against the spirit of the leave and using semantics to get around it.
              It’s like saying that it’s okay to take sick leave to go out drinking- sure, you will end up sick with a hangover tomorrow, but you know that’s not really what it’s used for.

              1. Despachito*

                But in your example, the person would be taking sick leave without being sick, while this guy’s child has actually been born, and if the company is providing the leave to all new parents, he should have it. He is not lying, and we do not know (and do not need to know) how his days will be structured.

                1. TechWorker*

                  Would it change your view if a woman on maternity said ‘I’m going to work a second job during my maternity leave and employ a nanny, because I’ll earn more in the second job than the nanny costs’? Is that allowable because she’s had a child & should be able to do what she wants?

                  (Tbh this feels like the sort of thing that is not technically against policy because it shouldn’t need to be said, but there you go)

                2. ferrina*

                  Oof, I feel like this is getting into sketchy territory. That starts leaking over into “parents get a time to work a second job, and non-parents don’t”. At least, for folks that aren’t using the time as it was intended to be used (i.e., for caring for a child).
                  I don’t think it should be reported, but definitely don’t think it should be condoned

          3. KRM*

            But apparently the wife WANTS to structure it this way. And her husband is contracting, perhaps from home, not FT–so he won’t be ‘on leave’ for six months taking care of an infant, but he WILL be home to be around the baby more?
            Regardless, I can’t get that worked up about this. The family has decided to structure his leave in a way that works for them, that they agreed upon. He’s getting the benefits due to him that the company provides. Sorry LW, but I think you need to keep it to yourself, and if his bragging makes it to HR and they decide to rejigger the policy, then that’s up to them. I realize it feels unfair to you, but you’re not in charge of how anyone else choses to run their lives.

            1. Joielle*

              I also can’t get that worked up about this in general, but to your point that there may be consequences “if his bragging makes it to HR” – isn’t that exactly what the OP is asking about? I think the only way HR finds out about it is if someone tells them, and OP is wondering whether she can/should be that person. (Or, maybe the guy will be dumb enough to tell HR about his plan directly, but that seems unlikely if he has any shred of sense.)

              Personally, I’d stay out of it because I’d rather let this guy get away with it than risk having the benefit taken away for others. But I’d never forget that this guy is kind of a boob. And if I was later in a position to recommend him (or not) for a promotion/job/stretch assignment/etc… well, it’s the kind of thing you remember.

              1. allathian*

                Yes, this. Sure, he and his wife have the right to determine how their marriage works.

                As a mom myself, I’m so glad that I didn’t even have to think about going back to work until my son was 9 months old, and long since weaned. I went back to work when he was 2 years and 3 months old. I wouldn’t have been happy to hand over my son to anyone else’s care all day much before that, except my husband.

                My husband works in a very male-dominated field, and he was considered a pioneer just for taking the two weeks of post-partum paternity leave 13 years ago. Now things are changing, and for two-parent households there’s a certain share for each parent (with some disability leave that’s exclusive to the birth parent), and another share that the parents can split between themselves as they wish. This is determined by legislation, it’s not something that employers can opt out of, except by not hiring people who are statistically likely to become parents. But one reason why the new laws were enacted was to ensure a more level playing field for a larger number of employees when a larger proportion of the workforce will be using longer leaves.

        2. Temperance*

          No, it isn’t. That is the “net outcome” from the wife’s employment. Not his. His company should not be subsidizing -her- leave.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I was really trying to figure out what was getting me about this and I think you’ve summed it up perfectly here. My opinion.

          2. The Real Fran Fine*

            This is also a good point and is probably why I was initially irritated by his actions on first reading.

          3. Cringing 24/7*

            This comment actually made me feel a little bit for the person abusing the leave. Hypothetically (because that’s all we have) if I were working at a Fortune 500 company that provided me with this fantastic benefit and I had a wife get pregnant whose company had virtually no paid leave, and she was super bummed about how little time she’d be able to afford to take with the baby, I think I wouldn’t mind saying, “You know what? Let me figure out finances by working a second job while taking the leave that we know is paid while you take unpaid leave to spend time with the baby, since your company is terrible and doesn’t provide leave and it’s not like my company can’t afford it.”

            It’s not… ethical… but I could see being able to mentally justify it as being the right thing for my family (especially considering just the basic knowledge of how many Fortune 500 companies can genuinely be terrible places to work at [at least the couple that I’ve been at were]).

            But I also acknowledge that there are multiple gender dynamics at play here and that *my* justification may not at all be the same as the person’s that OP wrote about.

      2. this is fine dog*

        Well, let’s be clear: the purpose of the leave is to retain employees, whatever they call it. A public company doesn’t really have a direct interest in the strength of the nuclear family or whatever; they’re offering perks to compete with other employers.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Yeah, all benefits boil down to “the company is trying to retain employees.” But the company can still set limits on and dictate the use of some benefits.

          One company can offer a single bucket of PTO for both vacation and sickness, and decide that they don’t care how many days I use for which purpose. Another company can give me X vacation days and Y sick days, and if I take a sick day or two to go on vacation, the company can decide that’s not an appropriate use of sick time and dole out whatever consequences they deem appropriate.

          Only the company in question can say whether this guy’s plan to work while on bonding leave is acceptable. I personally don’t think it is, which is why I said above that the leave is for him to bond with his child, but the company could very well decide differently.

          1. catsoverpeople*

            Right, this is where my mind went, too. Take the baby factor out of it for a second. If My Fictional Employer offered me 6 months of paid time off specifically for me to take care of my dying parent, and it turned out my parent was actually in a long-term care facility and I wasn’t doing any care work at all, just using that PTO to work another job and visit dying parent on the weekends, wouldn’t that seem pretty unethical?

            1. hbc*

              Yeah, as much as we don’t want our employer’s up in our business, all moral companies will try to support employees with a genuine need. To do that, the employees really need to honor the intent behind the policies.

              I hope we can all agree that taking 6 months of parental bonding leave when your wife was a paid surrogate (and you never even met the child) is super unethical, regardless of whether the HR and Legal teams missed that possibility when crafting the policy. People who abuse these loopholes are exactly why people in obviously-needy-but-unusual situations get denied support, and “regular” situations end up requiring mountains of paperwork.

    3. Constance Lloyd*

      My gut instinct was frustration (as someone who will get 12 weeks partially paid at most) but ultimately, the coworker is using his leave to ensure his family has the financial stability necessary for the infant to stay home with a parent for a year. I can’t quite fault him.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, this is where I ultimately came down on the issue. It sucks that this guy seems to think bonding with and caring for his own child is undesirable, but this way at least one of the parents can take care of the child while they are very young.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          He also could be bonding! The nature of his contract work and schedule could very well allow him the flexibility to support his partner and bond with his child during leave while still maintaining the financial stability they need.

          If this man had written in himself, my recommendation would be a big, fat, blinking “proceed with caution” sign. But as far as advice to the LW is concerned, all I can really say is I feel your frustration, but I wouldn’t personally go to HR in your shoes.

          1. Starbuck*

            Yeah, maybe the contract work is flexible to be done at home but his regular job isn’t. That would make it seem far more reasonable and honestly I think that scenario is pretty likely!

            1. allathian*

              Yes, I agree. Especially if he’s working insanely long hours at his day job but is able to work a normal workday at the contract job…

        2. RosyGlasses*

          Where does it say the guy thinks bonding is undesirable? He and his partner made a decision together to take this step.

          1. Umiel12*

            Exactly! There are a lot of biased assumptions here that lean towards assuming “The Man” is only concerned about making more money. It looks to me that he and his wife made a decision together that will allow her to stay home for another six months while still being able to afford it. There is no reason to assume this arrangement will not allow him to bond with his new child.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I was reacting to the quote “he doesn’t want to care for the baby full-time”, but I see I misremembered it. Not wanting to do something full-time is different than not wanting to do it at all.

    4. Medusa*

      Even as a childfree woman, I *completely* understand why the LW feels the way she does. But from a logistical/practical standpoint, I don’t think there is any benefit to telling HR about this. All parents should be entitled to parental leave, but I don’t think companies should be able to dictate exactly what you spend your time doing during that leave, even if it’s in poor taste, for lack of a better term, and not in the spirit of the policy.

      1. Koalafied*

        This is where I come down on it. I would rather see a guy like this “get away” with letting his wife take his paternity leave by proxy than see the company become more actively involved in monitoring and making rules about what is and isn’t permissible activity on paternity leave, and end up working against someone in the future who really needed some flexibility.

        1. MindYourOwnBiscuits*

          I completely agree. The policy shouldn’t be subject to deciding who is “primary” parent at any given time. The couple could take it at the same time, or back to back, or not at all. It should completely be up to them and not arbitrated by a busybody at work.

        2. art*

          I think I’m in this boat on this one… I’d leave it alone in case they change the policy to be more strict in response. I work full time and then also have a small art business on the side. I really wouldn’t want to be denied maternity leave just because I wasn’t also quitting my from-home job that’s basically just my hobby but I get paid for it.

        3. Eyes Kiwami*

          Yes agree. If it were possible to change his mind/plans, or force the wife’s company to offer leave, I’d rather do that… but since we can’t, and the big fear for everyone posting here is that future parents will have the benefit takeaway, I don’t see any benefit to reporting to HR, even if we all agreed that he was wrong.

          In fact I might encourage OP to tell him to keep his mouth shut in case HR hears him.

    5. Lynca*

      I mean it comes down to they are not required to provide 6 months of paid leave since it’s the US.

      It’s a benefit, not the law. So it is subject to being revoked for misuse just like remote work might be. It really does come down to clarifying whether they have any strings attached to taking the bonding leave. If OP is planning any further children that is relevant information.

    6. Binky*

      Bonding leave isn’t primarily a benefit for the baby, it’s a benefit for the employee. These sorts of leaves are intended to promote equity between men and women in the workplace. The idea being, if taking time off to care for your child is not gendered, discrimination against women will become less prominent. If men take the benefit without doing the childcare, the equity these programs seek will not be realized.

      If he works in his field the whole leave he’ll have lot of accomplishments and contacts at the end of the period, accomplishments and contacts that an employee who actually used the leave as intended won’t have.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “If men take the benefit without doing the childcare, the equity these programs seek will not be realized.”

        Yes, that’s what I don’t like about it.

        In my country there are strict rules prohibiting working during parental leave which I think are playing into my reaction. But that’s because the pay is mostly government funded and closely linked to tax, so I appreciate that that will make a further difference.

        1. Phony Genius*

          You have answered a question I was thinking about (at least for your country). Does anybody here live in a country that has mandated parental leave but would legally allow the employee to seek alternate employment during that time?

          1. Sasha*

            In the UK, you would lose maternity pay from your previous employer if you start a new job after the baby’s birth. Grey area if you start consulting, as you would be self-employed.

            From Maternity Action (will post the link below):

            “Your SMP will stop if after the baby is born, but before the end of the Maternity Pay Period, you work for an employer who did not employ you in the qualifying week. It is your responsibility to tell the employer paying you SMP about your new job. You must do this as soon as possible, and make sure you return any SMP payment you get that covers the week you started work and any part of the period after you resumed work.
            If you do any work in a self-employed capacity during your MPP, then such work will not affect your SMP.“

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Yes, my feeling is that the consulting would fall under “self-employed”, and anything on top of statutory allowance (in this case, the difference between his actual salary and the mandated minimum) which is directly employer funded would also not be an issue. It feels like a bit of a grey area tbf.

              But you can have two jobs, go on p/maternity leave from both, and return on different dates; you just can’t start a totally new job.

          2. Helvetica*

            I do! But there is a cap to how much you are allowed to earn in a month and if you go above that, your paid parental leave (paid by the government) will be reduced. You should self-report if you earn more than allowed and since your salary is taxed – and this data sent directly to our IRS – they would find out about this discrepancy and would ask you to pay back anything extra later.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            But in those countries the spouse would have the direct access to the benefits herself, and it sounds here like she doesn’t. It’s a very different situation from where only he can get the money while she WANTS to stay home but gets nothing for it.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this.

              I’m in Finland, and the system here is a bit odd in that benefits like maternity and paternity leave are only counted as accruing 6 days a week. So it’s perfectly legal to work on Sunday if you’re medically capable of doing so, even when you’re on maternity leave. One of my friends is a nurse, and she went back to work some shifts on Sundays during her maternity leave once she’d been to her post-partum checkup and been cleared for physical labor.

            2. amoeba*

              There are countries where the parental leave is actually divided between both parents (so, e.g., you can take 8 months each but unless you’re a single parent, it’s not possible for one of the parents to take 16). I think that’s a great way of promoting equality with both fairer distribution of paid work and care work – so would hate to see the system abused like that. (In Germany, it’s only two months that only the second parent can take – basically leads to most mothers taking 12 and the men exactly those 2.)

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        Really well put! I know it “didn’t feel right” and this helps articulate some of why I had that feeling.

      3. Temperance*

        Yep. It’s doubly beneficial to the coworker; he gets paid for leave that he’s not using properly while ALSO building his career. That’s two steps ahead of a woman in a comparable place, not counting whatever other benefits he gets solely due to his status as a man.

    7. Hamster Manager*

      Since OP is reporting that dad has apparently no interest in caring for his kid via actual childcare, I think there’s a really strong chance that to him, making money = childcare. I.e., “I’m the financial provider, mom is the care provider, both are required to take care of children.”

      I personally strongly dislike this philosophy because it feels antiquated and a bit misogynistic (and very sad for the dads who buy into this, because they miss out on a lot of great kid stuff), but I think a LOT of decent people still feel that dad providing = money, mom providing = childcare. If viewed this way, dad isn’t ‘bonding,’ but he is ‘caring’ which I think is the spirit of the leave…the term “bonding” being used to make it less gendered/binary perhaps.

      I DO still think this is icky and this guy has no tact, but I would bet he’s doing it at least in part because he feels money is his contribution duty.

      1. KateM*

        Actually, even OP is not reporting that “dad has apparently no interest in caring for his kid via actual childcare”.

      2. pope suburban*

        I think this is exactly what I find offputting about it. The impression I get from the letter is of someone who is not planning to be an engaged parent, and boy howdy, have I ever heard (and witnessed) some real horror stories about how minimally fathers can parent, or the way people praise them for “babysitting” their own kids. Not that I believe this is universal, mind, and not that I know this guy, just that the image here is…suboptimal. Puts me in mind of a lot of unhealthy trends people have written about. I still wouldn’t say anything about it to anyone in an official capacity, but I do find it a little off personally because of gendered expectations and whatnot. That’s strictly my feeling to manage, though; I wouldn’t involve HR or anyone else.

      3. ferrina*

        This is exactly the antithesis of what this program is intended for!

        I’m not commenting on this guy & his wife’s personal childcare division- each couple gets to decide that for themselves.

        What I *hate* is that he’s taking a benefit that is designed to help promote equity in the “Mommy tax” that mothers pay in their career, and completely misusing it. There’s no way his actions are in the spirit of the leave- he’s not promoting equity in childcare or in career advancement. And if he doesn’t want this system for his family, fine, he’s not required to! But he can’t pretend like it’s “clever” to misuse a tool intended for equity. That not clever, it’s [expletive].

        1. Solokid*

          I agree in spirit! The part where I understand differently is that mandatory paternal leave is meant to help women in that their careers are as safe as a potential fathers would be at that company.

          If it were a government mandate that no father can work anywhere for 1 year (or whatever equals maternity leave) that would truly be equitable, but likely a non starter.

          From here, we can only judge that some dads just don’t want to be full time parents.

          1. socks*

            But he’s still getting a leg up over the women at his company. If the men can spend that six months doing contracting work (building connections, staying up to date on skills, etc.) while the women at the company can’t do the same, the men will still be in a better position to jump back into their careers when they return to work.

            1. allathian*

              Not necessarily, but it would depend on how LGBT+ friendly the company is. Presumably, a non-birthing parent in a lesbian couple could do exactly the same thing and get exactly the same career benefits. If the company doesn’t offer parental leave to a non-birthing parent who happens to be female, it’s a completely different kettle of fish.

              The recent parental leave reform in Finland for ensuring a more even distribution of parental leave between birthing and non-birthing parents, a woman can get “paternity” leave if her partner/wife gives birth to a child.

              1. allathian*

                Or if they adopt. Although for people who become parents by adopting a child, there’s no medical disability leave regardless of the gender(s) of the parents, because there’s no birth to recover from.

            2. Gabrielle*

              Please don’t use LGBTQ people to claim that women wouldn’t be disadvantaged. First of all we’re a minority, so overall, women are still affected more than men. Secondly, lesbians and trans people make less money than cis men do, a big part of the sexism here is that the guy makes more money than his wife does.

            3. SoloKid*

              New mothers can also build connections and stay up to date on their skills at a contracting job during their maternity leave if they choose to. I’m guessing you’re referring to the physical act of recovering from birth?

              That is different than “bonding time” and I’m not sure of a good way to make that truly equitable in society bar what I mentioned above – prevent fathers from working at all during the same time a mother recovers.

          2. hbc*

            I think the company is taking the position that it’s a public good to offer this. By them offering this perk, there’s X number of fathers who have a more equal bond with their children, X(ish) families where 12 months (or whatever) of childcare came less than 100% at the expense of a woman’s career, X(ish) women in the world who will be farther in their careers, some number of older siblings who see a mother and father both responsible for and knowledgeable about infant care and who bring that expectation into their future marriages and careers.

            And that’s just benefits in opposite sex, two parent households.

      4. DisgruntledPelican*

        Yikes. Imagine assuming a mother had “no interest in caring for her kid via actual childcare” simply because she said she wasn’t interested in staying home full time.

    8. LCinCO*

      I wouldn’t focus on whether the male co-worker is violating the rules, but I would absolutely care if HR is enforcing the rules equitably so that female employees can also take advantage of this loophole.

      If I were the OP, I would go to HR and say “now that the 6 month parental leave is in place, family and I are considering the pros and cons of having another child. One pro, is that I (the mother) could do some contract work from home during the leave.”
      (friend in non-competing industry has been asking you to do this for years, you realized with previous 18 week leave you could juggle a bit, partner’s leave policy, post-2020 work-from-home reality, yada, yada)

      If HR says “no”, then push back. And if they say “yes”, make sure every woman going on parental leave knows that this is an option, and that they can potentially use the higher contract rate from parental leave work to negotiate a higher salary.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        But the desired outcome is not that everyone should “get to” work during parental leave. The whole reason for parental leave in the first place is that it’s not generally possible or desirable to work while birthing/breastfeeding/caring for an infant. Women are usually birthing parents and primary caregivers, so are less likely than men to be able to work during parental leave. When men use paternity leave as intended to care for their babies, this presumably frees up some of the mother’s time to advance in her career, thus promoting equity. When men use paternity leave to advance in their own careers at the expense of their wives’, the outcome is inequitable and the opposite of what these policies intend.

    9. starfox*

      My gut reaction was “fire in my eyes” anger that this guy is so blatantly taking advantage of a policy that women have fought for.

      But then I realized that his wife doesn’t seem to have paid maternity leave and wouldn’t be able to stay at home for these six months of her husband didn’t work a second job. I think it would be different if both parents had paid leave and they were getting three incomes… but instead, he’s basically taking over her income with his second job so that she can stay at home.

      And just pragmatically, if she’s breast feeding and still healing from childbirth, she is the obvious choice for staying home right now.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. She wants to continue breastfeeding and is working a job where pumping and/or storing the milk is complicated. Also, for some moms, pumping doesn’t work, and some babies don’t want to take the bottle. I mean, they would do it eventually if the alternative is to starve to death, but why put your baby through that if you can breastfeed instead?

    10. rudster*

      Don’t go to HR. It’s kind of like being angry that you pay real estate taxes but will never have kids in the local public school (yet another US-centric situation). It’s in everyone’s interest in society that the populace will be well-educated, even if you don’t have children yourself. The spirit behind robust parental leave is that someone be home with the baby as long as feasible. Whether that’s one parent or the another is less important. I don’t see it as any different than taking the annual leave to which you are entitled but working on a well-paid freelance project during that time. Sure, you’re supposed to using the time to rest and recharge, but would anybody really think ill of you for doing paid work instead of typical vacation activities (which, if they involve travel, are often not particularly restful at all)?

    11. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      See, I do think it matters that the bonding is not happening with the parent on leave, specifically the dad, because a huge part of the issue of women with children not being able to advance in the workplace is tied into the idea that the mother is always the primary childcare provider. It actually leads us to devalue the role that men play as fathers to their children. It was a while ago, but Alison posted a link to a study done to address how to help women advance in the workplace. But things like better maternity leave and part time work often led to women having to take a lesser role and not advance as easily. Meanwhile men felt their main responsibility when having kids was to be the more stable earner, and did not feel comfortable taking their full paternity leave, which usually was not as good as what women received. I think the purpose of paid parental leave for both parents is to help families overall but also to ensure both parents develop as partner caretakers of their children, and only when we stop thinking one partner, almost always a female one, is the “main parent,” and the male is inevitable the “main provider,” will we see more equality for women in terms of their professional development.

    12. münchner kindl*

      “But second, bonding with a kid is important-and does it matter that his wife is the one not working, as long as the kid is getting bonded with by a parent? ”

      Given how much conservative (Republican) politicans in US wage a cultural war both against women working at all (because they need to care for children) and how terrible it is for children to be raised in single households instead of father-mother families, I say it matters a lot.

      If the importance of a father for the development of a child (to prevent it turning sissy) is as important as conservatives claim when making divorce harder, then the father needs to also bond with the child, not just the mother.

      If the whole role of father in raising a child is to deliver enough money, then the solution is far easier. In real life, children need more than one parent – though a parent who actually cares about the child, not one who’s bothered by spending time with it.

  2. Gresten*

    If extra money helps the employee’s partner and child by giving her and the baby additional financial security, enables her to perhaps afford some help around the home, and works for the family, what’s the issue? Someone could quite easily spend baby bonding leave out drinking with their buddies and there would be zero employer recourse. Doing something that benefits the family can’t be a bad thing. What matters is that benefits are applied equally to all to destigmatize either parent taking leave at a life milestone, which ultimately benefits women – as they aren’t (hopefully) left as the only assumed caregivers.

    1. Nanani*

      Please read a feminism 101 textbook. Seriously? “Its ok because he’ll provide for you” is patriarchy talking points. holy shit its 2022

      1. anneshirley*

        What? Both partners making an informed choice for their family IS feminism 101. I don’t love what this guy is doing either, but doing what he and his partner both want is not the same as the big man telling the little lady to pipe down.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes. Women have choices and don’t have to make the choices other people are comfortable with. That’s feminism. This is what this woman wants – great!

          1. nom de plume*

            Yeah, that’s actually NOT feminism. “If a woman does it / wants it/ says it’s okay” ≠ feminism and can absolutely still support sexist structures and systems.

            I’m not opining on this case, but this conflation of women’s choice as feminism is harmful to the goals of actual gender equality.

            1. socks*

              Thank you for saying this! The watered-down version of feminism getting tossed around in this thread helps nobody.

        2. Be kind, rewind*

          I think the point being made is that according to the patriarchy, a man’s role is to be the provider and the woman the nurturer. Which is true. Your point that feminism encourages women to make choices for themselves is also true.

          1. Be kind, rewind*

            Edit to clarify that my first “which is true” means that’s the stance of the patriarchy.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          But people don’t make choices in a vacuum, do they, either in terms of the influences and prejudices they bring with them, or the society they are contributing to.

          Every time the woman gives up work to be a SAHP “because it makes sense financially” that’s simultaneously a sound decision for her family AND a nail in the coffin for wage equality.

          1. Less Bread More Taxes*

            I don’t see how that affects wage equality because the wage gap between men and women exists when you take into account years of experience.

            1. Anony vas Normandy*

              Childcare is one of the major reasons for differing years of experience between men and women.

              In this case, mom is taking an extra 6 months out of her career – do you think that won’t effect her seniority and ability to negotiate higher wages when she returns? Dad is taking that 6 months to advance his career – do you think he’s not going to use that as a bargaining chip for raises/advancement/new jobs when he returns? Of course this affects wage equality.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            It’s not because it makes sense financially though, she wants to be with her kid. She gets to make that choice without worrying about how it impacts all women everywhere.

          3. starfox*

            I don’t even see that she’s quitting her job to be a SAHP, just taking unpaid leave for 6 months. Her job apparently doesn’t offer much (if any) paid maternity leave…. Also, let’s not ignore the fact that she’ll be healing from childbirth. You wouldn’t say that it’s “a nail in the coffin for wage equality” if a woman took off to heal from surgery.

          4. Well...*

            People don’t make choices in a vacuum, and discussing the context of those choices is feminist for sure.

            What’s NOT feminist is picking apart an in individual woman’s choices regarding what’s best for her personal family. Pushing back on that is not watered down feminism.

            Also it’s just bad form in activism in general. You don’t win hearts and minds by harping on people who are just trying to get by.

      2. President Porpoise*

        People get to decide their own familial roles without someone deciding on their behalf that a mother choosing to care for her own baby rather than work isn’t feminist enough. You can be a feminist stay at home mother. The point of feminism is partnership and equality. If this is what this particular partnership decides works best for their needs, it’s not your business.

        1. Despachito*


          A feminist can well be a stay-at-home mom – the difference is whether she chose this arrangement freely. I know enough women who would absolutely prefer to do this, and it does not make them any less feminist.

          The problem is if there is pressure for you to do something you otherwise wouldn’t but if it is really a free choice, no one is to police it.

        2. TechWorker*

          I don’t think the woman in this case choosing to stay home for longer is anti-feminist. I do think that the man choosing to use a leave which is specifically intended (at least in part) to increase equality in the workplace is using it in a way that ignores its purpose is anti-feminist.

          1. allathian*

            I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree here. By getting two paychecks, he’s enabling her to stay at home with at least the equivalent, if not a higher, total income for the family. Sure, her job is allowing her to remain on unpaid leave where many would just ask her to resign or straight up fire her. Even if he’s earning a good salary, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they could live comfortably on just one income (student debt, mortgage, car loans…).

            1. nom de plume*

              1) That’s not feminist; 2) that’s expressly not the purpose of the leave.

              I’m baffled by so many people saying “this doesn’t bother me,” while leaving out the larger point about the actual purpose of the leave. There was a wide discussion about ethics the other week and… this ain’t it.

      3. Interview Coming Up*

        What if it were the woman who needed to get a temporary job while on maternity leave and the man cared for the child while she was at work?

        I don’t think this family is necessarily hurting financially, judging by the man having the skills to get contract work, but the reality is that someone (or more than one person) has to provide for a family.

        1. amoeba*

          But it’s not and let’s face it, it’s really, really much less likely to happen that way around. Which is the whole problem.

      4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Gresten is pointing out that this family is making a decision about what works best for them – One of the parents being able to stay at home, and the other working two jobs to provide an income that supports the household.

        It may not have been the intended benefit of the leave, but there is a valid reason for this family to be doing this – a decision which your dismissal of this as being ‘the patriarchy’ presumes the mother wasn’t an equal party to making – just like there is validity to someone using an extended PTO or sabbatical to work a second job, attend graduate courses, or build their own house. It may not have been how the leave was intended, but that does not mean it is not valid choice for the particular set of individuals/family and their circumstances.

        1. Really tho*

          There’s no “but”. The purpose of the leave is to allow a parent time away from work because they have a new child in the household who needs extra care (and, potentially, a parent who also needs extra care because they just gave birth). Paternity leave exists because in the US we are finally starting to recognize that men might want to be around their own children.

          People in this comment section rules-lawyer like it was their side hustle.

          1. allathian*

            She’s already taken her paid maternity leave (12 weeks?), and he’s going to take his paternity leave once hers is up. So post-partum physical recovery should be at a stage where she’s fit to go back to work. But she wants to care for their baby for longer than her maternity leave allows. I’m assuming that this family couldn’t live as well as they want to on just one salary, and that the mom would have to return to work if the dad didn’t work a second job during his paternity leave.

      5. Butterfly Counter*

        I’m going to chime in to agree with you.

        Paternal leave is to help destigmatize non-traditional gender roles by allowing fathers to have more of a care taking role in raising their children. Using it to more fully shore up gender roles with mom taking even more time away from work (that has SO MANY drawbacks for women in general) feels like a complete slap in the face.

        A company will see this guy taking money from them, working at another company and not using the leave in the spirit intended, and likely rethink this benefit for everyone, which, of course, will hurt families, specifically mothers who want to return to work.

        Yes, it’s this particular family’s choice to have mom stay home for a year, but by taking advantage of this policy, doing so might affect the choice other families have in the future.

        1. doreen*

          I think the issue is precisely that the company will rethink the benefit if they find out. It almost doesn’t matter whether the policy currently forbids it as far as what happens in the future – even if the policy is changed to explicitly forbid working elsewhere while on paid leave and receiving benefits from the company, the company won’t find out about it until they have paid for some of the leave and benefits so any rethinking is likely to involve at least shortening the paid period to the point where it is impractical for someone to get another job.

          It’s fine for this particular family to decide that they want mom to stay home for a year and there’s no reason to assume mom had no say in this decision – but that’s a completely separate issue from the likely consequences of dad taking the leave and getting a second job.

      6. ElizabethJane*

        Pretty sure feminism 101 is “Enabling women to make the best choice for themselves, which may be different than the choice you would make for yourself”.

        I read it as the wife in this scenario **wants** the extra 6 months and this leave policy will enable her to do that. Please don’t disparage women who don’t do the same things you would do.

        1. Despachito*


          Don’t let us do unto others what we would not like to be done to ourselves. I assume the coworker and his wife are grown people able to agree upon what they decide is best for them. What is important for me is that I have the possibility to decide what is best for ME, not policing other people’s choices.

          Does the fact that this man has a different opinion hurt or limit me (or OP) and my chances? I’d say no – I understand OP would have liked the same generous time for herself, and in her shoes I’d be pissed that this company policy came too late for me, but it is not the coworker’s fault.

        2. nom de plume*

          There’s some misunderstanding about feminism in this thread. Feminism is about advancing women’s rights and equality amongst the sexes, and ending oppression and inequality on the basis of sex / gender.

          Standard dictionary definition: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

          “Women making choices” doesn’t necessarily support equality nor advance women’s rights. There really is a difference!

          *Women used is the inclusive definition of the term, not the biological sense.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            There’s also an assumption that “a woman making a choice someone else feels upholds the patriarchy” is automatically anti-feminist. Which it isn’t. There have to be a lot of “what if”s discussing the possible outcomes being taken as givens instead to make that determination.

            1. nom de plume*

              It’s really not about what you “feel” upholds the patriarchy. Feminism is about societal systems, so this analysis doesn’t hold. If a woman makes a choice to pause her career which we know, through many studies, exacerbates the wage gap and career progression, then it may still be her choice. Sure. But feminist, it ain’t.

              For reference, this notion that feminism is “what a woman decides” or whatnot is a watered-down version of rights discourse crafted by conservatives that is expressly intended to strip systemic change out of the movement. It’s highly problematic to align with it.

              1. Megan*

                Got it. Feminism = paying someone else to care for my infant while I spend half my work day pumping, whether I want to or not.

              2. Neutral Here*

                Are you saying that women taking maternity leave is inherently anti-feminist because it exacerbates the wage gap? Because that’s how it is coming across. Also that action wouldn’t even contribute to systemic change. All it could do is maybe shift the wage gap data (still leaving the gap that exists when controlling for job title, experience, education, etc).

                I can see your argument, however, if you are saying it is neutral – not explicitly feminist but also not anti-feminist.

              3. Lenora Rose*

                My point, which sailed over your head, is that there are action which are not feminist, maybe, but aren’t ANTI-feminist.

                But I’m also now sitting here wondering if you think ALL women’s usage of maternity leave (not just slightly odd questionable cases where she’s taking advantage of his parental leave to stay home) is somehow opposed to feminism?

                Because if so, that ain’t it. Period. The societal system isn’t made better by a person who wants to take maternity leave taking it, it’s made better by there being Paternal leave, and men who take it*, and ALL parental leave being equal access so that there isn’t a stigma against “career pausing” as you see it.

                This isn’t accomplished by telling a woman who reportedly WANTS to stay home that she has to take one for the Feminism. because at that point you care more about the Cause than you do about actual people. And as a feminist, that’s sure not what I want.

                * I can’t remember which country but i know there was a study done that showed that while paternal leave was available from the government, within any given company it was barely being used… UNTIL a key man within the company structure did so. Then suddenly the percentages would shoot up.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Obvious missed word: “The societal system isn’t made better by a person who wants to take maternity leave NOT taking it”

                2. nom de plume*

                  Talking about maternity leave as feminist or not misses the point. And as I’ve said elsewhere, this argument about choice being feminist is itself pernicious and, yes, anti-feminist. There’s a lot of agreement about feminism = what a woman wants! But that’s reductive, and not a view that progresses women and female-identifying women’s rights.

                  Here’s why: First of all, the choice arguments are fundamentally flawed because they assume a level of unmitigated freedom for women that simply doesn’t exist. Yes, we make choices, but these are shaped and constrained by the unequal conditions in which we live. It would only make sense to uncritically celebrate choice in a post-patriarchal world.

                  Second, the idea that more choices automatically equate to more freedom is a falsehood. This is essentially just selling neo-liberalism with a feminist twist. Yes, women can now work or stay at home if they have children, for example, but this “choice” is fairly hollow when child-rearing continues to be constructed as “women’s work”, there is insufficient state support for childcare.

                  To suggest that women make choices in a vacuum, or that wanting to stay at home with a baby is feminist, completely ignores the political, economic, social context in which that choice has to be made. Is it a valid choice? Sure, 100%. Is it an inherently feminist one? No, it’s not, — maternity leave isn’t even standard across the US! Of course many women would take the leave they can get! But trust that that view has absolutely spun out of, and reinforces, the conservative agenda – because if women think that, then they’re adhering to a view of feminist belonging that’s free of politics, devoid of a critique of power, and narrowly individualistic.

      7. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think your “101” phrasing is particularly hilarious given how extremely reductive your comment is. Maybe read some books beyond the basic 101-level and understand that actual feminism should support a couple choosing together what is the best path for their family. If this is how he *and his wife* both want to handle the situation in a society that is set up to make these kinds of decisions extremely difficult for her, then more power to them.

        1. ——*

          Yikes, again, this is not feminism. There’s lots of litersture out there on that. Feminism is not what women feel or what families choose or all the other made-up notions bandied about here. It’s about systems of inequality. It is so harmful to argue that a situation in which a man does inverts a policy intended to address that is actually feminist.

          There’s a lot of twisting about justifying this guy, but all of it ignores the spirit and intention of the policy. It’s pretty clear that it isn’t meant to enable work at another job. Ignoring that piece seems odd, and doesn’t address the question.

      8. Suzie SW*

        I disagree. It would be one thing if the assumption was that only the mother could be the caregiver, but it was stated here that this is what she really wanted. The inequity here is that her employer provides no benefits to support her in doing so, and they’ve found a way to supplement income so she can have the time she wants with her child.

        Rather than getting mad at people for working the system, get mad at the system that doesn’t work for people.

    2. Reality Check*

      Seconded. I especially agree with your point about destigmatizing either parent taking leave.

    3. Interview Coming Up*

      Completely agree. I think this is fantastic. He’s seeing up his family for more financial security. He’s taking a temporary job that may allow him the brain space and time to bond with his baby more than if he were working his regular job.

      In this particular case, he’s getting full pay. But the idea that he’s not using leave as designed seems like a bad thing to focus on. What if he had leave that was designed for caring for his baby, but wasn’t fully paid, and he couldn’t actually take that leave because it would be financially impossible? Would we then be appalled that he had a second job?

      In the US, I think we should basically let people scramble to set themselves up financially in whatever way works best for them. There’s no safety net.

    4. Leo*

      Yes, I have to agree here. It sounds like Mom doesn’t have a paid leave option, so if she were previously working, that hit to their finances could be an issue. Additionally, OP says that Dad is planning to work as a contractor; seems to me like something freelance for 6 months could help fill the financial gap, and also still allow time to bond with his new family. Sounds like kind of a win-win, honestly. (And frankly, if a mother wants to immediately hire a nanny and spend her leave on self-care and personal fulfillment as well as baby-time, I think that can be OK too; benefit to the family is the goal, and that might just look different from family to family.)

      1. KateM*

        That nanny thing is something I did! I worked four hours a week (to keep the gears in my brain from rusting) and had a nanny for those hours. All she had to do was to push a stroller with a (possibly sleeping) baby for two hours a time, so I didn’t feel like I was commiting a crime of lifetime, but there were people who did.

        1. Willow*

          Nanny suggests a lot more help than four hours a week. That sounds like a babysitter. If someone told me they had a nanny while on parental leave I would assume the nanny was the child’s primary caretaker, not someone who only looked after the child for a few hours.

      2. lilsheba*

        I agree. Frankly I’m of the mind that what one does on their leave is no one else’s business. And if they found a way to maximize their income in the worst country in the world for the working class, GOOD FOR THEM! More power to them.

    5. ElizabethJane*

      Yeah I mean if my husband could have doubled his salary so I could have stayed home longer (which is what **I WANTED** to counter the point above) I would have been all over that.

    6. Temperance*

      Except, this doesn’t “ultimately benefit women”. Because, at the end of the day, dude isn’t using his fully paid parental leave to, you know, *parent*. He’s using it to enrich himself; which women *can’t* do. Because, you know, recovering from childbirth, breastfeeding, taking care of a baby, etc.

      1. KRM*

        And yet…it doesn’t matter. Because the two of them have agreed together that this is what they want for their family. And you have no idea how much extra time he’ll have to spend with the baby–we just know that he’s not into six months home (alone, presumably) taking care of an infant. Which is not for everybody! So let them structure this leave how they want, because it’s really just up to them.

      2. ElizabethJane*

        We don’t know that. His contract work could be data entry. We know he’s supplementing his income so his wife can stay home, which she desperately wants.

        To be clear I’d have a huge issue if the guy was like “I’m going to take my leave but instead of watching my kid I’m going to do a 6 month intense data bootcamp” because that would be solely for his benefit.

        1. Temperance*

          It’s clear from the letter that he’s bragging about how much money he’s going to make on this contract.

          1. ElizabethJane*

            It’s clear from the letter that the narrator is a little salty and not inclined to paint the man in the best light. But also he could be bragging about money or stating that contract work will be situationally lucrative because he doesn’t have to pay for benefits or any of the other things that you normally have to cover with a contractors hourly rate.

      3. starfox*

        But his wife apparently doesn’t get leave, so you think she should go back to work unable to breastfeed, recover from childbirth, and take care of her baby, while he stays home with the baby? Just pragmatically, the person whose body is ripped apart and trying to heal is the one who should have the time off work, in my opinion!

        For all we know, he might prefer to stay home but is choosing to get a second job to make up for his wife’s missing income so that his wife can recover and breastfeed and take care of the baby….

        1. catsoverpeople*

          “One of my male colleagues told me very matter of factly that he is intending to take his full leave after his wife’s paid maternity leave is up.”

          She gets paid maternity leave. She already used all of it. We don’t know how long it was, but it sounds like she has already recovered from childbirth so that is not a factor in their decision.

    7. nikki*

      This is exactly what I came here to comment. I don’t see a problem with this situation. The wife is losing income to care for the child and this leave is helping the family. I don’t have any issue with an employee misusing any benefit provided by a Fortune 500. I definitely agree that LW is upset that they did not get the same amount of leave. LW please don’t go to HR about this.

  3. Library gal*

    I need to mull this over, however I am not immediately outraged by this… he might be a man using this policy to his advantage, but a woman (his wife) is still benefitting. In an ideal world where she could take at least a year of maternity leave, he wouldn’t need to take advantage of the policy (if this isn’t totally against the policy, that is).

      1. Hobbit*

        I agree. If it doesn’t directly affect OP’s job, I’d leave it alone. Many people are struggling, and maybe they want/need the extra money for something. Maybe I’m wrong and salty, but this is like seeing someone steal food. Nope, I didn’t see a thing.

      2. Quitting Quietly Since 1999*

        Agreed. OP should mind their own business. His wife WANTS to stay home with the baby and they’ve figured out a way to accommodate that and make it work for them. Leave it alone.

        1. turquoisecow*

          …does she? OP is hearing the story from HIS perspective. It wouldn’t be the first time a spouse claimed that other spouse was fine with something that they weren’t.

          Not saying that’s not possible. But it feels like a jerk move.

          1. Noodles*

            Thank you! I’m a little thrown by those in this thread declaring so definitively that “this is what they decided” and “this is what SHE wants” when all we know is that this is how he stated it to the OP. And that’s not disbelieving the OP, it’s just acknowledging that even she is getting that info secondhand. It’s hearsay.

            For my part, I agree this plan is skeevy though probably not punishable (almost by definition, loopholes obey the letter of the law, which is the point). For that reason, there’s no real benefit in going to HR, but I encourage the OP to seethe quietly. And finally, I agree with everyone that thinks the guy should STFU about this! People find loopholes, they use them, but don’t advertise! It still won’t win you any humanitarian awards, but at least people won’t write letters about you.

      1. Avril Ludgateaux*

        And more directly, the child is benefitting because the father’s exploitation of a loophole, in a sense, is allowing the mother to stay home an additional 6 months, as well.

        1. Avril Ludgateaux*

          *in addition to the father being around, which I’m hoping will result in his loving involvement in childrearing regardless of his spoken intentions.

    1. top five???*

      “he might be a man using this policy to his advantage”
      I hope it’s more like he’s a man using this policy to what he (and presumably his wife, I hope) perceive to be the best advantage of their family.

      1. Library gal*

        I agree with you top five, I used the wording from the letters, but don’t think he’s taking advantage at all.

    2. Nanani*

      That’s not how any of this works! “But his wife is benefitting by his providing for her” IS THE EXCUSE for not hiring women or firing women who have kids!

      1. Library gal*

        Right, but what do you want this guy to do about it? He can’t control his wife’s company’s maternity leave policy to make it better, he can only do this to get them more money. I agree with you in principle, but should this man take an ideological stand meaning he and his wife are worse off?

        1. hbc*

          I want him to use the policy as intended. His wife doesn’t get reasonable maternity/parental leave and that sucks. So they can choose from the ethical options available to them, one of which is him staying home full time with the child, even if that’s not what either of them would have chosen in an ideal world.

          1. allathian*

            But the wife doesn’t want to go back to work yet, and she shouldn’t be forced to. So he takes leave and doesn’t go to work, but if she’s at home at the same time, you can bet a year’s salary that he won’t be bonding with the baby, she will.

            This isn’t post-partum recovery, she’s had her 12 weeks of paid leave, or whatever measly amount you get in the US if you’re lucky. She’s breastfeeding, and wants to continue to do that, but for whatever reason, it won’t be convenient to pump at work for her. Pumping at work is a good option for people who work in an office, but I can think of a lot of jobs where it would be inconvenient, if not downright impossible.

            His biggest mistake was in talking about what he was planning to do at work.

            1. hbc*

              Whether she wants to go back to work or not is immaterial to the point of this policy. If her work didn’t pay for tuition reimbursement, would it be cool for him to tell the company that he’s taking classes and get them to pay for her MBA? Could he put his niece in the company-subsidized child care because the next best option for the extended family is his wife quitting her job and babysitting?

              If it’s a mistake to talk about it, then it’s because he’s abusing the policy. And I’m not going to cry about the poor family’s situation when their “bad” option is the husband getting paid while he cares for his own child.

      2. Leo*

        …No? It sounds like the mom doesn’t have the option of paid leave. That is an issue, obviously, but it also means that *someone* has to provide for the family. Presumable mom & dad in this scenario have decided this is what works best for the family, so good on them. Partners making informed, joint decisions about their lives, families, and finances is good feminism, imo.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          She does have paid maternity leave.

          The issue is abusing a policy to make things more equal will result in the policy being taken away which will put everyone right back where we started: disadvantaging women.

          “I got mine, so screw the rest of you,” isn’t feminism, even if women are part of the decision to screw other people.

          1. Meg*

            Then why does the letter say that she’s taking unpaid leave?

            The way I see it is this:

            Father works regular job while mother is on paid leave.

            When Mother’s paid leave runs out, and she is expected back at work, he is taking his paid leave.

            Instead of her going back to work, he is going to work a second job so that she can have UNPAID leave and not be financially impacted, going from two salaries to one.

            The outrage should be at the fact that we don’t get enough parental leave at all, not at this father and mother for utilizing the respective benefits they DO have, even if they could be better.

            “A slap in the face” is a bit extra

      3. Temperance*

        RIGHT! I’m honestly shocked at all of the people who think that the father’s company should be subsidizing the mother’s leave. She’s not their employee.

        1. Polly*

          How is it subsidizing the wife’s leave? He gets the same 6 months regardless of what his wife does.

          Or are you suggesting HR should dig into the family/income situations of anyone who opts for this leave to make sure they’re not inadvertently subsidizing another potential wage-earner? Sounds like a good way to kill the policy entirely.

          1. Temperance*

            Nope. I’m suggesting that it should be a clear policy violation to work a second job while on your subsidized parental leave.

            The argument that everyone keeps using in these comments is that his money is paying for her to stay home.

            1. Nonny*

              Parental leave doesn’t typically work the same way medical or disability type leave does.

              Medical or disability type leave is often worded with criteria stating that the employee is “unable to physically work” and is tied to an insurance policy that pays out at a percentage of wage, typically around 70%. Working a second job when you are “unable to physically work” violates this.

              Parental leave is typically documented as a payroll benefit, like PTO. These wages are paid at 100% since they’re not coming from a insurance policy with condition that you are “unable to physically work,” so working a second job doesn’t violate this, no more than working a second job during a sabbatical or two week temporary job on vacation, whatever does.

              (I work for an insurance company. Maternity leave is often categorized as a short-term disability insurance policy but father or parental leave/adoption leave, etc often isn’t and is paid out via payroll)

              1. Temperance*

                My maternity leave was paid via STD so I’m familiar with that process. I didn’t realize that paternity leave was processed differently; I think it should have very strict rules, in that case.

        2. KRM*

          That’s like saying his job subsidized her initial leave, so she shouldn’t have that. He is entitled to six months of paid leave by terms of his job. He’s using it. He’s choosing a slightly different path so that his wife can also stay home for that leave time. Good for them. They’re setting themselves up for success and in the family, everyone is getting what they want.

        3. Don*

          I get my health insurance in a subsidized form from my wife’s employer. Not all benefits have a bright line.

          1. Joielle*

            Yeah, but that’s explicitly permitted and within both the letter and the spirit of your wife’s employer’s insurance policy.

            I think if the OP’s company’s leave policy specifically said “it is permissible to work another job while on parental leave” then the OP wouldn’t be upset. It’s that the guy is exploiting a loophole at best, or violating the policy at worst, and if HR finds out there’s a risk that everyone loses the benefit. We don’t know exactly what the policy says, but it seems that this is not within the spirit of the policy, at least.

            1. Nonny*

              Depends on how the parental leave is paid out.

              If the leave is paid out via insurance policy, it’s likely tied to “short-term disability” and there’s is specific criteria that the recipient is “unable to physically work” – working a second job violates this.

              If it’s paid out via payroll like vacation or PTO, the “unable to physically work” insurance clause does not apply, and he wouldn’t be violating it by working a second job.

              1. allathian*

                I can’t honestly see any reason why paternity leave would, or should equal “unable to physically work”.

    3. The Real Fran Fine*

      I admit, I was immediately annoyed by the guy in this letter until this:

      he might be a man using this policy to his advantage, but a woman (his wife) is still benefitting

      You’re right. He may not be following the spirit of the policy per se, but his wife will get to be off work for another 6 months to bond with their child without the worry of her not receiving a salary during this period and the two of them having to figure out how to make it work on just his one. Presumably he’ll also still be living with the baby and seeing them when he’s not working, so the bonding is still happening, even if it’s not all day.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      I think this is where I land, too. It feels icky that he’s doing this but as someone said above, it’s not like he’s treating it like a party or vacation. He’s using is parental leave to support his wife and family, which is what it’s for.

      I *definitely* think it’s none of LW’s business and wonder what they think there is to gain by reporting it. Is his leave affecting LW’s work in a way it wouldn’t if he had said he plans to snuggle his baby all day every day?

      1. Joielle*

        I mean, it might! If I’m sitting at work at 8 pm doing extra work to cover for the absence and thinking “well, it takes a village, I’m glad Fergus has the opportunity to bond with his baby,” that’s a lot different than if I’m thinking “great, I have all this extra work and Fergus is just out there making twice the salary at a different job while still getting his benefits paid for.” One gives you a feeling of good will, and the other does the opposite.

        Personally, I don’t think I’d say anything to HR, but I can completely understand why the OP might want to.

        1. Big Bank*

          It’s really upsetting to read comments suggesting that because you have more work due to an employee using their benefits that it’s a favor you’re doing them. No, it’s a failure of your employer to properly staff in such a way that normal use of their benefits harms other employees with unmanageable workloads.

          When I came back from short term disability, I was expected to profusely thank my colleagues for all the work they covered for me. This view eroded my relationship with my boss, and I left. I didn’t get sick to give my colleagues more work. People don’t have babies to do that either.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this!

            At least in a country with long vacations and long maternity/paternity leave, employers are forced to ensure coverage for absences longer than a week, because they will be happening.

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          But that’s about feelings. I mean the actual workload. LW might resent him but will their job change based on what he’s doing with his leave time?

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I can mentally frame this as “We provide 6 months of paid leave to those who have a new child to take care of” and exactly how an employee uses that is flexible and up to the employee.

      Though I could certainly see this being interpreted by management as “… and this is why we can’t have nice things, because people will spend their paid leave working for a competitor.” Counter, this is already an option with paid vacation. I think it’s the combination of being very generous and only benefiting a small group–if anyone in that group seems to be gaming the system, there’s a lot of bad feeling.

      1. AVP*

        Yeah, this is where I’m landing too. I’m curious if the New Dad’s contract work would otherwise be not allowed by his current job – ie, is he just getting more time to work on his side hustle? Or is he offering services in direct competition for FT job? The only real problem I see is if he’s taking a job he normally wouldn’t be allowed to do on the side.

        I think the bad feelings are compounded by OP missing out on this policy entirely but that’s for OP to deal with, not really germane to the problem described.

        1. Ashley*

          I think this is a fair focus point. If the leave could cause problems for the company there is standing for the company / HR to know. Otherwise this would be something at best you muse to when talking to someone in an elevator where HR could over hear so you can let HR know but not make it a big thing.

      2. Temperance*

        That’s actually not a decent counterpoint. Vacation is a tiny fraction of that 6 month leave. It’s not comparable whatsoever.

        1. Nonny*

          Doesn’t matter, especially if the parental leave is paid out from payroll instead of an insurance policy.

    6. Avril Ludgateaux*

      I totally understand LW’s consternation, especially being a new mother who missed the full benefit, but it seems a little like a “crabs in a bucket” approach to the problem. If LW were to go to HR, and then HR reworked the policy such that people were barred from taking on outside work during their leave, how would this actually help the staff who take the leave? How would it help LW, even? It seems like it would just make things worse for everybody, for the sake of making sure somebody else doesn’t have it better.

      If the policy is reworked, the coworker in this instance might not take the leave – some of which he may well have spent bonding with his kid and taking the weight of his wife’s shoulders* – , and then his wife might not be able to extend her unpaid maternity leave either because of the financial weight, in spite of her wishes. (Not for nothing it also deprives the child of their bonding time with the parents.)

      I agree the coworker sounds a bit like an opportunistic a-hole. And at the same time, I just don’t see the benefit of tattling, in this situation. The absolute worst outcome would be HR deciding to scrap the whole leave policy altogether, and maybe even the coworker being fired. The best outcome would be to modify the policy in a way that only screws over some people (i.e. those in scenarios like the coworker), but doesn’t lead to any material improvement in parental leave for anybody else. No outcome beyond a belated “we see you missed the new policy by a hair so we will give you an additional 8 weeks of paid leave to compensate” (which I simply do not see happening) will benefit LW, either.

      *Keep in mind that the bravado, machismo aspects of toxic masculinity are still pervasive. He might be all mouth when it comes to being dismissive of his parenting duties because he was raised to believe “men are breadwinners; we don’t change diapers” or whatever. Here’s hoping, anyway.

      1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        I think the crabs in a bucket analogy nails this in one. The LW’s feelings about missing out on the more generous policy are absolutely valid – but complaining to HR about her coworker does nothing to change her experience and could have the very real consequences of harming the coworker in the letter (and his new family) as well as other coworkers in future (birthing parents included).

          1. allathian*

            Maybe not harming the coworker directly, but certainly his family, if his wife had to return to work because the family needs two incomes because of student debt, mortgage payments, car loans…

      2. Binky*

        I don’t think it’s a crab bucket. Think of it this way. This guy takes his 6-month leave, does no child care and works for 6 months in his field, getting great experience with other companies, making a ton of money, because he can charge more when his benefits are already covered.

        A woman in a peer position to this guy has a kid, takes 6 months per the new policy and comes back exhausted from childcare, with no new knowledge or professional experiences.

        Who gets promoted first?

        1. Chestnut Mare*

          There’s nothing in this scenario that couldn’t happen if the roles were reversed.

          In this situation, the mother wants to take more time off (maybe to care for the baby, maybe she has her own side hustle) and they are both availing themselves of the opportunity to do it. They could both be caring for the baby and both be making money.

          1. Binky*

            Most mothers are birthing parents who need to physically recover from childbirth, and who will take on the lions share of childcare. While it’s theoretically possible for a woman to take advantage of the policy in the same way (albeit not for as long, and not without significant stigma) I can’t imagine that edgecase is a useful point for analysis.

            1. Chestnut Mare*

              I’ve had multiple C-sections, so I’m well aware of the need to physically recover. As far as childcare goes, that’s a choice. Childcare isn’t limited by gender.

              1. Nonny*

                This is why maternity leave is often backed by insurance as “short-term disability” vs paid out as a payroll benefit like parental/adoption leave which are used more often by men, not always such as in the case of adoptions.

    7. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Same. I think that babies are expensive and they are using the benefits they are entitled to. How they use them is no one’s business… you wouldn’t think to ask them to submit a report of how they spend their salary; you wouldn’t ask them to prove that the mother is attending all pre and post natal dr. appointment that the medial benefits cover or else risk losing them. The company may HOPE that the leave they offer helps the father bond with the baby, but they can’t (and shouldn’t) enforce that somehow.

    8. ferrina*

      The benefit of a single member of a marginalized group does not mean that the entire group has benefited.

      In this case, the leave is designed and explicitly intended to promote equity. It is designed to combat the “Mommy tax” that mothers pay by losing career opportunities and losing earning potential (fun fact: men’s overall career earnings rise by having children, while women’s fall), being stigmatized for having a family in a way that men or not, and on average bearing more of the burden of childcare (#NotAllFamilies, these are societal averages).

      If this kind of equity solution isn’t something that this guy needs for his family, fine! Just cuz I can join a golf club doesn’t mean I’m obligated to! But utilizing an equity solution to perpetuate a norm isn’t harmless. Sure, it’s not going to hurt his family. But en masse? Congrats, we just found a way to further the gender gap. Sometimes a drop in a bucket is just a drop in a bucket; sometimes it’s part of a deluge. What is he doing to ensure that he isn’t exacerbating the problem? Anything? Is he advocating for equity career advancement of women in other ways? Or is he okay with status quo as long as him and his benefit?

      This might be a necessary trade-off to having a policy like this; some folks may take advantage. But let’s not claim that they are in the moral right.
      (sorry for the essay)

      1. starfox*

        I think “the moral right” has to go out the window until these policies become ubiquitous. The heart of the issue is that he has paid leave and his wife doesn’t. Since his wife is the one healing from childbirth, pragmatically, she should be the one to get the time off.

        I think it would be totally different if they both had paid leave and he was choosing to get a second job to make extra money rather than doing his parenting duties. In this case, he’s simply replacing his wife’s income temporarily while she’s healing and possibly breastfeeding. I just don’t think it would be morally right for him to send his bleeding wife off to work while he stays home.

        1. ferrina*

          His wife does have paid leave-
          he is intending to take his full leave after his wife’s paid maternity leave is up

          It doesn’t say how long the leave is (and if it’s U.S., probably 6-8 weeks; long enough for most women to mostly to heal, but still in the breastfeeding time if the family/baby are doing that at that time). And he’s not just replacing her income, they are netting out ahead financially (not that it needs to be a dollar-for-dollar exchange, but financial gain does seem to be part of his motivation). If his plan was to as a contractor to replace her income and also spend time with his family, that likely would have been mentioned (and I’d give him a lot less side eye).

    9. Malarkey01*

      I think for me at the end of the day this guy is going to get 6 months paternity leave. So the company is going to lose his time one way or the other and his coworkers will be covering for him.

      Whether you think that means he has to spend 24 hours a day with the baby or whether that means during a portion of the day he’s working what basically is a second job really doesn’t matter.
      Maybe you’d feel better about it one way or the other, but if they tell him he can’t work a second job he’s still going to say okay I won’t be here for 6 months so what does the company gain other than the “moral ground”?

    10. starfox*

      I was initially immediately outraged… but then I thought about the part where his wife apparently doesn’t have paid leave. If he followed the policy to the letter, he’d stay home with the baby while his healing, postpartum wife returns to work while in pain and having to pump if they choose to breastfeed…. That just doesn’t seem fair, either!

      I’m all for calling on men to stand up and actually parent their children, but when you add in the actual childbirth and the possibility of breastfeeding, it just doesn’t seem practical for only the father to stay home….

      1. allathian*

        She’s had some paid leave, probably 6 or 8 weeks in the US. I can fully understand that she doesn’t feel ready to return to work yet. I was thinking maybe she’d had 12 weeks leave, but even so, most babies aren’t sleeping through the night yet at that age, and even if she’s mostly physically healed, that doesn’t mean that she’s mentally ready to return to work yet. I realize that most US parents have to return to work, or quit working altogether, earlier than I had to, but I can’t exactly blame them for using a great benefit to their advantage.

        1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

          My paid leave was 3 days (the number of sick days granted by my employer).

    11. Jonquil*

      That’s it – she SHOULD have a year of leave (it’s standard in most countries), and if this is the way they can make that happen, then this is the way they make that happen.

  4. RuralGirl*

    Ugh, I get the frustration here. Anytime someone abuses something good, there is the fear it will be taken away from others who need/appreciate it. LW’s position as a new mother makes this feel especially personal, and that’s frustrating, too. Depending on the LW’s relationship to this colleague, I would think it’s totally appropriate to mention this to her boss or his boss, although I wonder if letting it go might be the better option. Surely if it’s an issue, and he’s discussing it so openly, it will get back to people in leadership positions. If they want to correct his behavior, they’ll get the opportunity. And at the end of the day, if this man is going to work a second job so his wife gets 6 extra months with her baby, maybe it’s a win for a woman after all. Assuming he’s not lying and his wife does desperately want more time at home, it could be an incredibly kind thing to do.

  5. L-squared*

    I mean, I fail to see the problem here. He gets the leave to do what he wants. Maybe he is still able to bond with the baby significantly more than if he was at this job. If its an hourly job, its very possible that he is working 4 hours a day instead of 8 (or something like that), and spending time with the baby that other amount of time. If this is what works out for his family, its not your concern. This is time he is owed, and he can do what he likes with that time. Hell, even if he was using that time to take a vacation away from his wife and child, I can’t see how that would be your concern.

    My company does a paid 2 month sabbatical after a certain number of years. If I chose to work on an oil rig (extreme I know) instead of traveling during that time, I’m not sure why that should matter to any of my colleagues, except them maybe thinking its a dumb use of my paid time off.

    Now, if I were him, I don’t know that I’d be advertising this fact to everyone, because it doesn’t surprise me that people will react like you are. But I don’t really think he is doing anything wrong.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      The thing is, this is not “leave to do what he wants.” It’s parental bonding leave. Like sick leave, it has an explicit purpose. So we can debate whether what he’s doing serves that purpose (maybe he will be spending much more time with the baby than he would have with the main job!), but no, this is not general leave.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I agree with this. I think it’s OK for employees to very occasionally take a sick day as a “mental health day” (not for actual mental health – just to get a break from work) but it would be wrong for someone to take 5 sick days to go on a week-long vacation. That’s not what the leave is for.

        Alison also answered a letter from someone who wanted to know if they could use their unlimited vacation time to work a second job (“using unlimited time off to work a second job, a sexist conference organizer, and more”). Alison’s answer was:

        Yeah, unlimited time off policies are not generally intended to let you work a second job; they’re intended to let you take vacation, run errands, recharge, and so forth — not fit in separate paid work…

        It’s not entirely intuitive, because if you got a specific number of paid days off a year, there would be nothing wrong with using some of them to do paid nannying if you wanted. In that framework, you get X number of days off a year and they’re yours to use as you want.

        Because of both the length of time involved and the clear intentions of the leave, using bonding leave to work a second job does seem (to me) similar to using sick days to go on a vacation or using unlimited vacation days to work another job.

      2. Working Father*

        This is why my workplace renamed “sick leave” for personal leave. This way, it’s much more equitable between those who used these days for any reason anyway and those who never took days off unless they were genuinely sick. If you’re a stickler for rules, you can now take as many days off as someone who had a more generous interpretation of the rule.

      3. Malarkey01*

        But we get questions like when I’m on extended sick leave does that mean I must stay shut up in my house from 9-5 or canI go out to a restaurant or shop. I know this isn’t quite the same thing, but are we saying parental leave means you must bond between 9-5. Would this be different if the construction job was at night?

        To me it’s hard to draw real lines around this.

      4. Burger Bob*

        This. And furthermore, to me, all types of paid work leave are the employer paying you to NOT work because there are ostensibly some kind of circumstances happening that either make it difficult for you to work or make it beneficial for you to be taking time away from work (like a sabbatical). Paid leave is definitely not intended to pay you while you also work for someone else and collect a second paycheck. And yeah, I don’t think you have to be confined to your bed all day if you take a sick day or something, but I do think that you should probably not be working, since you’re being paid specifically because you supposedly can’t or shouldn’t be working.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yeah, the guy needs to shut up about it. He’ll blow himself up and/or alienate his coworkers.

      I might not be judgmental about a coworker doing something like this, but I would be annoyed if he were to tell me about it as in: “Hey, this benefit is great because I can get paid in two places while my wife gets screwed over pay-wise in her crappy workplace! Woo hoo!”

      But don’t go to HR. That won’t help anyone.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah – and not only that, it’s “I can get paid in two places while you (OP) have to cover for me! Woo hoo!”

        If you’re gonna do it, fine, but it is kind of a jerk move to brag about it to your coworkers.

      1. allathian*

        My guess is that he’s a privileged white man who’s never had to really consider how his actions affect other people. But whatever his reason is, he should just shut up about it.

    3. Gamer Girl*

      Countries that have actual parental leave make it explicitly forbidden to work any other job during parental leave, precisely for this reason. The time has an explicit purpose, and it’s unethical for him to do this while still receiving full pay and benefits from his current job.

      Also, no matter what theoreticals he’s charted out about their income, once the baby comes, the shirt is going to hit the fan. His wife’s going to need him, and it is wholly unfair to put 100 percent of the baby care on her just because he can make more money. What if she has PPD? Or an emergency C-section that incapacitates her? Or the baby has an unforeseen health outcome? There are lots of reasons he should take the parental leave, as offered.

  6. Marine*

    Looking at it slightly differently, is his working a second job effectively allowing his wife to take the 6 months unpaid without damaging the family income? So if he didn’t do that, she’d have to go back to work before she wanted to?

    I’m not into the idea of the male partner not taking the opportunity to care for their child, but for all we know this is the best way they get to have the mother stay home the way she wants to…

    1. Beans*

      Yeah, I don’t REALLY see an issue in doing this….. but him telling his coworkers about it was a bad idea. It does not come across well, for all the reasons pointed out. But I don’t have a problem with it, especially if it’s contract (so quite possibly less intense/more flexible than a full time, in-office job).

      1. Marine*

        Exactly – my husband took shared leave so he could work on his other projects, but it also allowed him to do that from home and be more flexible so he could care for the baby part time, versus being in a 9-7 job which meant he was never home to help with bathtime, bedtime, let alone bond.

        Everyone cares for their family differently, and this is the way this family is best able to make it work.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I agree with you on that. Especially if the mom only got 6 or 8 weeks of paid leave, and has a job where she’d have to wean her baby early because pumping is inconvenient for whatever reason. Office jobs are usually fine if there’s a good space provided for it, but if she works in the field just keeping the milk refrigerated can be difficult, or if she’s an ICU nurse, or works in a clean room, getting in and out of the hazmat gear will take a lot of time, maybe more than she has for her break given that she needs to pump as well.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      I don’t think we know that the mom truly wants to stay home, though. It’s a fair assumption, but it could also be that looking at the numbers, wife going back to work (X), plus husband’s paternity leave pay (Y) is less than husband’s paternity leave pay (Y) plus extra job (Z).

      Maybe the basic numbers are discouraging the wife from going back, even though it sets her up for even less in her career overall. Basically, patriarchy wins on the back of feminism because even when there is policy that will help women in their employment, the fact that men still make more money overall will mean men (and families in general) use that policy to “rationally” make the decision that supports traditional gender roles.

      Though I don’t know for sure (none of us do), I don’t think we can take it as a given that wife wants all of this extra time with the kid.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        I get this. I know a lot of families where the wife agreed that it made financial sense to not work for a while but still wasn’t happy with that situation.

      2. Parenthesis Dude*

        The husband told the LW that the wife “desperately wants to stay home with the kid full-time.” It’s possible that the husband is lying, but it seems far more reasonable to take him at his word.

      3. turquoisecow*


        I stay home with my kid (and work very reduced part time hours while she naps) and I’m totally fine with that, but having my husband around when she was tiny was immensely helpful. He didn’t even take his full parental leave but since he works from home he was able to take on a lot of the parenting responsibilities. if he had full paternity leave and chose to work a second job instead of staying with me and the baby I would not have been happy about that.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Obviously can’t speak for all women, but I wouldn’t take it as gospel that the coworker is completely honest about his wife’s wishes.

          1. pieces_of_flair*

            Yeah. Also his wife’s wishes might change when she realizes what being the sole caregiver of a newborn actually entails.

    3. starfox*

      Exactly! It would be an entirely different scenario if both parents got paid leave and he was still taking a second job rather than parenting. But it seems incredibly unfair for his wife to have to return to work while still healing from childbirth while he stays home. I guess it’s not the most feminist thing to say, but to me, it just makes sense that the one who is still in pain from birthing the child and possibly breastfeeding should be the one who gets to stay home.

      1. allathian*

        I absolutely agree. Granted, I’m lucky enough that I never even had to consider going back to work 6 or 8 weeks after giving birth. But at that time I was still physically recovering from a pregnancy and birth with some complications.

        I guess I’m glad that we took a lot of photos of our son when he was a baby, because I have almost no coherent memories of his first year, just flashes here and there. I don’t blame the coworker’s family for doing whatever they can to make a bad system work for them as well as possible.

  7. Amber Rose*

    As a woman who refuses to have kids because we flat out cannot afford it, I support this guy.

    Babies are expensive. Unbelievably, cripplingly expensive, and being a parent comes with little to no support from most companies or governments. If he can take this time to actually get ahead, that’s incredible. Go that guy. He is winning the rigged game.

    Maybe people wouldn’t feel the need to cheat if cheating wasn’t the only way to win.

    1. L-squared*

      Exactly, he is using this time to get ahead on expenses, which is good overall for the family. This is none of her business

    2. iceberry*

      Agree, he is making it possible for his family to bond and have a benefit that is the norm in many other places. Parental leave really needs to be flexible to allow what is best for each family, and if this is what it looks like for this family, then so it is.

    3. Marina*

      Came here to say this. In a world where childcare was affordable and a single earner could easily make a family wage, sure, I’d theoretically object to this. In the world we actually live in, extra income now could easily make the difference so that his wife doesn’t “need” to quit her job because they’re “losing money” on childcare.

      No matter what work choices you make when you have a kid, someone’s going to object. OP needs to butt out of a choice that affects them absolutely zero.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        This is so important.

        When I had my daughter, I sat down with an accountant’s ledger and our family budget to figure out how we could afford everything. In the end, it was just not feasible for me to stay home with my baby (even though I wanted nothing more). Our choice was for me to pay the $1600 daycare bill and my student loan with $20 bucks left over each month (maybe), or just sink deeper into debt. I really have 0 problem with what this guy is doing, because in the long run it IS benefitting his family.

    4. Kate in Colorado*

      This is kinda how I see it too. If money/leave weren’t an issue, I would love to have a second child, but it’s just too much of a stretch. This guy is just doing what he’s got to do. Besides, he’d probably prefer to, ya know, NOT work and stay home with his family, but this way his baby’s needs are met, their financial situation stays stable, his wife has more time to revover… I mean, it makes sense.

  8. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    Genuine question here: what possesses people that do something so brazen, so literally flying in the face of what was intended (whether it is against the policy or not) to share this info? I had a coworker once who told me about something he did that he was proud of but was illegal, hurt his employer, and definitely hurt his coworkers. As a current coworker, I couldn’t help but be baffled by his apparent willingness to burn not only a bridge with a former employer, but also with a current coworker- how could I trust him going forward? If it were to do something this outrageous, I wouldn’t be sharing it freely amongst coworkers.

      1. Antilles*

        In this particular case, I think it’s more likely that he just doesn’t see any problem with it – and he’s certainly not alone in that opinion given how many commenters here are saying the same thing.

        So it’s not him trying to brag about his genius or how he’s sneakily getting around the rules, it’s just him making conversation without realizing how it comes across.

    1. RFlaum*

      In this case, it probably didn’t even occur to him that anyone would find this objectionable — I don’t think it would have occurred to me in his place, although once the objections are pointed out I can understand them.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      I think this is why I’m feeling so galled at this person:

      It feels a lot like, “I’m using this policy that is supposed to be about fixing gender inequality in parenting and employment and using it to further reinforce gender roles. Thanks feminists! Now wifey stays home twice as long and I prove my manliness by making twice my already higher salary!”

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        But the coworker’s wife WANTS to stay home! It’s galling to me that so many people are taking a “f the patriarchy” approach to the coworker when he is SUPPORTING HIS WIFE DOING WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO.

        Like, be mad about how he’s doing it — I have a different opinion but get why the how bothers others — but damn. To be all “this guy should definitely take over all the childcare even though it’s what his wife wants to do because then it’s not reinforcing stereotypes” ignores the fact that a man unilaterally choosing how his family runs IS A STEREOTYPE.

        1. pieces_of_flair*

          “Supporting what his wife wants to do” and “reinforcing stereotypes” are not mutually exclusive. Just because a woman makes a choice does not make it a feminist choice.

          And no one is saying he needs to take over the childcare. The point is that paternity leave is meant for childcare, so if he’s not going to use it for that, he shouldn’t use it at all. He is exploiting a policy meant to promote equity in a way that in fact exacerbates systemic inequities. That doesn’t mean he’s not making the best choice for his family, but it’s an unethical choice from a social justice point of view. I think your (general you) perspective on this issue largely depends on whether you see each family as existing in a vacuum, in which case this man’s choice is fine because it benefits his family, or whether you see each family as part of a society and thus ethically obligated to consider the wider effects of their choices.

        2. J*

          But think of this guy’s female coworkers, who will likely not be raising a kid and gaining skills while recovering from childbirth and lose some parity. This isn’t just about him and his wife, it’s about all people at his workspace taking this type of leave too.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I think it’s a way of looking at the world. Some people really feel they have achieved something by “finding a loophole.” They assume the coworker will admire them and think them much smarter than all the other people who “would have done the same thing if they’d thought of it but just weren’t smart enough to (or weren’t so in demand as to be able to get another job)”.

      Some people see “the system” as the enemy and things like this as beating it and they genuinely believe everybody else sees it the same way but just isn’t as smart as them at coming up with ways of beating it.

      I’ve met people who were genuinely annoyed at me for NOT doing stuff that in some cases was at least borderline illegal, and which didn’t affect them in the least – I’m talking stuff like cheating on my taxes, claiming benefits to which I wasn’t entitled. To them, I was “just being awkward, everybody does it, it’s stupid not to, why are you ‘letting the government keep money you could have?'”

      Your cowoker probably thought you’d be really impressed at how he hurt his employer “the man” and got away with doing something illegal. I doubt he say it as burning a bridge with you; he thought you would admire him for it.

      A lot of fiction works this way – the maverick turns out to the right in the end and the hidebound rule followers are portrayed as the villain. Your coworker saw himself as the maverick hero and expected you to react to him as viewers react to the protagonists of those movies. Except real life isn’t a movie and there isn’t an author who is writing events so that nobody important to the plot gets hurt by the protagonist’s recklessness.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Just to be clear, my comment relates to the wider idea of people boasting about getting around regulations/doing things that could be considered unethical. The situation in the OP is one I find hard to judge because our maternity leave policies are quite different from those of the US.

    4. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I know people like this. They are high earners, but no amount of money is enough. They exploit loopholes like this. The policy gets changed, making people who really need it not be able to get it. But it’s ok, the dude got his.

      Maybe that’s not what’s going on here and this is a couple who really needs the extra income. But I’m not sure why, but I get the feeling that isn’t the case. People who do need the extra income, don’t go around bragging about how they are exploiting a loophole. Because they cannot risk that loophole being taken away.

      1. ChildrenAreExpensive*

        I guess I don’t understand this comment—so if there is a loophole and someone exploits it’s whether that is okay or not is totally based upon their income?

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          If someone steals a loaf of bread because they’re poor, it’s generally understood to be less wrong than if a rich person does it. Because they don’t need it.

      2. turquoisecow*

        yeah, if they were struggling to make ends meet but really wanted a kid, I have a feeling he’d be hiding that second job, not bragging about it openly in the workplace. Maybe I’m wrong.

    5. Joielle*

      It’s like the recent rash of people tweeting out things that I would never, in a million years, admit having done. If you’re going to do something shady, just keep it to yourself!

    6. DisgruntledPelican*

      Or he’s just someone who doesn’t see this as outrageous at all, who sees it as he and his wife maximizing their shared opportunities to do what is best for their family, so it’s not something shady he needs to hide.

  9. CheesePlease*

    This is really frustrating!! I can’t believe he’s just going around saying this, and if the perception is that employees will just use this leave as a way to earn more money on the side, then it’s likely the powers that be would consider scaling back this benefit – hurting the people it was intended to help because SOME BIG JERK ASS MAN decided to take advantage.

    If I were you, I would speak to a trusted manager or HR individual who is an ally to new parents and phrase it as “I’m concerned that Fergus is openly discussing using his parental leave time to get another job will jeopardize this benefit in the future” but most likely the only thing they can do it say “don’t talk about it at work Fergus”.

    Also, I’m sorry your baby didn’t “count” for this policy. That is so frustrating!!

    1. ChildrenAreExpensive*

      Instead of HR, why not sit down with Fergus and tell him why it’s a bad idea (optics) to discuss this?

  10. Gingersnap*

    My religious employer just went from 0 paid parental leave to a week of paid leave so we couldn’t complain about their hypocritical support of the Dobbs decision…so I completely understand the OP’s being bothered by this. I mean good for him that he can work the system like this I guess?

    1. Ann Ominous*

      A whole week?! I mean any amount of money/time is important, but one week for parental leave is such an insult, almost more insulting than no time at all.

      1. KateM*

        A whole week is the time a father can take to care for older kids while mother is still in hospital. Not much more.

      2. Gingersnap*

        I’m most insulted by the fact that the leave was added as a way to make sure we couldn’t point out their hypocrisy rather than a genuine desire to, as they say in all their social media posts, support women and families.

    2. cardigarden*

      Smoke. Smoke coming out my ears. Ditto Ann Ominous about it being more insulting than no time at all.

    3. PotsPansTeapots*

      One week of paid leave? That is insulting beyond belief.

      And I think the Dobbs decision is underpinning a lot of the negative sentiment towards this guy in the comments section. It certainly is underpinning *my* negative sentiment towards him, so thank you, Gingersnap for pointing it out.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Yeah, this whole *waves hand* is the reason I think this guy technically isn’t doing anything egregiously wrong, but I’m reserving the right to have a snit about it anyway. (Woman, despite the masculine username)

        1. Burger Bob*

          Shoot, I think it IS wrong. (The employer is definitely not intending to pay him to work for someone else; it’s a clear violation of the spirit of the leave policy if not the actual letter.) But the backdrop it’s happening against is definitely the ugly cherry on top.

    4. Moryera*

      Thirded. It’s like that thing where glassbowls will leave a penny if they didn’t like their server, to make it obvious that it was a deliberate insult and not just someone forgetting to tip.

    5. whingedrinking*

      It reminds me of the bit in Norm Feuti’s excellent (and sadly finished) comic strip, Retail, where the main character Marla announces her pregnancy to her store manager Stuart and says she’s going to take all of her leave. He reacts with, “All two weeks?!” and she says, “Uh…no, three months.”
      When it becomes obvious that Marla understands the law (company policy is to pay for two weeks, but the law requires that pregnant people be given up to twelve) and won’t be bullied, Stuart *tsks* and says, “Well, I would never have believed that you’d look for a loophole just to get out of work!”
      Marla is the voice of all of us. “MATERNITY LEAVE ISN’T A VACATION, YOU JERK!”

    6. RussianInTexas*

      My company has zero paid leave outside of vacation (10 days after 5 years) and 4 sick days per year. You have to use FMLA if you want to take a leave and have your job to still be there.

      1. Gingersnap*

        Yea that was our policy too and once Dobbs was released whispers began among the employees about all the social media posts about how our organization supports women and families was pretty hilarious. Wouldn’t you know, a week later we got an “updated” policy giving a whole week of leave. I’ve never been so insulted.

  11. Rapunzel Ryder*

    I preface this by stating that I am not a mother and have not had to worry about parental leave but reading the reader’s letter, it sounds like he is using this leave to allow for the mother to have bonding with the child since her company is not as generous with the leave (she is taking unpaid leave to care for the baby). I do not know their personal situation but it may be a case that losing the mother’s income during that time would put them below what they need so, yes, he is not using it for his bonding with the baby but it is still being used to care for the child until the mother could return to work after this leave ends.

    1. CheesePlease*

      Being allowed to take 6 months of unpaid leave is still considered “generous” in many cases in the US, as FMLA only covers your job for 12 weeks (and even then is unpaid). My previous employer would not allow any leave beyond 12 weeks for my maternity leave.

      1. Marine*

        Agree – I can imagine her wanting 6 months but not being able to afford it as her leave is unpaid, so he takes on an extra job to allow her to do that.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Likewise. He’s essentially working another job to convert his wife’s unpaid time off to paid time off.

        If I knew her and this were inconsistent with her personality, I’d object on those grounds, but absent that it’s too likely that she’s in favor of it to let it bother me.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      That baby is missing out on a great bonding opportunity with its father.

      1. Big Bank*

        But as has been pointed out by other comments, we don’t know that! The dad’s short term job may offer more flexibility to also be present. It may be fewer hours, so offering plenty of time for the couple to swap off childcare. It may just be less mentally exhausting, so even if there’s no additional time, the off hours he has he could feel more engaged. There are so many unknowns, and I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business but that of the couple with the baby. They get to decide how to best use the benefit to their own families advantage; just like when I take sick leave I do the things necessary for my own bodies healing even if others would use it differently.

  12. Mother from ancient times*

    I had my kids ages ago where all I got was whatever sick/vacation time I had managed to save. He is violating the spirit of the policy.

    I’ll tell you what really steams me. He made a baby but doesn’t want to do the work involved in caring for an infant. God forbid he has to change a diaper or clean up spit-up milk. Who is the real baby here?

    Can we get an update if his wife decides after 6 months she is finished with being a SAHM? What is he going to do then?

    1. L-squared*

      I mean, that isn’t really fair. We have no idea how this couple came to this decision. Maybe she WANTS to be a SAHM (I know, many women hate this idea). Maybe the working a second job to get ahead was HER idea. You have no idea the type of dad he is, and I feel like the judgment is pretty awful on your part.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Maybe she WANTS to be a SAHM (I know, many women hate this idea)

        No, we don’t. Many women support another woman wanting to be a SAHM as long as it’s what she wants. What many women don’t support is the idea that a woman should be expected to be a SAHM and that a woman who chooses not to be one cares less about her child.

        1. L-squared*

          Sure, but in this case it seems the person I was responding to is assuming the wife doesn’t want this. She is making all kinds of value judgments about this guy, without knowing anything about what he and his wife have discussed.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            No, it seems that the person you were responding to doesn’t want fathers to be completely off the hook for caring for their child. Whether or not that is the situation with the OP is certainly up for debate, but saying that fathers should help out with the baby isn’t saying women shouldn’t be SAHMs. Also, that doesn’t explain why you said “I know, many women hate this idea” which was that specific point I was calling out. Even if the person you were responding to had stated that (which they didn’t) one person does not equal “many women”.

            1. Polly*

              The person being responded to said this:

              He made a baby but doesn’t want to do the work involved in caring for an infant. God forbid he has to change a diaper or clean up spit-up milk. Who is the real baby here?

              I see nothing in the letter to support any of those assumptions.

              And yes, there is a stigma against SAHMs… like “sure, it’s your CHOICE, of course, but don’t you want more for your life? what about your career?” (If you’ve never encountered this, just read all the comments about how unfair it is that the husband in the OP is singlehandedly torpedoing his wife’s career by allowing her an extra 6 months off).

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                I am not saying there is anything in the letter to support those assumptions, I’m saying that the person being responded to did not say that women shouldn’t choose to be SAHMs. I can disagree with their assessment of the situation while also pointing out when they are being accused of something they did not say.

                And while I agree that there is a stigma against SAHMs I do not agree that (as L-Squared stated) “many women hate this idea”. In fact, most women are very supportive of it; what most women are NOT supportive of is the idea that choosing to go back to work makes someone less of a mother.

                (If you’ve never encountered this, just read all the comments about how unfair it is that the husband in the OP is singlehandedly torpedoing his wife’s career by allowing her an extra 6 months off).

                You mean all two of them?

                1. Polly*

                  You might want to refresh, there are a few 20+ comment threads about how the husband’s actions are propping up the patriarchy.

                  We’ll have to agree to disagree on the “many women hate this idea.” There is a deep-rooted defensiveness of our own parenting choices — rightfully so, since they’ve been criticized for millennia — and as a result, there seems to be a tendency for some working mothers to feel that SAHMs are being SAHMs *at* them. There may be one comment like, “I really loved staying at home!” and it will inevitably get 30+ responses of “OMG I could NEVER, I love using my brain too much!”

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  I just refreshed and still only see 2-3 comments saying that. I do see comments stating that the patriarchy is something that still exists and that statistically women who choose to stay home longer with their baby will suffer greater career setbacks than a man who does the same thing, but pointing out these discrepancies is not the same as saying women should never choose to be SAHM’s.

                  There is a deep-rooted defensiveness of our own parenting choices — rightfully so, since they’ve been criticized for millennia — and as a result, there seems to be a tendency for some working mothers to feel that SAHMs are being SAHMs *at* them.

                  Sure, but some working mothers having that reaction does not equate to “many women hate this idea.”

      2. Kassie*

        I agree. My husband and I share duties with my kid, but in reality he does more kid duties because I work the full time job that supports us and he only works part time. He may come home from work and take over full time caring for the child to give his wife a break. Or he could be a total jerk and not help at all. We have no idea.

    2. Working Father*

      You have no idea whether he is actively taking care of the child at night, before/after work, during the weekend, or not. This to me feels like a knee-jerk sexist reaction that since he is a man, and he is not stopping work for 6 month, he must not care at all about the kid.

      When I had my child, mom went into post-partum depression that lasted about 2 years. I took care of the baby from the moment I got home from work to the moment I left home for work. Every night, every morning, every weekend. Grandma, Grandpa and a few friends took turns during the day. If I had stopped work, we would’ve been homeless with an unfed baby.

      This couple seems to have analysed their options and found the best solution for the baby. Mom stays home, unpaid, Dad takes the paid leave and work a second job so the bills are paid. Babies are extremely expensive, so I can’t fault them here.

      1. Don*

        I disagree with the comment but that is not a /sexist/ reaction, it is a sex-based reaction in line with statistical reality about how men and women shoulder child care responsibilities even in the most balanced of relationships. Feel free to go google up the stats. They’re embarrassing.

        It’s not /sexism/ because we as men are not kept down by this perception or folks making this comment. Nothing in this perception is harming you or me the way cultural attitudes about caregiving harm women. Fighting against the reality of the world and this cultural expectation that women should shoulder more work harms women and us men by perpetuating the inequity.

        Your story of how much you undertook is a good reflection on you and absolutely not remotely typical. Further, I am sure that many times you were inconvenienced/hurt by cultural attitudes that expected your wife to be doing more. Don’t be a part of it because you can’t set down your own outside the norm experience. Folks making assumptions about male participation in child rearing isn’t sexism, its statistics and doesn’t reinforce the inequity.

        1. Working Father*

          I agree with you, sexism is not the proper term to be used here. I also agree with you that the expectation towards child care are *extremely* gendered. A mom doesn’t get told “oh you’re babysitting today” when they take their own child to the park…

          I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation that people making assumptions don’t reinforce the inequity though. I have the feeling that when people assume the dad doesn’t want to care for their own child, it turns into some form of peer pressure / self fulfilling prophecy where some men won’t care for their child because “that’s not a man’s job”.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      Wow. WOW. A person, regardless of gender, can work and still be a full participant in parenting their child.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Right. My mom had two kids and was a single parent – she had no choice but to work outside the home and she did all the parenting. Even if she had had a partner in the home, she still would have chosen to work (that’s just how she’s wired), and it wouldn’t have made her any less of a parent because she had an 8 hour “break” away from us in the middle of the day for five days a week.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      There’s no indication that he won’t be taking care of his baby, just that he doesn’t want to do it ALL DAY and his wife does. Working parents can still change diapers when they’re not at work lol

    5. Llellayena*

      Who says he’s not changing diapers and cleaning spit-up after finishing his day at the second job? And it looks like the mother doesn’t get PAID leave so he’s basically just keeping a level of income they need to care for a newborn (including buying all those diapers and baby clothes and possibly formula) until the mother is able to finish her bonding time and recovery and go back to work. Would you feel better if he took the parental leave as time completely off to care solely for the kid but the mother had to go back to work after 2 weeks without having fully healed from the birth?

      1. ...*

        Yeah, I’m surprised how many people here are absolutely ripping into this poor guy based on a secondhand report from someone who admits to be maybe being a little bitter! Couples are allowed to make informed decisions about shared duties. My partner is WFH, and does the majority of the housework in their down time & saved commute. As a trade-off, I run the quick errands, the “we’re out of milk and someone has to lose a half hour of their night running to the store unexpectedly” errands. No one would accuse me of being a slovenly partner who never cleans up and it doesn’t mean I don’t care about having a tidy home.

      2. starfox*

        Right? How would it be better if he said, “Sorry you don’t get leave, honey. I’ll just be here at home while you go back to work. Try not to bleed on any of the office furniture because you haven’t even healed yet from childbirth!”

        1. catsoverpeople*

          “One of my male colleagues told me very matter of factly that he is intending to take his full leave after his wife’s paid maternity leave is up.”

          I keep re-posting this quote from the letter because I keep seeing comments that she didn’t get ANY paid leave. She did. Her employer is even allowing her to be away from her job even longer, just without the pay she had during her maternity leave. She’s not bleeding in the break room because of a heartless employer — she hasn’t even gone back to work yet.

    6. Koala*

      It is a real stretch to assume this man wants nothing to do with childcare duty. There is nothing in the letter that gets into these specifics.

    7. Critical Rolls*

      Y’all, this comment didn’t come out of nowhere. It says in the letter that this dude “doesn’t want to care for the baby full time and his wife desperately does.” Now, that is not “refuses to care for the baby at all,” but… definitely not a great look.

      1. ...*

        This comment was made secondhand by someone who admits to maybe being a bit bitter due to their own circumstance. It does seem unfair for the commentariat to make big leaps about this guy’s value as a parent based on that.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          While I agree there may be some leaps happening in regards to that one statement, we are asked to take the OP at their word. It sounds like this is something that he specifically confirmed to her. Again, I’m not saying that necessarily means he doesn’t want anything to do with the baby, but I don’t think it’s unfair to consider the statement in one’s response.

          1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

            But the letter also acknowledge’s that by this man’s own account, his wife “desperately” wants to care for the baby full-time. So we shouldn’t be assuming his decision was made solely for his own comfort and convenience. It’s far more reasonable to assume, even through the LW’s secondhand account, that this decision was made by the couple as a deliberate choice in how they want to operate as a newly expanded family.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I agree, I was responding to the idea that the statement was false simply because the OP is “bitter” about the situation.

          2. ...*

            We’re also asked to keep the comments relevant to what the writer CAN do about the WORK situation. Every day nearly all of us are working with crummy parents or spouses whether or not we know it. Until the child / spouse is in danger, how that impacts what we should talk to HR about is very, very minimal. It seems like people here just want to rag on a dad that’s a stand-in for their frustrations with society overall.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I don’t disagree with you. I was specifically responding to the implication that because the OP is “bitter” the statement that the co-worker doesn’t want to care for his child full-time is false.

        2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

          Agreed. There is a huge difference between not caring for a child full time and not caring for a child AT ALL.

          This letter is (rightfully) stirring up strong responses, but usually this community does a better job of tempering emotions. Very few people today seem inclined to give the man in question the benefit of the doubt. And even fewer seem to have actually read the line that while the man doesn’t want to care for the child full-time, his wife “desperately does”.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. Granted that in households with two working parents of opposite genders, the mother often does more of the caregiving and parenting chores, and that a part of this inequity is a result of fathers not getting the opportunity to bond with their babies as much as mothers do, regardless of whether the reason is cultural or biological. It’s simply a matter of biology that AMAB can’t get pregnant, and cis men certainly can’t breastfeed, even if they can do everything else that’s necessary to care for a baby. Longer paternity leave has been set up to address this inequity, but I can sympathize with those women who desperately want to care for their babies, especially if they only have 6 or 8 weeks of maternity leave.

      2. L-squared*

        I mean, is not wanting to be a full time caregiver really that wrong? That doesnt’ mean he doesn’t love his child, but doesn’t want to do it full time. Plenty of great parents don’t want to care for a baby full time. And if the wife would rather do that, and it works for their family, what is the problem?

        And as someone else said, this is a second hand comment, so while I’ll talk LW at her word, she acknowledges to being a bit bitter, so its hard to not assume her views are a bit biased

      3. ElizabethJane*

        “Doesn’t want to care for the baby full time” is the same as “Doesn’t want to be a stay at home parent”.

        I am a woman. I do not want to be a stay at home parent. Do you know how many times that has been thrown in my face? Do you know how many women have to hear that “other people are raising their kids” when they choose (or choose because of necessity) to work?

        We have an unreliable narrator (lw is admittedly bitter) telling a story about a couple that has seemingly found a solution. A wife who does want to be a stay at home parent but cannot afford to do so and a husband who doesn’t want to be a stay at home parent but worked out a way to make it work for his wife.

        Now, I think the guy is a moron for sharing his plans so openly, but otherwise I don’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, I tend to agree with you. One reason why I never got any pushback is that I did the same as the vast majority of new moms did at the time in my area, as in I was on maternity and parental leave for two years and a few months.

          It has to be said, though, that here birthing parents who go back to work after two or three months do get judged for it, but that’s mainly because very few parents have that option. We have municipal daycare that’s cheap by US standards (hundreds rather than thousands per month, and for some low income groups daycare is completely subsidized so they don’t pay anything at all), but they don’t accept kids younger than 9 months (because the vast majority of birth parents are out of work for at least that long), so parents who want daycare earlier have no recourse but to hire a nanny, and most people don’t have the means.

      4. Dark Macadamia*

        I mean, I’ve been a SAHM for 6 years and just got a job. Does that mean I “don’t want to do the work” of parenting anymore, or just that I want a different balance for myself and my family? It’s not like the only options are “full time childcare” or “abandon parenthood altogether.” I will be just as much a mom next week when I drop the kids off at school and go to work as I am today when I bring them to the zoo. I will still be caring for my children. But I guess being employed as a parent isn’t a great look!

        1. allathian*

          I hear what you’re saying, but there’s a huge difference between parenting an infant and a kid who’s old enough to go to school, as I’m sure you know. The biggest difference is socialization, kids younger than about 2 don’t benefit much, if at all, from spending time with non-family caregivers and other kids, but the older they get, the less healthy it will be for them to spend all their time with just their family members. That said, it’s unlikely that a kid who went to daycare at 3 months will be traumatized by it, as long as the quality of care is good. But at some point it’s beneficial for the vast majority of kids (except kids with some kinds of special needs) to learn to deal with other kids who aren’t their siblings.

      5. University Schlep*

        Not wanting to care for the baby FULL time is a valid parenting choice. Many women want to stay home (and many that want to but can’t), but there are also many women who do not want to be a SAHM. Why is it then not ok for him not to want to be a SAHD? Presumably if he were not taking this second job, the mom would have to go back.

        It is a huge leap to go from, “I don’t want to stay home alone with the baby all day” to “I don’t think a man should change a diaper” Heck, I WAS the SAHM and my husband freely admitted it would have driven him bonkers, but he was also the one who got up every night when the babies cried and changed the diapers and brought them to me to nurse so that I could have time to pee/get a drink/put on something warmer before nursing and did all the bedtime routine every night so I had an hour to myself to do whatever.

        The dad is an idiot for talking about it though.

        1. Kiitemso*

          If you don’t want to stay at home with the baby all day, then don’t use the paid leave. Discuss part time option possibilities for yourself.

      6. Esmeralda*

        Oh please. “doesn’t want to care for the baby full time” — I did not want to care for baby full time either, after a couple of months (I’m the mom). It was often boring, it was exhausting, I craved adult conversation, I couldn’t even read much because quiet enough to read = I need a shower/nap/hour in front of Oprah, I wanted time when another sweaty body was not attached to my sweaty body.

        “Doesn’t want to care for the baby full time” = is this not a great look because it’s a guy? because it’s a parent? because it doesn’t fit some myth of Angels Sing When I Clean up Vomit/poop/breastmilk over and over again?

        Haha, twenty-plus years ago, I guess I still have some residual p.o.’d-ness from purveyors of that myth.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          I’ll add to my list below, because of the assumption that this labor will be done by his wife instead, at the cost of time away from her job and all the hard parts that go with parenting an infant. I’m not selling any fairy tales about it. In this case, it seems that his wife wants to do this labor and he doesn’t. But what would be the outcome if she felt differently? What will it be if she hits her limit two months in? It’s so common that women in that position end up being the primary caregiver anyway. It’s the default and the assumption that are the problem.

      7. Critical Rolls*

        Not a great look because of societal expectations that women must all want to care for children full time, or there’s something wrong with them/they’re bad mothers, but men do not suffer the same judgement. Not a great look because, in this case, we would be talking about full-time caregiving for at most 6 months. Not a great look because he is *choosing* to forgo a privilege that a lot of people (including his wife!) would desperately love to have. He’s entitled to make that choice, but there’s a lot of freight around the privilege men have on these topics that he doesn’t seem remotely aware of. Not a great look to walk around in a cloud of oblivious entitlement.

        I have not implied that he’s not doing *anything*; my comment specifically said that we don’t know what he might be contributing to childcare. But he seems real casual about breaking the spirit of this leave that is a necessity for people who give birth, and real casual about his wife carrying the bulk of the child care duties. Those aren’t great signs.

    8. starfox*

      There’s no indication that he expects his wife to stay a SAHM, though…. She’s going on unpaid leave from her job for 6 months while she heals from childbirth, possibly breastfeeds, and bonds with the baby… not quitting.

    9. ChildrenAreExpensive*

      So tell me–how many hours a day should he spend with the baby. I have three kids. Except for the last I had zero leave and a working husband (for two of the them I was still in school). Nothing in what has been reported by the LW has stated that he doesn’t intend to help with the baby. We have no idea of his hours and what he is also doing to help with the baby.

  13. lost academic*

    What specifically bothers me about the situation, only knowing what is written, is that the wife in this situation is getting screwed out of her career advancement and future earnings/opportunities for a period of 6 months. It’s another example of exploiting a system allowing a man to get ahead in his career or pay no penalty for childcare responsibilities on the back of a specific woman. But I have no way of knowing whether or not that’s the case for her and I have to assume that she determined this was the best option for their family – though clearly it would easily have been possible for it to just be the best option for the man alone. Which is grating.

    1. Artemesia*

      IN Academia adjustments have been made to the brutal tenure track so that women can have babies without being denied tenure. They get an extra year and can thus take maternity leave without torpedoing their chances; theoretically. It is extended now to ‘parents’. Outcome? Men are even further ahead and more likely than women to achieve tenure if they take the year delay; women take care of the baby; men use the time to publish more.

      1. gyratory_circus*

        Absolutely. My husband is a professor and I personally know at least 3 men who’ve basically used their parental leave as a sabbatical to do research/write/publish, while the female professors recover from childbirth and take care of the baby.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I think this may speak to (part of) the reason OP feels appalled. It’s certainly part of the reason I have negative feelings about this situation.

        For this particular family, this guy working a second job while on bonding leave so his wife can take unpaid leave and care for the baby will work best.

        But we live in a society that (in my opinion – wrongly) believes that men should be more career-focused, should provide for their families, should earn more money, and women should be less-career focused, should take on the bulk of domestic and child-raising duties, etc. And here we have an opportunity for a man to buck the stereotypes, take six months of paid leave and care for his child. Instead, he plans to reinforce those stereotypes by taking the leave to… do more/other work, like a man, so his wife can care for the baby, like a woman.

        To be clear, I respect that for this family, the wife wants to care for the baby and the husband wants to work. I can’t dictate what other people want in life. In a theoretical sense (because I don’t know the people involved), I am disappointed to hear about someone using the bonding leave to reinforce gender stereotypes.

    2. Marine*

      This is a very American perspective, sadly – taking 6 months to recover and deal with early babyhood should not be considered ‘getting screwed out of her career advancement and future earnings’. I took 6 months with my first and will do again with my second, but I’m in the UK so this is actually perceived as my taking very little leave.

      I really hope things change in the US!!

      1. Lucy*

        I’m in the UK too and I disagree that concerns about career advancement for women is only an American problem. A long maternity leave is standard in the UK, but that doesn’t mean women don’t face consequences for taking it. I know several women who have felt that their careers took a hit because of maternity leave.

        1. Marine*

          6 months though? I can definitely agree that some women feel their careers take a hit if they take the full year but 6 months feels definitely below average…

    3. Kassie*

      But we don’t know, right? My husband is staying home with our kid, but he isn’t getting screwed out of career advancement because he basically didn’t have a career. He worked at a bar. He continues to work at a bar part time. The bar will still be there when he gets back, as will other bars. She may already have been in a dead end job. She may be choosing to go back to school at the end of his leave and will someday make more than him. We just don’t know.

    4. KateM*

      The letter does say that “his wife desperately does [want to care for the baby full-time]”, so I’m not sure that it should be called “getting screwed out of her career advancement”.

        1. Loulou*

          What? You have absolutely no basis for concluding that she won’t want to stay home after she’s done it for a few months….I find these comments really condescending and outside the scope of the question.

          1. Been there*

            I didn’t say she would want to go back to work, just that she should have an option. If you haven’t stayed home and been a full time parent before, it is not easy.

              1. Been there*

                Sigh. I’m not explaining this very well. Every mom is different. I’ve seen it go both ways with friends. One is convinced they will be back on the job in 3 months and decides to stay home. Another plans on staying home and is climbing the walls at 3 months. You just don’t know until you live that life. My point is the wife should not be locked in – both she and her husband need to re-evaluate how their plans are going at frequent intervals.

                1. The Real Fran Fine*

                  But…who said the wife was locked into anything? Right now, from what the letter writer knows, her coworker is planning to take the full 6 month parental leave he’s entitled to and contract on the side while his wife stays home for an additional 6 months (remember – she already took 6 months leave from her job). If the wife decides three months into this additional leave that she no longer wants to be home with the baby, it’s not like she and her husband couldn’t just go back to work. They very well could come back early – the letter writer’s coworker hasn’t said one way or the other if this contingency plan has been made or not.

                  There’s a lot of assumptions going on here around this issue (and it’s not just you, by the way). What we know for a fact is, mom has already taken paid leave for 6 months through her own job and is now going to get to extend her leave thanks to her husband’s job’s new policy. I would imagine 6 months in that the wife knows whether or not she’s going to enjoy being home full time with the baby. Anything else is conjecture.

    5. Roland*

      She’s not being exploited if she WANTS this. There is a difference between saying “this trend is bad” and “this specific situation is bad”. I’m not one of those people who is like “every choice a woman makes is automatically feminist uwu” but this comment is angry at facts you made up.

    6. nerd*

      This! The gender equity benefits that come from all parents having parental leave – not just Moms – are obliterated when the policy is used like this.

    7. Temperance*

      It’s actually punishing -all- women who give birth and have children. Because we need to use maternity leave to recover from childbirth, while men can apparently get 6 months and use it to take on contract work that advances their careers while sucking down two paychecks.

    8. DisgruntledPelican*

      Yes, that silly woman who desperately wants to stay home with her child for six months and will have completely torpedoed her life! Someone save her since no one would ever make that decision for themself!

  14. Heidi*

    Would there be any way that the OP could ask her employers if she could get that additional time off? It seems like a reasonable ask, even if she had her baby before the policy took effect.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Right, if you’re going to get involved here advocate for some form of retroactive benefit for people who had children before the policy began! That’s more useful to LW herself and other parents at the company than tattling because someone is using the policy in a way that LW doesn’t like.

      1. Making up names is hard*

        Yes I was thinking the policy should have retroactively applied to anyone who became a parent in the previous six months in or something.

  15. L-squared*

    On another note, I feel like the comments here are going to be very similar to the one about the LW who worked 2 full time jobs.

    Some people are going to be outraged to the point of name calling (I’ve already seen someone call him a “jerk ass man”), while a lot of other people will feel like its not hurting anyone.

    I hope people can remain calm and not start attacking other commenters who disagree with them. But hey, this is the internet. That probably won’t happen lol

    1. CheesePlease*

      Hello it’s me the “jerk ass man” commentator. I think when it comes to parental leave, many of us are sensitive. Many parents have had to go to HR saying “it’s the LAW!” to get any amount of leave or deal with coworkers who say dumb things like “must be nice to get such a long break!” because parental leave is seen as a bonus vacation and not a time set aside for a huge life adjustment, physical healing, caring for a tiny new human who needs attention most of the day etc. So yeah, I think anyone that takes advantage of (the spirit) of parental leave is a jerk simply given the state of parental leave in this country.

      1. L-squared*

        But you know nothing about what he and his wife have decided is best for their family. If they are considering her being a possible SAHM even after her unpaid time is off, and he is getting ahead financially, how does that make him a jerk. I’m sorry you had a bad time with your leave policy, but other people doing what is best for their family that is within the scope of their benefits, doesn’t make them a jerk

        1. CheesePlease*

          I think the way OP frames his approach makes him seem like a jerk – the thing about how the company has so much money anyways so what do they care. But they clearly DO care if they didn’t have this policy before? And they can take it away. Clearly OP and I are both sensitive to feeling like we (as new-ish mothers) are on the short end of the stick – since even birthing parents get so few benefits and leave in many cases.

          I can see him being less of a jerk if he had discussed his plans with management to ensure it still complies with the policy (for example, in case word got around in the industry he was doing contract work he would want to give a heads up to management maybe) and then kept it quiet, instead of essentially bragging around the office, to coworkers who didn’t get access to this policy and probably would have used it the way it was intended

      2. Working Father*

        I get you. It’s absurd looking at US policies regarding maternity leave from the outside.

        I’m in Canada, when I got my child, we got up to 52 weeks of paid leave. 26 goes to the birthing parent, 5 goes to the other parent, the other weeks are shared. You can do 26-26, or 47-5, or any combination in between. The only thing is that you have to choose in advance the total amount as it affects the % of your regular pay you get. You don’t get 100% pay for all 52 weeks, but it’s still very decent.

      3. KEB*

        Agreed – I work in HR in a progressive industry, and I can tell how terrified the women in particular are of taking leave or even telling anyone they’re pregnant. It breaks my heart since I would resign & put my company on blast before allowing discrimination, but if I don’t know about it or if it’s coming the exec team, I also can’t do much or anything about it. On a strange personal note, it has also helped solidify that I don’t want kids. Our systems are broken.

        When I used to manage leaves (I’ve moved into a backend HR role), I had an email template with a huge congratulations GIF & text explaining how excited I was for them (on behalf of the team) on it with next steps on how parental leave worked (what did they need to file to get paid by when, what kind of paperwork will they see, if they need to change their return to work date, how benefits continue to work, etc.). I always hoped this messaging made everyone feel more comfortable (I am very pro-parental and medical leave and think it should be expanded, to be clear).

        1. CheesePlease*

          Thank you for doing your small part to help new parents feel supported. I think the people speaking up calling this person a jerk know how fragile these benefits are, and feel (overly?) defensive of any small win we have as an overall working parent community. Wish we had more people like you.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Oh that’s so interesting. I just realized I supported the two jobs scenario but not this one and now I have to go sort out why…

      1. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

        There’s no collateral damage in the 2 jobs scenario. Maaaaaybe it harms remote work a little. Otherwise, he’s not taking advantage of policy intended to protect a marginalized group.

        There’s collateral damage here. If the company finds out, it might lead to the claw back of the policy. This damages the prospects of all future parents. It’s also unfair because gestational parents could never use their leave like this, so he’s using this policy meant to protect the careers of parents to further his career.

      2. AVP*

        Same– I think for me it’s because he seems like he’s getting one over not just on his company but on all womankind? My first thought was that there’s pretty much no way a woman could use her parental leave to advance her career/earnings like this…in hindsight, maybe if you really wanted to and got creative with it, it might be possible. So, I don’t know if that thought is fair but I really had to push to imagine it working out in a woman’s case. Which just makes it seem like yet another way men can work the system to get ahead, whereas the two-jobs scenario is practicable by anyone.

      3. Eyes Kiwami*

        I think a LOOOT of people are in this boat.

        It’s pretty frustrating because there were many commenters name-calling those who disagreed with them and generally being nasty and arguing in bad faith. It just goes to show that their posts had nothing to do with the actual issue, since here we have a very similar situation and suddenly it’s not OK to work two jobs just because the system is corrupt.

    3. Loulou*

      I actually think people are being more harsh to this person than the two jobs OP! but I assume it’s just people taking their cues from Alison’s response. If this had been an “ask the readers” I’m curious what people would have thought.

  16. Leslie Ann*

    I’m going to assume that parental leave will be given to all parents, whether or not they are married. So an unmarried guy could impregnate one woman after another and ask over and over again for his six months paid parental leave, and it would be granted. Alison said that maybe a company would tighten up their systems, but what could they do? Insist that the employee has to be married? Limit the six months of paid leave to only once a year?

    1. Paul Pearson*

      Sensibly you can look at other nations that already provide paid parental leave for male parents and see that this is not exactly an issue. Getting a few weeks paid leave in exchange for a lifetime of child support seems… ill considered.

      1. dubitably*

        Paying less than half of what it takes to raise a kid for 18 years isn’t a punishment and can be avoided in many cases by just…not paying it.

        1. Paul Pearson*

          it’s not a matter of “punishment” so much as making random impregnation a rather dubious method of obtaining more paid leave.

    2. Rachel*

      At least in Massachusetts, that second solution is exactly it – you can take bonding leave once per benefit year.

    3. Kassie*

      The way our parental leave is written would exclude this. I assume it is pretty standard to exclude this. Ours is written that the person has to be FMLA eligible, which includes working a certain number of hours the previous year. Ours is shorter, only 8 weeks, but it is written where it can only be taken once a year.

      1. allathian*

        I guess my friend is lucky that she doesn’t work for your company. She had her first child in January, and promptly got pregnant again and had her second kid in December of that same year. We have long maternity/parental leave, and she didn’t return to work between having the two kids. But it was tough for a while with two kids in diapers, and at least occasionally napping at different times.

    4. kiki*

      I think while that’s a theoretically possible scenario, it’s really not an appealing loophole for somebody to take advantage of. Kids are expensive, time consuming, and all-around resource-intensive for 18+ years. Getting a couple months of leave at the beginning of a 18 year commitment doesn’t seem worth it.

      1. Polly*

        Yeah… unless you can earn enough extra in those 6 months to make 18+ years of child support payments, I don’t see the appeal.

        1. kiki*

          There may be a couple people out there who give it a go, but I suspect their poor judgement would have gotten them fired before they’re eligible for paternity leave.

      2. dubitably*

        I wouldn’t assume someone who is impregnating multiple women per year is going to be investing a lot of time and resources in each of those kids. Even if they pay all their child support, it’s still less than half of the cost of actually raising the kid. They can still leave the lion’s share of the time, expense, and effort of raising the children to their mothers.

        1. kiki*

          We’re getting deep into the theoretical, but even if this person were planning on being a pretty neglectful parent, child support is still expensive. And they can do their best to avoid paying, but the chances of getting away with paying zero child support on any of your many children seems low.
          It’s just… a really terrible plan! People do make terrible plans, no doubt, but writing a policy to take this scenario into account seems similar to planning a bereavement policy around the possibility of employing a murderous black widow.

    1. Project Manager here*

      This is ultimately where I came down as well. Yes, he’s using a loophole and going around the spirit of the policy. But also, everything is expensive. He really should just keep his mouth shut about the whole thing.

      1. nona*

        The fact that he can’t keep his mouth shut makes me think that he doesn’t understand all the work/fight/frustration that led to the policy existing in the first place, and therefore doesn’t understand the spirit/intended purpose of the leave.

        Which is also part of what makes me doubt his intentions as an involved parent. And makes this feel icky to me.

      2. Moira Rose*

        This. Someone upthread said that the only reason people need to cheat like this is that it’s impossible to win without cheating (in America anyway, land of no mandated maternity leave). And I’m with them on that: it’s a crappy system rigged against parents. But then SHUT UP ABOUT your cool cheating methodology!!

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      Exactly. If this is what’s best for your family, just do it. Don’t rub this in your coworker’ faces.

  17. Charley*

    The man in this letter has vibes of the dude who insisted on taking ‘period days’ to get a long weekend for himself.

    1. Claire Fraser*

      Not really because we are only getting the OP’s perspective and the OP’s interpretation of his attitude.

      1. Charley*

        Both guys are abusing the ‘spirit’, if not the letter of a policy designed to support women in their medical needs. We only had the LW’s perspective from the period letter as well.

  18. Alex*

    I don’t know–he kind of IS using the policy to care for his new baby, just not in the way people expect. He is allowing more parental time for the baby by making up for his wife’s lost wages. I don’t really see the problem. The baby gets to be with a parent without the family having strained financially. Isn’t that the point?

    1. nona*

      My understanding is the point is that BOTH parents learn how to care for the child, to reduce the stigma of child care as “women’s work” and therefore reinforce this as PARENTAL leave and not maternity leave.

      There’s more to being a parent than providing money. That’s the point.

      1. Alex*

        Sure, but shouldn’t families be able to decide what works best for themselves? Not every parent wants to be the stay at home parent. Would this be OK if it was the mom who was deciding to work a second job while the dad stayed home? It’s great to give father’s the opportunity to have leave and bond with the baby, but if parents find that that division of labor isn’t what works best for them, I don’t think it should be forced.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Would this be OK if it was the mom who was deciding to work a second job while the dad stayed home?

          If the wife were working at OP’s company and the husband weren’t, and she wanted to take the bonding leave to work a second job so her husband could take unpaid leave and do the childcare, that’s still not OK. It still violates the spirit (and perhaps the letter) of the leave, which is to allow the employees of the company to bond with their children. Not the facilitate bonding between the employees’ spouses and their children.

          I will admit that if the genders were reversed in this situation, I would have a bit less of a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing because the couple’s plan wouldn’t perpetuate gender stereotypes, but I would still think they were misusing the bonding leave.

          1. dubitably*

            All of this, plus birthing parents don’t get the luxury of using the whole leave for whatever they want. They have to recover from birth and possibly significant surgery even if they don’t do any of the feeding/night care/other care of the baby. There’s not a situation where a birthing parent can use 100% of their leave to do consulting work the way this guy wants to.

            1. Chestnut Mare*

              Eh, some of us can get back in the saddle quickly. I have had multiple C-sections and was fortunate to recover quickly and easily. I was able to return to work (self-employed) within a week, maybe two with my last child, because my spouse took over a lot of the childcare duties and we work as a team.

              1. dubitably*

                That’s fantastic, but it doesn’t really challenge my point. The leave is intended for birth, adoption, recovery, and bonding. Many people who are actually doing those things need some or all of the time, and can’t work another job at the same time.

                If we’re trying to close the gap between people who need their parental leave to parent and people who don’t, then we’re sabotaging ourselves by letting someone use the time to advance their career while someone else cares for their child. It’s like letting someone take parental leave while their kid is in full-time childcare, or while they don’t have a kid at all. It makes no sense.

              2. June*

                I’m nine months post c section and this blows my mind. For the first several weeks I was counting the minutes till I could take the next dose of painkillers. I couldn’t feed myself, wash myself, or anything. And I had an easy surgery with no complications, no infections.

              3. allathian*

                Most people who have a C-section or give birth in the traditional way don’t get off as easy as you did. Count yourself lucky!

      2. Esmeralda*

        And for all we — or the OP — know, this guy is in fact not just a money-machine, but is doing all that other stuff that goes into being a parent.

        Or do you think that working moms whose kids are in daycare all day are not sufficient moms? Since they’re spending that time focused on providing money, perhaps advancing their careers, rather than caring directly for their children.

        Yes, I understand how parental leave is often inequitably used and how poor it is overall in the US. But it’s leave that’s allotted to the employee. It’s a benefit. Unless it’s written into the HR regs at this employer that employees on parental leave are not allowed to work a second job, it’s not the employer’s business how this employer and his family decide how to use that leave. Just as I do not want my employer checking up to see if I’m using my sick leave only when I’m physically ill, or if I’m taking a day off to destress.

      3. Sharper*

        +1! It’s immoral because he’s betraying the spirit of the policy. What if someone was to use bereavement leave to attend a music festival instead of managing the affairs of an important family ritual and gathering oneself in an emotional time? That’s not right and it’s not fair to others and that doesn’t change because no one was hurt. In this case, he’s undermining the legitimacy of male parental leave and reinforcing the idea that babies are women’s work.

        1. Chestnut Mare*

          Why does it matter, though? Regardless of how someone uses their bereavement leave, they’re still entitled to those days. Do we really want to become arbiters of grief, or how to take parental leave the “correct” way?

          1. catsoverpeople*

            I see your point, and upthread I used the example of caring for a dying parent (but secretly working a second job) instead of maternity/paternity leave. I think fewer people judge the OP’s coworker here Because Babies.

            I *wish* employers offered enough bereavement leave that someone could be accused of doing it wrong! Most places that actually offer it limit you to three days, and after that you have to use vacation time (that you’ve already accumulated) if, you know, that’s not enough time to actually bury your spouse, deal with any legal issues with the estate or life insurance policy, figure our your future living situation and other finances if there is no estate or life insurance policy, and somehow deal with the life-altering, finance-altering, heart-wrenching reality that your spouse is dead. Assuming, of course, that you liked your spouse.

    2. Burger Bob*

      The point of paid leave is definitely NOT so you can go work a second job while collecting your regular paycheck as well. Even if you have a noble reason for doing so, I think we all know that when an employer gives you leave, it’s because you ostensibly have a reason you can’t or shouldn’t work at the moment. It’s not so you can get a nice bonus while you work a whole other job.

  19. Personikins*

    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s none of my business how a family decides to use the benefits available to them. It’s correct to say these benefits were hard fought for, which is exactly why I’m happy each family is maximizing it however it makes sense to them.

    It shouldn’t matter, but I’m a cis woman.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. Maybe he shouldn’t be so open about it or frame it quite the way he is, but this seems to be the best solution for their situation so I just don’t personally think it’s anyone else’s business.

      1. Personikins*

        Yeah it’s a bit gauche, I would be more mindful of how it comes across but I really wish less energy was spent from workers policing other workers. We’re all out here just doing our best to survive through a really rough period.

        Let people be.

    2. dubitably*

      That was my initial reaction, but isn’t part of the point systemically promoting gender equality? At which point there are considerations beyond just what works best in an individual situation.

      When we see women systemically being pulled out of the workforce because they have kids, childcare is expensive, and their husbands make more, we have to look beyond the individual situation to address the root problem. Sure, Tom makes more than his wife Sue and Sue makes less than daycare for twins costs, so it makes sense for Sue to stay home with their kids. It’s not our business to get involved in their personal decisions. But when that happens over and over and over, we can’t just brush it off as “what works best for their family”, we have to start changing other things (childcare costs, pay gap, etc.) so that families have other options and women have a fighting chance at continuing their careers.

      If this is just a question of their particular family, it’s none of OP’s business and no one should care. The baby is taken care of, they can pay their bills, the individuals involved are OK with the outcome.

      But if it’s a question of company values, the function of paid parental leave, or larger social issues, then this situation is not only sidestepping the positive things this policy was intended for (dads being able to bond with babies when they would have been at work, men and women being on equal footing career-wise after having a new baby), it’s actively working against them.

  20. Paul Pearson*

    While I can see the frustration, I also take a step back and see the problem is the broken American system in the first place. Yes he shouldn’t do this. But parents shouldn’t have to find loopholes to have something remotely resembling a decent parental leave. Ideally both he and his wife would be able to take long term paid leave to look after and bond with the child. But they cannot – and he’s taken steps to make the most of what paltry benefits the US’s grossly exploitative and cruel system provides in a way that is best for his family. Ideally he would show more sense about talking so openly; but I don’t blame people for finding loop holes in a system that is so brokenly set against decent humanity

    1. Moira Rose*

      ^ This is where I come down after reading all the really good and thoughtful comments. This guy is just doing what makes sense for his family in this safety-net-less America, but also he should shut up about it.

      1. Paul Pearson*

        I think it’s common and unfair that we so often blame individuals for making imperfect choices when in the middle of utterly terrible systems.

        But discretion wouldn’t hurt!

  21. Moo*

    Aside from the other person’s situation, I wonder is there scope for OP to ask for some parental leave for themselves, which might fall outside the stated policy but be in the spirit of it, considering their baby/child fell outside the policy window.

    1. indefinite*

      this is what I was thinking too. I sympathize with OP feeling bitter and resentful, but I think good on OP’s coworker and wife for making the decision that makes most sense for their family within the parameters offered by their two workplaces. I suppose it depends on how far before the policy was instated that OP had their child.

  22. Ann Onymous*

    He’s also potentially jeopardizing anyone who didn’t give birth (fathers, same gender partners, adoptive parents, etc.) but has a new child at home and wants to take parental leave for its intended purpose – bonding with the child and (if applicable) providing extra support at home while a partner is recovering from childbirth.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. People who so grossly abuse a policy are the ones that make it so no one else can have nice things. The most likely outcome is a less generous policy in the future.

  23. President Porpoise*

    I disagree that this is a problem. The intent is to allow his wife – who is paid less and who really, really wants to be home with the baby – additional time to bond without completely destroying the family finances. That extra cash will allow her to stay a little longer than the six months he’ll be out. How many discussions have we had here where there is someone working while on FMLA/short term disability to make some cash to allow them the financial cushion required to make that leave livable? This is really similar, but not identical, in my mind.

    It’s up to them how they want to structure their home lives. If she would rather care for a baby than rejoin the workforce right away and he’s able to work out a way to make that financially possible, he’s being a good dad and husband for helping make that happen however he can.

    I wouldn’t report it, and I’d reframe this issue in your mind. He’s not doing this to you and it does not directly impact you. The baby is receiving additional parental bonding in a critical time period. No harm is being done.

    1. CheesePlease*

      Typically parental leave laws are for the employee to bond / care for a new child, and are stated as such. So yes, this situation looks like it benefits their specific family situation and priorities, but also yes, he is violating the employer’s intended use of the policy by securing other sources of income while on paid leave.

      I don’t think it merits a formal report, but a heads up that his actions (securing a second job and sharing about that at work) jeopardize the policy staying in place, specifically for people who want to use it as intended. I can’t imagine OP is the only new parent at the company who feels annoyed, bitter or even outraged.

      1. President Porpoise*

        CheesePlease, if OP managed the guy or had any supervisory position over him, I might agree. But I think mentioning it now will burn her relationship with her coworker to the ground and reflect negatively on her with others that hear about it. It looks a lot like sour grapes.

        If the idea is solely to protect the policy from miscreants who may abuse it (and I still don’t agree that this counts), I’d read it really, really carefully. I write a LOT of policy for my F500 company at the corporate level, and we intentionally leave much of it very vague allow flexibility in business operation (and I write them for really regulated areas!). It’s possible, even likely, that this is intentionally vague and loose to allow for global variance in laws, etc. Don’t be blinded by your personal upset at not getting the extended leave. It sucks, but it happens and it will make you look bitter if you ‘subtlety’ ask if this is permitted.

        If your read is that it really is impermissible, or that the policy is vague and needs genuine clarification, raise it through the appropriate channels (generally your direct leadership chain) so a. you can let your manager decide if it’s really a problem/open an ethics investigation and b. it can be clarified if necessary in the next round of edits.

        1. CheesePlease*

          Is saying “hey trusted HR / senior lead / manager – I’m concerned that Fergus talking so openly about using his leave to take a second job will jeopardize this benefit in the future” really a case of looking bitter or ruin the relationship? I really think someone should just tell the coworker to stop talking about this, because it clearly does risk the benefit staying in place – or at the very least risks the perception of the benefit (other employees getting unfairly scrutinized because this coworker acted out of the spirit of the policy)

          1. President Porpoise*

            I think it really depends on a lot. How is OP seen by her leadership? What’s her position/political capital compared to her coworker? How is her concern phrased? How’s the tone? But the biggest thing is her intent, which she must be crystal clear on before she makes any move: is she looking to get her coworker in trouble or to protect the policy? If the former, she should stop and ask herself if she really wants to burn her relationship with this guys and any of her coworkers who hear about it. As this (generally very liberal) commentariat shows, most people won’t think there’s anything wrong with his actions other than perhaps his bad judgement in advertising his intent.

            I’d certainly make any comments in person or on the phone, and I’d avoid naming names unless it’s a unambiguously a violation of policy.

    2. Joielle*

      Regardless of what the coworker’s intent is, though, the intent of the POLICY is to give a non-birthing parent time to bond with the child. The wife’s plans/desires/benefits don’t really matter for purposes of figuring out whether the coworker is within the bounds of the policy.

      I mean, my job offers “election judge leave” for people to train and serve as a poll worker during an election. No matter how much I may “really, really want” to use that time to take a long weekend in the Poconos, the intent of the policy is to give employees a chance to participate in a civic activity, so using it for something else is not within the bounds of the policy.

      In this case, the coworker is actually going to have a newborn, so he can probably get away with using the leave for a technically non-intended purpose. But he’s still being kind of sketchy. (Even so, I personally wouldn’t report him to HR, but I would certainly remember his sketchiness in the future!)

      1. gander of geese*

        based on the letter, i don’t believe we can assume what the policy does or does not cover.

    1. RC+Rascal*

      I thought that as well.

      Indicates an issue with judgement and poor self awareness around optics.

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah. I totally get why this feels like a slap in the face to OP—because he’s actively boasting about how he’s gaming the system. If this is what’s best for his family, fine. But maybe he shouldn’t rub in his coworkers’ faces how he’s planning to violate the spirit of a relatively generous policy they didn’t benefit from.

      I don’t think OP should report him or anything—nothing good will come of that. But I totally get their frustration and this guy does sound like a bit of a jerk for his boasting. At the same time, sometimes we have to work with jerks and honestly the best policy is usually just to avoid them.

  24. RC+Rascal*

    You mentioned he is going to do an “hourly contractor job”. Depending on the work, it makes me wonder if this runs afoul of any non-compete with his Fortune 500 employer, and also presents the same IP/data confidentiality issues as someone working two jobs at the same time.

    At minimum, it presents an issue with ethics and honesty. To me, this is the same as using a corporate credit card for personal purchases to hide them from the spouse.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, the non-compete thing concerns me too.

      Fundamentally, it’s the same thing as using “unlimited vacation” to work a second job.

      The company isn’t giving you this benefit as a substitute for cash. The company is giving you this benefit because they think (a) it’ll make you a better worker when you are on the clock, and (b) it’ll make you less likely to look for a different job.

    2. Enn Pee*

      I was wondering the same. In my job, I signed an agreement to clear any “employment” (even volunteer work) with my employer.
      OP – does your employer make people sign a similar agreement or have a similar policy?

    3. MK*

      My first thought was that this wouldn’t fly in my country, because it is considered that if a company is paying your salary during leave, you cannot use that time to work another job.

      Also, even if a non-compete isn’t an issue, there could well be an obligation to disclose any other employment.

    4. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah. That struck me too. I’ve been offered jobs at two Fortune 500 companies and both times there were pretty clear stipulations about working other jobs while employed there.

    5. RM*

      That was my reaction too! Setting aside the paternity aspect of it, this seems like it would likely be frowned upon in the sense of using your paid time off from one company to work for another. Most big companies have policies surrounding outside work, and I do wonder if his plan violates that.

  25. Yellow*

    This guy is an Ahole. I’m enraged for you and all the other women who had terrible materinty leave benefits, or, like me, none at all.
    Just beacause something isn’t expressly forbidden doesn’t make it right.

    1. Artemesia*

      I am sure my negative reaction is partly informed by my last pregnancy where I got Zero maternity leave and was required to pay my replacement if I could not find colleagues to volunteer. I actually did pretty well timing the pregnancy so early infancy fell into a window where I could take unpaid leave — was off by a week and colleagues did cover. My health insurance also didn’t cover maternity; it was just before national law changed on workplace insurance being required to pay it. We had to pay out of pocket; if my child had needed NICU or I had had serious complications it would have bankrupted us.

      I support maternity leave and paternity leave, but when someone double dips like this the most likely outcome is that the policy becomes more restrictive and the leave shorter, ruining it for everyone else.

    2. Interview Coming Up*

      This has the vibe of “everything was shitty for me, so no one else gets to have it better.”

      I recommend being enraged at a country that doesn’t guarantee parental leave, not the one guy who has parental leave.

  26. Presbyopia Man*

    A good reminder to keep your business your business. Keep work convos about work.

    It isn’t anyone’s business how he uses his paternity leave unless his company has an intrusive policy that makes it their business.

    If my company gave me a gift certificate to go out to dinner with my wife and I choose to give it to one of my kids to go out with her husband and my grandchildren, that’s my decision to make. Paternity leave isn’t any different unless the company policy says it is.

    Keep your business your business. Don’t tell coworkers stuff they don’t need to know.

  27. SwampWitch85*

    Tbh this falls securely under the None Of My Business heading. Why do people want to rat out their coworkers all the time? Granted, he could have not said anything. But yeah, hard myob.

    1. ElizabethJane*

      That’s where I’m falling.

      Is the LW in HR or otherwise obligated to report this? No? Then what is the problem. I mean lets say LW complains. Then what? How exactly will this improve their situation? Best case scenario the man in question abandons his plan but still takes his 6 months of leave. Worst case scenario the man gets fired. Positive impact to LW? None.

      Leave it alone and let other people care for their families.

      1. Florida Fan 15*

        Agree, but I’d add to worst case scenario the business taking away the leave for everybody, which OP helped to bring about by making sure they knew the guy was breaking the rules (assuming he is), instead of playing the odds on them finding out. It’s in nobody’s interest for her to make it a sure thing.

    2. An American(ish) Werewolf in London(ish)*

      Often I’d agree with you – I think (and as other people have commented) a good deal of the issue is the fact he’s openly bragging about it – like ‘look at me, look how clever I am subverting the system.’

      I think if he’d told (say) just the OP, saying ‘well, what do you think,’ or if the OP had found out by accident, then yeah, I’d definitely say that as annoying as it appears to be on the face of it, it isn’t really your concern. But the bragging would irk me, too.

      It’s possible, I guess, he’s doing all the bragging as a form of plausible deniability – if the hammer of workplace justice falls on his head, he’d say ‘but I didn’t HIDE it! I told everyone! Why am I in trouble NOW?’

      1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

        The OP never described him as bragging but even if they did that would just make him like… an annoying person and not materially impact the circumstances of the case or whether it was any of OP’s business.

        1. An American(ish) Werewolf in London(ish)*

          True – and I don’t think the OP should go to HR. But it explains why the OP (and many of the commentators) are bristling.

  28. Anonymous Koala*

    If the point of parental leave is to support families, then I think this guy is following the spirit of the policy. Sure it’s unconventional, but if this is what works for his family (the letter makes it sound like his wife is onboard), then that’s great. The real problem here is that the US still has miserly parental leave policies (my employer just started giving 12 weeks of paid leave, and that’s in lieu of FMLA) which make this guy’s choice hit harder than it would if we all had generous 1 year leave policies.

  29. Don*

    The optics of this suck, and as a man who used every second of his UNPAID FMLA time to spend with our first kid (I kicked that inflexible job to the curb before kid#2) I’m jealous of his opportunity and shaking my head at his choice.


    As others said above, kids are expensive and they’re choosing a path that works best for them and their desires. For all we know this contract gig will actually mean a more flexible work-from-home more-bonding time arrangement than his normal work would while providing them the financial support for his wife to be home full-time where they’d otherwise have to hire care.

    Even if he is largely checking out on day to day child care, I don’t think that’s reasonable for us to judge him on. The reality is some people are really into it and others aren’t. Families make their own balances and there’s a billion ways to do well by your kids, even if most of us would find it abhorrent to have a partner who never changes a diaper or couldn’t stand to shrug that much responsibility off onto a loved one. If they’re happy and the kid is loved and cared for we should mind our business. Same as we should if a woman wants to go back to work ASAP because that’s where she wants to be.

    I don’t think you should tell HR jack crap. You might, if you think you can do it in a non-judgmental way, tell this guy quietly that you think he should be quieter about this approach because people are gonna look askance at it as outside the spirit of the policy and he should at bare minimum not contribute to souring a good thing for others who want it. Not to mention the potential blowback on him.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Firstly, I just want to say your comments tend to be worth reading.

      “For all we know this contract gig will actually mean a more flexible work-from-home more-bonding time arrangement than his normal work would while providing them the financial support for his wife to be home full-time where they’d otherwise have to hire care.”

      And this occurred to me too. Are we SURE this guy is completely ignoring the bonding part or could it be more that he wants to take the time to bond with his kid but his wife also wants to take more-than-the-bare-minimum maternity leave and they cannot afford for her to do that unless he does some work from home/part time hours while he’s on paternity leave.

      Say he usually works a 40 hour week and has an hour long commute each way, then a 20 hour work from home gig would leave him a lot more time with his kid than his regular job. Not saying it is something like that he’s planning, but…it sounds possible.

      Or he might just be talking. People say stuff like that and either don’t intend to actually DO it or haven’t considered that jobs aren’t always that easy to come by and finding a job for 6 months might be easier said than done. It might be just a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” rather than “I have this set up.”

      1. Joielle*

        I don’t disagree with this, but I think the OP would be a lot less upset if the coworker had said “Yeah, I’m planning on doing some work as a contractor while on leave to help with finances, but I’ll be able to work shorter hours from home and spend time with the baby during the day, which is great.”

        Regardless of whether it’s technically a permissible use of the leave, the optics are not great with the way the coworker presented it!

      2. Riot Grrrl*

        Are we SURE this guy is completely ignoring the bonding part…

        We don’t know. All we know is that this guy has chosen to work after the birth of the baby. Judging him for this is literally exactly the same logic that judges women as bad mothers because they choose to go back to work after having a baby, even when they don’t “have to”. It’s a false choice.

        1. DisgruntledPelican*

          Yep, and sooo many people here have read that phrase “don’t want to stay home full time” as dead beat. It’s pretty disgusting actually.

  30. Koala*

    This is none of anyone’s business what he chooses to do with the leave he has rightfully coming to him. I’m sure he’s not the first to do something else during an extended leave other than sit home all day with a baby in his arms. My guess is he trusted OP in telling her this and she’s going to then rat him out to HR who likely can’t do anything about it. How does HR draw boundaries around what a person can and can’t do on family leave? 24 hour surveillance? You can have another job as long as you’re attending to baby at least 5 hours a day? What exactly are the “rules” OP would like to see enforced?

  31. Boring Nickname Rachel*

    I understand where the anger is coming from, but the way I read his arrangement was that it allows his wife to continue her maternity leave after her paid time is up. To me that is definitely a violation of what policy is intended for, but not of the spirit of parental leave in general — he and his wife are essentially pooling resources to allow for the postpartum care that works for their family.

    But I’ve never been pregnant nor have I had to fight this fight so my perspective is missing that context!

  32. nyjanelane*

    OP is a new mom that missed out on the improved leave policy, and this guy flat-out said he doesn’t want to care for his baby full-time. The gendered nature of this situation isn’t a great look, but I honestly can’t blame him. His wife doesn’t have paid leave, according to OP. A new baby is the wrong time to go from two incomes to one. Times are tough.

    1. catsoverpeople*

      “One of my male colleagues told me very matter of factly that he is intending to take his full leave after his wife’s paid maternity leave is up.”

      I keep re-posting this quote to point out that she does have paid maternity leave. Her employer is flexible enough to grant additional unpaid leave AFTER the maternity leave is over. Not every workplace is willing or able to spare an employee that long. Granted, we don’t know how long her leave was, but she’s hardly being mistreated by her boss here.

  33. Minimal Pear*

    I feel like in a vacuum there’s nothing wrong with this, but given the world we live in, it feels weird because ~somehow~ it almost always shakes out that if one parent in a M/F relationship needs to stay home and one needs to work and provide for the other, the woman stays home and the man works.

    1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

      My best friend quit her job when she got pregnant because the cost of childcare was equal to her income, but her husband who had the same job as her with a different company (and identical qualifications – they met in class at college) made a great deal more so it made sense for her to stay home with the kids and him to keep working.

      Sure, it perpetuates the issue of pay inequality and stereotypical family roles, but also it was the most reasonable decision they could make for their family. And it sucks because he wants to be with the kids more and she wants more of a life outside of motherhood but there just isn’t a way to make that happen with their current income.

      For all we know the dude is a misogynistic breadwinner type, but it’s equally likely this was just a rational decision based on the reality of their needs and the world we live in. It’s not ideal but I also have no idea how to fix it.

      1. Marina*

        When I first had a baby my husband made more per hour than me, but I was interested in advancing my career and he wasn’t, so he stayed home with the baby. Ten years later, he’s making 150% of what he was then and I’ve tripled my salary. While I understand that not all families are able to scrape by in the short term like we did, taking the long term view is certainly one way to deliberately address inequality.

        1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

          That sounds like it really worked out great for your family and I’m glad for you. I hope more people who are able take this approach. It won’t fix the systemic issue, the number of people financially unable to do this vastly outweigh those who are, but it definitely would help move the needle if more people tried.

  34. Bluebird*

    I don’t know that I have a problem with this. Earning extra money to help the family is definitely a type of parental support, and we aren’t privy to the conversations the parents actually had to get to this arrangement. I don’t think it was a great idea for this dad to broadcast his plans, and the way it’s coming off sounds a little iffy (he’s “not interested” in bonding with the baby, etc.) but we don’t actually know the intentions behind the plans.

  35. Just Another Zebra*

    Sorry, OP, but I don’t really have a problem with this. As other’s have pointed out, he IS using his leave to care for the baby. The child isn’t going to daycare (which is a mortgage payment on its own) or being left with a sitter or nanny. Your employee is facilitating his wife in staying home with their child for longer, which seems to be what she wants.

    Look, I get why you’re steamed. I’d have sour grapes, too, if something like this was made policy after I had my child. But I don’t think what he’s doing is wrong, or a violation of the policy. I think this is a family who is wisely using all their advantages in a system often rigged against parents. You having feelings doesn’t necessarily make what he’s doing wrong.

  36. Lobster*

    Considering that he is working on the foundation of, “six months of parental leave is generous, actually,” I don’t blame this dude for using the opportunity given to him to get his paper elsewhere. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  37. Sharon*

    What is your company’s policy on outside employment? Some companies/industries don’t allow you to work another job or require a conflict check and approval first.

    Assuming that the company DOES allow him to work a second job while on payroll, I don’t think this is a problem. If the guy had been working 2 jobs all along, obviously taking leave from one of them would give him more time to spend with his family.

    1. President Porpoise*

      Honestly, even then I would only do so if the nature of the second job posed bona fide conflict of interest concerns. I don’t think anyone should care if a finance (for example) employee is building decks for extra cash, as long as it doesn’t overlap/affect his working hours at the F500 company.

  38. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

    They’re gonna need childcare for a very young kid very soon and that is hella expensive. The crime is not what this man is doing but that paid parental leave is so limited and that childcare is so inaccessible. The crime is that we set up institutions around the idea that the worker would have a full time nanny/maid in the form of a wife and then never changed those structures when it became more common for everyone to have paid employment.

    You’re right to be mad, OP, but I think you’re mad at the wrong person. And while it’s seductive to be irritated about the division of labor in this guy’s house–and that may even be justified–we don’t have enough info to make that assumption. We don’t know their lives and frankly none of this is OP’s business.

    If you see someone stealing groceries, no you didn’t.

    1. parsley*

      This is it for me, life is already tough enough, we don’t need to make it harder by snitching on someone who isn’t actually hurting anyone. I think a lot of the reactions here are born out of the principle of the thing, which is rarely helpful in a real life situation. If the LW is in America, they know first hand how expensive having and raising a baby is – I can’t fault a parent for wanting to alleviate that financial burden.

    2. amoeba*

      Or he could just, you know… actually stay at home and care for the baby? Using the policy the way it’s actually intended?

  39. Daria Morgendorffer*

    This should be reported to HR or at least escalated to a line manager. I agree that it isn’t in the spirit of the policy which is one problem and undermines it (particularly if the employee’s plans became common knowledge). What is the point of having the policy if people are going to use it for what it wasn’t intended? The other problem is that companies often have policies against employees working second jobs as it can raise conflict of interest/confidentiality breach problems.

  40. MigraineMonth*

    While pushing all childcare duties on the wife leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I find myself thinking about the opportunity this gives the wife to focus on her child. My sister had post-partum anxiety, and when her (much less generous) maternity leave was up, she really struggled to separate from her baby. If her husband had paternity leave he could “give” to her by working a short-term job to make up for her lost income, I would have thought that was the right thing to do.

  41. Mom of Boys*

    I think I can pinpoint exactly why the OP is bothered by this: because by physical nature, the birthing parent cannot just “opt out” of taking some sort of leave from working and therefore not drawing an income for a period of time. The birthing parent is typically unable to work for several weeks while they physically recover. This is what bothers me about this father’s decision – he’s just “opting out” where the person giving birth can’t just do the same. Notwithstanding the whole “bonding” or family finances thing, this is just not an option for the majority of birthing parents, which still disproportionately impacts women more than men and thereby trickles into career advancement and pay.

    1. Nanani*

      THIS! You said it better than I could.
      Everyone going “what’s the big deal, they get money” is so infuriating, I’m glad at least some people are able to articulate the problem.

      Thank you.

    2. ElizabethJane*

      While this is a fair point it’s not necessarily the fault of the husband.

      I feel like a lot of the anger here is misplaced. The man in question found a way to make sure his wife can take the time she presumably wants to take and needs to take. The real issue with the “opting out” is US society, not that one man found a way to make up for his wife’s loss of income.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        The lack of support/safety net in the US sucks and needs to change, and also people who cheat and double-dip are being unethical. It’s eminently possible to hold both these thoughts in one’s mind at the same time. The anger is not misplaced, there’s just more of it to go around.

    3. Riot Grrrl*

      This birthing parent does not want to “opt out”. Indeed she is described as “desperately” wanting to opt in to full-time care for much longer than “several weeks” and much longer than her job would otherwise permit. This is something she wants. They found a way to make that happen for their family.

      1. Burger Bob*

        I don’t think Mom of Boys is talking about the wife of the coworker opting out. She’s talking about a birthing parent who works for the same company as the man in this story not being able to use the policy in the same way he is intending to use it.

        1. J*

          Thank you for pointing this out. People refuse to see this as an equity issue in the dad’s workplace and keep focusing on the parity in his marriage.

    1. Paul Pearson*

      I think you’re applying individual blame to a systemic failure. Other nations happily have reasonable and sensible parental leave. This man working a loop hole to make the broken system somewhat work for him isn’t why the US can’t manage basic decency to new parents

  42. Riot Grrrl*

    I think a lot of people are glossing over this line in the LW’s letter:

    he doesn’t want to care for the baby full-time and his wife desperately does

    This seems to be an arrangement that they have both agreed to that seems to work for their particular relationship and how they choose to organize their family. It seems to me that part of that discussion would have to include how to allow the wife to have maximum time with the baby (which she “desperately” wants) and not have their income drop severely. They found a way to do that.

    I see that it absolutely violates the spirit of the current leave policy, but I in fact would advocate for expanding the policy to allow paid leave time for parents to reorganize their lives around a new baby in whatever way those parents see fit. And yes, that could include allowing one parent to take a second job to help support the baby. (Obviously, there would have to be some sort of clause to not work for competitors, etc.)

    Shouldn’t we be arguing for more options to support families, not shutting down options for people?

    1. pieces_of_flair*

      This policy would be inequitable because parental leave is not meant to be a sabbatical. Birthing parents and primary caregivers, the majority of whom are women, NEED that time to recover and care for a newborn. They don’t have the option of working a second job instead. So non-birthing parents and non-primary caregivers, the majority of whom are men, are effectively the only ones whose careers would benefit from this type of policy.

      However, if you want to argue that companies should grant sabbaticals to everyone, in addition to parental leave for those who need to give birth/care for a newborn, I would heartily endorse that idea! Just don’t call it parental leave unless it is for, you know, parenting.

  43. Claire Fraser*

    Um….for all the reasons already listed you might want to rethink the name calling. He should not be telling anyone what he is doing but “some big jerk ass man”? Really?

      1. Don*

        We can always console ourselves with our easier social obligations, higher career limitations, and getting paid almost 40% more for doing the same amount of work. Less if we consider all the ancillary nonsense women in the workplace get roped into doing.

        tl;dr: Don’t whine, it’s not manly.

        1. Jones*

          That 40% will is a lie and you know it. But hey when you’re busy perpetuating toxic masculinity then accuracy falls by the wayside so it’s understandable.

        2. L-squared*

          Its not whining to point out that the poster is making all kinds of assumptions about this guy based on a second hand story.

        3. STG*

          “tl;dr: Don’t whine, it’s not manly.”

          I see what your point is but maybe don’t feed into ANOTHER gender stereotype.

  44. LCinCO*

    Everywhere that I’ve worked has had policies about notifying your manager/HR that you are taking on secondary employment, so I would assume HR was aware.

    I imagine that under some FMLA policies, you could take leave to care for a sick parent/child/spouse and then just work a second job to pay for professional care. Interesting.

  45. ExpectingProf*

    A couple of years ago a study came out about academia and the policy of “pausing the tenure clock” for parental or other care-taking leave. The idea behind it was that people who end up not being able to do research for a semester because of something like having a baby wouldn’t have to cram everything into a shorter period, but could go up for tenure and promotion a semester later. Very well-intentioned, with the goal of helping make the tenure process more equal for women specifically, by reducing the work cost of caretaking.

    Turns out from this study, though, that what it actually does is exacerbate the gender gaps at tenure. Because when some take that time, they usually use it to actually do caretaking rather than work. When men take that time, many of them use it to continue their research and publishing, so they essentially get an extra semester to build up their work.

    I feel like this is somewhat similar, which is probably why I’m finding it really irritating too. He’s taking a benefit that’s intended to help offset the costs of caretaking and using it to get himself ahead professionally.

      1. Chestnut Mare*

        Which they are choosing to do. There’s no reason their partner couldn’t take on the caretaking and allow women to advance professionally during their leave semester.

        1. ExpectingProf*

          This is true, but ignores the fact that in our society women are disproportionally the ones who do caregiving (also that the birth parent, usually female, will inevitably need at least some leave). Many of these leave policies are intended to help level that playing field–to offset those costs, because they recognize that caregiving is also of societal importance, and that when it affects careers negatively it perpetuates sexism and gender inequities in the workplace. The policies obviously don’t work all the time, but that’s the intent.

          The choices the women make aren’t made in a vacuum.

        2. Gamer Girl*

          False. Do you have any idea what birthing and feeding a child is like? There’s no way a healing mother–especially a twin birth, c-section, 3rd or 4th degree tear, etc–can just “get back to work” after birth. This is medical leave, pure and simple, for medical reasons.

          Not to mention intense sleep deprivation, PPD, PP Psychosis, PP memory loss, and any of the other serious mental health conditions that can set in post-birth.

    1. Mom of Boys*

      Yes!! This. I was trying to articulate something similar above. He has the ability to “opt out” of birth recovery and/or child care responsibilities (even if the wife gave her blessing for it) and can therefore continue to work and advance beyond his wife, who will now be a further 6 months behind professionally. I think in the short-term, they might bank some extra income during this time, but at what expense when she is further disadvantaged the longer she’s out of the workforce? Again, that was their family decision, but it does leave a bad taste in my mouth.

      1. PotsPansTeapots*

        Yeah, this it what bothers me, especially because the new policy at OP’s workplace seems like it was intended to be gender-blind. A male employee using it in a way that will negatively financially impact his female partner if she goes back into the workforce seems unfair.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          They could take on most of the household duties and a lot of the childcare (other than nursing) to truly give their partner time to recover from the birth.

          1. Chestnut Mare*

            They could also take on the household duties and childcare to offer their partners the opportunity to advance their careers.

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        his wife, who will now be a further 6 months behind professionally

        I keep seeing this and understand where it’s coming from as a super Type A career driven woman myself, but did anyone consider that the wife doesn’t care about professional advancement? There are some people, women included, who don’t care to run up the corporate ladder and are happy to find a role they like at a company that’s not completely dysfunctional and just…sit there.

    2. Pippa K*

      Thank you for bringing up this study. I remember it, and it really tracks with my own observations in academia. We got care-related leave policies to help ameliorate some burdens disproportionately carried by women, and then we gender-neutralised the policies without gender-neutralising the social patterns and cultural expectations. So the net effect seems to be that women caregivers are still at a relative disadvantage.

      In the LW’s situation, I totally get why this seems unsavoury, even if it’s technically allowed.

  46. Jack Tar*

    Genuinely curious how his ensuring that their household stays a two income home while his wife uses “unpaid leave” isn’t taking care of their baby? Esp., given that it’s something they both agreed upon and his employer seems to allow for.

    I can understand the reader’s anger but she seem to be directing it in the wrong direction. If anything, the US culture around parental leave is broken, not a family that is trying to give Mom additional time with the newborn while maintaining a two-income household. I’m not sure how running to HR will help the reader, her fellow employee, or the newborn.

    1. R*

      Because providing financially for a child and bonding with a child (it is specifically called bonding leave) are not the same thing. This is clearly not the intent of their parental leave policy, and for you to say ‘the company allows for it’ is remarkably disingenuous.

      Dad needs time with the newborn too- that’s what parental leave policies are for. To even the playing field for both men and women at work and at home.

      1. Jack Tar*

        1. What is your evidence that I am being “remarkably disingenuous” in believing it’s permitted under the company’s policy? The employee was clearly not trying to keep it a secret and the reader didn’t indicated that it was a clear violation, hence my conjecture that it was “seem[ingly]” allowed. I never said his company would like it, only that it didn’t appear to be forbidden under his understanding of the company policy, which I assumed he had carefully read before deciding on this particular course of action. Only a very reckless person would risk termination while their spouse was on unpaid leave.

        2. I agree with you that fathers need time with children, but we should not assume that he won’t be spending time bonding with his newborn just because he has a temporary, second job? Maybe he’s a contractor that can work remotely and take breaks while the baby is awake? Just because he’s less keen on spending time with his child than his wife doesn’t mean he’s not spending an appropriate amount of time bonding with the baby. Maybe he’s less keen to spend all of the time away from a job because they need to be a two income family…

        3. Again, I’m really not sure how running to HR will help the reader, her fellow employee, or the newborn.

      2. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

        That’s a lot to ask of a parental leave policy and honestly it’s just guesswork trying to divine what the policy is intended to do.

        Parents have a hard enough time and I don’t think we should be valuing the intent of a company policy, of all things, over parents finding ways to support their kids that work for them.

        I think a lot of us are making judgments here based on information you don’t have and prioritizing ideological goals over the practical realities of people’s lives.

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Spoken as a woman who has birthed two children, went back at 8 weeks both times (and counted myself extremely lucky to be paid the whole time through a combo of sick leave, parental leave, and vacation), and whose teacher husband received exactly one single day of paid leave:

        I get where you are coming from, but I think we can quickly get into sticky territory by policing what “bonding” looks like and what exact activities are authorized to occur during bonding parental leave. My neighbor’s husband works at the same company as me and took parental leave (specifically described as “bonding with the child”) when their 3rd child was born — she cared for the newborn and two toddlers while he unpacked the house they’d just moved into. Should he have taken vacation for that instead of parental leave (but it wasn’t vacation unpacking a house)? Another friend’s husband finished renovations on their house during his parental leave while she took care of the newborn; should that be vacation? My SIL’s husband took care of their older 2 kids during his parental leave while she took care of the newborn; what about him? What about my coworker who took parental leave where he mainly cared for his *wife* and not the newborn, due to a series of events which are too complicated to get into in a comment?

        1. R*

          Every example you have given does not involve taking on an outside-of-the-home additional job. I don’t think it’s policing what bonding leave looks like to say that taking an extra job and providing financially is absolutely not the same thing as bonding with your child.

          To quote Binky from below, the crux of the issue is this: “These sorts of equitable leave policies are intended to break down gendered roles in childcare and insure that mothers are not penalized for taking time off to care for their kids.”

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            But we don’t know that OP’s coworker is taking on an outside-the-home job, just that it’s a contract job.

            I think it’s valid for a company to make a policy against taking another paying job while on paid leave from the company — perhaps not wise, but valid — but that isn’t the case as far as we know here.

  47. BBB*

    I mean… I get feeling a little salty that this benefit went into place after you had a child so he’s using a benefit you weren’t offered and you think he’s using it “wrong”. but I’m firmly in ‘mind ya business’ category here. it’s not exactly a leap to assume they need both incomes to maintain their lifestyle/afford a baby so his wife either has to go back to work earlier or he has to supplement their income while she’s taking unpaid leave. so while some may not like his use of the policy, at the end of the day it’s allowing a parent (in this instance his wife) more time off to recover, adjust and spend time with the new baby. isn’t that the actual spirit of the policy?
    he probably shouldn’t be advertising what he’s doing but personally I don’t see a real problem here and you should let it go and absolutely not take it to hr.
    zero hate for parents doing what they gotta do to survive and carve out time with their new baby in this dystopia we call corporate America. the real problem here is the lack of parental leave at his wife’s company which is forcing them to make this choice.

  48. KEB*

    I’m in HR, and while this dude abusing the policy needs to shut his mouth to everyone about abusing the policy, I’d personally advise (meaning, as someone not in their HR department) the writer to not tattle unless they’re in a position where they’re required to, like a management position. (If I was in their HR department, unfortunately yes I’d have to investigate this depending on how the policy is written and other internal policies.)

    The guy abusing it may get caught on his own. If the company is reasonable and they wrote policy in a certain way, they will take disciplinary action on the dude, including potentially firing him. Lots of big companies require sign off on second jobs anyway. It is really dumb of him to do this and then brag to his coworkers. He is playing with fire and may be too dense to realize it. I’d love an update in a year to hear what ends up happening.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ditto from me. When a person is blabbing around, someone, somewhere WILL report it.
      You don’t have to, OP, if you decide you really don’t want to report it. You can just grab your popcorn bowl and wait.

      Unfortunately, we live in times where people are forced to do things they may not otherwise do. I’d point to newspaper headlines, but I don’t want to derail. Just do a quick news search and watch the types of decisions people are making.

      For myself, I have decided that if I am pushed too hard for too long, maybe I would not be the wonderful person I would like to be. I hope I would make good choices, but dang. The image of my neighbor stealing food to feed her baby. If I had no other way to help, would I steal food also to help her with her child? I don’t know. I can’t tell from my current ivory tower. I’d hope I would try to think of legal means of helping her rather than cutting directly to desperate measures.

      I am not saying he’s right. But I can’t be sure he’s wrong. I do know that in the past when things have left me unsettled, I have said things such as “Please don’t talk about that around me.” Or it could be something else I say, however, my compromise has been to say it to the person’s face as opposed to reporting it. YMMV. There are many reasons why this would not be an option.

      I think that in the future we will collectively wise up and most places will write sharper and clearer rules for how to use leave to welcome a new child. So this one may settle in time. This guy is helping us to get there sooner- if only he would keep his mouth shut.

  49. Binky*

    I have a major issue with what he’s planning to do. These sorts of equitable leave policies are intended to break down gendered roles in childcare and insure that mothers are not penalized for taking time off to care for their kids.

    But he’s turning those equitable goals on their head. Instead of taking care of his child, he’s maintaining a “traditional” parental split with his wife. Instead of removing himself from the working world (and thus forgoing career/skill growth), he’s going to keep working in his field.

    Imagine that this is permitted in a widespread manner. All those goals of preventing discrimination against women will be defeated. This will just be another vehicle by which working mothers (and anyone who could be perceived as having the potentiality to become a mother) are shafted as men make more money.

    1. Jones*

      Working mother’s are not getting shafted by having more choices. This is what they chose. It’s working as intended, the birthing parent choose to use the additional time and income to remain home.

      1. Binky*

        Everyone is comparing this guy to his wife, the equity issues the company should care about is the equity between this employee and his female colleagues who will be taking this leave as intended.

        If all the fathers at this company use leave to build up professional skills and savings, and mothers use the leave to provide childcare, forgoing profession development and losing out on the $, inequity will follow.

        1. J*

          100%. This is absolutely a workplace equity issue. I don’t care about the decisions made in this marriage but I am concerned those recovering from pregnancy will lose workplace equity. I saw it in my own industry, where fathers on paternity leave would publish will out on leave and would get higher evaluations than parents on maternity leave who didn’t do anything to further their career out on leave.

    2. Moira Rose*

      You’re not wrong — on the macro level you’re 100% right — but we can’t enact this sort of thing on the micro level of “what one person ends up doing during their parental leave.”

      If we want to change how gendered caregiving for newborns is, we have to make paid parental leave 1) available to all; 2) split between partners (if baby has >1 parent); and 3) largely nonoverlapping. (Exception to #3 would be the first month or two when the birthing parent is just trying to heal.) If the government mandated 52 weeks of paid parental leave and mandated that the non-birthing partner had to take 10 weeks of it or it would be lost, and that that time couldn’t overlap with the birthing partner’s paid leave, we might actually see some change in this gendered hellscape.

      But we can’t fix the macro problem of patriarchy by running to HR about this guy whose wife appears to get zero paid parental leave. Leave this guy alone, or tell him to shut his yap about his “brilliant” plan.

      Just so no one thinks I’m coming at this from a weird angle, I had two high-risk pregnancies and births with no paid parental leave and my husband and I both took the full 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA to care for our babies. That was precious time that set the stage for both our relationships with them as they grew up. I hate that this guy is opting out. But we can’t fix patriarchy by banning him from this individual solution to a systemic problem.

      1. Binky*

        But you can fix the fall-out at work by limiting leave to parents who will be the primary care-taker of their kid. That isn’t a huge limit, it’s consistent with medical leave policies, and all it does is codify the intent of the policy.

        As a country the US should do much more to support families. But gender-blind parenting leave on a company level is intended to support employees both from a life and equity perspective. This employer should be concerned about equity between this man and his female colleagues, equity that his misuse of time off would negatively impact.

        Also, just to clarify, his wife does have paid leave (his plan is to use his leave when his wife’s paid leave is up), we just don’t know how much.

    3. Dr snax*

      Exactly. I’m a woman about a month out from giving birth, and this dude enrages me. Providing paternity leave isn’t just important to benefit individual families, but to help diminish the disadvantages and discrimination that women of childbearing age face in the workplace. This guy is totally undercutting that.

  50. Fiore*

    The only thing this man did wrong was tell coworkers about it. I can’t fault any parent who finds some wiggle room in the crappy system they operate in. Let this parent use their 6 months however they please.

      1. Antilles*

        In fact, the phrase is that she “desperately wants” the opportunity to spend more time with the baby. And the guy is giving up his own paid vacation to give his wife that opportunity.
        Kind of seems like something his wife would be appreciative of rather than “future divorce” material.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          For all we know, the husband and wife think he’s making a sacrifice for her benefit.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      Yeah, this doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t really accord with a wife described as “desperately” wanting to remain at home with the baby. For all we know, he may have wanted some of that time too, but relented in the face of his wife’s much stronger desire.

    2. A More Brilliant Orange*

      Staying home to play house-husband while his wife goes back to work is the divorce scenario.

  51. Dennis Feinstein*

    Actually, in this whole letter, what really stuck out to me was that the OP described 18 weeks of maternity leave as “generous”.

    1. Bucky Barnes*

      It is in this country (generally). My own company is just now giving 2 months of paid leave.

    2. Anallamadingdong*

      I was given 6 weeks, 1 week before and 5 weeks after my c section, and then later I was written up for unexcused absences for the week before birth because the corporate office deemed it medically unnecessary, retroactively overruling my doctors orders for bed rest. And then used that write up to reduce my annual cost of living raise.

      1. Anallamadingdong*

        If my husband could have found a loophole like this guy did so I could have stayed home longer, he would have and I would have been over the moon happy about it and we both would have felt zero guilt.

  52. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’ve long respected countries that provide a pool of leave to parents and let them decide who gets how much of it. Maybe both parents take 6 months, maybe the mother takes 12 months and the father takes none. Whatever works best *for them.* It seems like this is what the OP’s coworker is trying to do – utilize an employment benefit in a way that works best for his family.

    I don’t have the energy to get mad at American parents these days; we are struggling to make do with little to no safety net and most of us are doing the best we can.

    1. Moira Rose*

      It’s really provably better from a policy standpoint to set a minimum for the non-birthing parent to take, otherwise parental leave just ends up further punishing women in the workplace.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        Or the policy just needs to be clear that it is only to be used for birth and caregiving. Otherwise it further discourages men from being primary caregivers.

  53. Lilo*

    I’d mentally frame this as “he’s transferring his leave to his wife” and let it go. If he doesn’t do this, she gets forced back to work earlier, and that sucks. It’s the only card he has to make up for his wife’s job having a poor leave policy.

    1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      Honestly, I really like this approach. Concise, to the point, and a good framework for the LW to consider moving forward. And if it helps, they can acknowledge that it’s probably poor judgement for their coworker to be so vocal about their plans without considering their audience. It may be worth sharing that with the man, IF the LW can do so in a collaborative, non-judgemental tone.

      Yes, it’s frustrating that LW didn’t get to benefit from a longer paid leave period. But how awful that their coworker’s wife has an even less progressive policy. At least the new family has found a way to accommodate their financial needs, the baby’s needs, and the mother’s needs/wishes.

      1. catsoverpeople*

        I actually think the coworker’s wife has a decent employer. We don’t know how long her paid maternity leave was, but her unpaid leave is apparently going to be six months since that’s how long coworker’s paternity leave is going to allow him time for this contract work in the first place. Many businesses wouldn’t be able to spare her for the maternity leave PLUS the unpaid leave right after that, not for that long.

  54. Liz*

    This has nothing to do with the OP. I would be extremely pissed if a coworker policed my leave in this way and tattled to HR when there is no illegality taking place.

  55. Sapientia*

    Wow. No, just no. This is flat out wrong. This is a policy for people who actually have to care for children, not for people who want to work a second job. It doesn’t matter if the extra money goes toward his wife who is taking care of his child, a nanny who is taking care of his child or a charity for kicked puppies.

    If he wants to be working and his wife wants to stay home, the correct way is to push for benefits at his wife’s employer or even better for legislation for parental leave. Otherwise it’s just the same patriarchal stuff as always: Women (especially mothers) who put their career, their financial independence and their retirement pension in jeopardy.

    Not to mention there are actual legal ramifications. Higher income (even by two jobs) has to be taxed differently, there might be other insurance stuff and of course most employers have policies about notifying them of a second job, especially for a competitor.

    1. ElizabethJane*

      That’s all well and good at a systemic level but for the individual the “correct way” isn’t practical. Because what you’re saying is that he and his wife should make this push with her employer, which we all know won’t go through in any sort of timely way, and then ignore the option available to them in the form of him taking leave.

    2. A More Brilliant Orange*

      “…the correct way is to push for benefits at his wife’s employer or even better for legislation for parental leave.”

      And 20 or 30 years from now maybe they’ll get that trough.

      In the meantime, they have to live in the world as it is now.

      Would you prefer his wife go back to work and he stay at home for six months? That’s what you are advocating.

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        I can’t speak for Sapentia, but I for one absolutely think that yes– he wants to be a parent? He should stay home and take care of the kid, and maybe in the process gain some obviously much-needed perspective on why that labor is undervalued, and maybe even become an ally in the fight for better parental support policies for everyone instead of just coasting along enjoying the rewards of others’ hard-won gains.

        1. Sapientia*

          I agree with Mac.

          I get that it’s horrible for parents to have to consider how they can keep everyone warm and fed while taking care of a baby. But I also think that there will be no big enough push for a real solution (better legislation for parental leave, more help for families) unless the consequences of the current policy are actually seen. Not to mention it perpetuates the whole system of women having lower pay, women staying at home because their husband earns more, women facing old age poverty or financial dependance.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        20 or 30 years, lol. At the rate we’re going, I’d put money on FMLA being repealed before parental leave is extended. Employers are actually going backwards too; fewer companies are offering paid parental leave now compared to 2020.

    3. foolish fox*

      For all we know, his wife has been trying to fight for better leave for years and they both spend all their free time lobbying for legislation. The fact is that it is not available to this family right now.

  56. Chirpy*

    Gah. Pretty sure most of my friends who’ve given birth took longer than a single week just to heal from the effects of giving birth. And they would all be healthy young people during the last decade or so. One took six months to be able to walk unaided afterwards due to complications. What a horrible and uncaring policy.

  57. Critical Rolls*

    This punches a lot of infuriating buttons.
    1. Dude blithely running his mouth about breaking the rules.
    2. Dude using a hard-fought benefit women *need* to make more money.
    3. Dude not wanting to care for his child full time. Openly.
    4. Wife with an inferior leave policy.
    5. Dude unlikely to experience any cost to his career for time off; wife very likely to experience cost.
    6. OP gave birth under an inferior leave policy.
    7. Fear that abuses like this will result in loss of benefits for people who need them and want to use them as intended.
    There are probably more. But honestly, the main problem here is this freakin’ dude and his casual entitlement. If he’d kept his mouth shut, there would be no issue for OP. If he’d approached it as, “My wife feels so strongly about this I wanted to find a way to make it work for her” we would not be reacting this way. But wow that is not how it went down. Still, unless the second job is in violation of policy, I think the way to go is for OP to see if she can advocate for some additional leave for herself, and let this go.

  58. Observer*

    His point is that our company – a Fortune 500 company with tens of thousands of employees and plenty of money – is not paying a penny more than they would otherwise;

    This is another issue that I have with this guy. I doesn’t matter how “rich”this company is. You still don’t get to take something that’s not yours for the taking. The company has the right to decide what it’s giving leave for, as long as it’s not discriminatory. If they want to give it only for childcare / bonding, that’s their prerogative, and he doesn’t get to decide that he’s taking it for other purposed.

    It really does speak to his integrity.

  59. MackM*

    I must respectfully disagree with the last paragraph. Judging a person based on what we believe their past actions were because of their gender is inappropriate, even in this situation. We do not know the man’s opinions or actions towards parental leave, breast-feeding support, or the wage gap. This should not be part of our reasoning here.

  60. Roobarb*

    I think my advice to OP is to not bring it up to HR unless it affects them/their work directly (though this man deserves it) but if the they bring it up again, OP be ready to tell them:
    I don’t want to hear about it because it is upsetting to hear someone exploiting this policy when women have fought so hard for good parental leave, and even I only received 18 weeks. Please don’t bring it up with me again.

  61. unsure*

    I am torn. On the one hand, he is helping his wife be able to get a longer leave when she seemingly didn’t have a great one which I fully support, on the other hand he should probably keep it to himself.

  62. Midwest is Best*

    Uf, I have very strong feelings about this but I am definitely biased based on my own experience. At the time I was pregnant, I worked for a large university. I was part time when I first got pregnant but full time by the time the kiddos were born. I had a high risk twin pregnancy and they were born prematurely. At the time, my employer had no paid leave policy and because I had only been full time for about 5 months when my kids were born, I didn’t technically qualify for STD. They let me take FMLA (and were generally very flexible with my high risk pregnancy and delayed return to work when one baby was still in the NICU), but it was fully unpaid. Because of that, my husband went back to work 2 days after I gave birth. It was all around a pretty shitty situation. BUT THEN. My first day back after my leave, literally THE day, HR sent out a big email that we now have a paid parental leave policy and anyone who gave birth (or had a partner give birth) after the start of our fiscal year would qualify for fully paid parental leave. Had my kids been born on their due date, I would have qualified but because they were born 10 weeks early, I got nothing. I sat at my desk and just bawled. It still makes me feel bitter to this day and that was 4 years ago now. Like, I am so happy that the policy now exists and I have had many coworkers and friends be able to take advantage of the policy and it’s great. But it still stings that the timing for my family was just so frustratingly bad on top of an already stressful and painful maternity leave spent in the NICU instead of bonding with my kiddos at home.

    So situations like this piss me off to no end because I got literally nothing but this guy who has the chance to spend SIX MONTHS (!!) with his newborn is taking advantage of the situation. I’d be inclined to talk to HR just to make them aware and would honestly hope they would step in and tell him off. If other people (especially other women) know about this, I bet they feel the same as OP – being a working mom is hard enough but to then see a new dad abusing the system would feel like a gut punch. Ugh. Now I’m grumpy, haha.

    1. A More Brilliant Orange*

      “…this guy who has the chance to spend SIX MONTHS (!!) with his newborn is taking advantage of the situation.”

      He’s taking advantage of the situation to ensure his WIFE can spend more time with the newborn.

      You’d be OK with sending his wife back to work (and having less bonding time with the baby)?

      He’s literally sacrificing his time with the child so his wife can spend more time with the baby.

      1. Gimme a break*

        He’s not sacrificing anything. He wants to advance his career and make more $$$, that’s all this is about. His wife will have no such opportunities.

        Really, the number of people with hankies out for this poor, poor man just putting bread on the table (*sob!*) is so ridiculous. He’s getting all the advantage out of this situation and setting women back in the process. Maybe not his wife specifically, but he IS abusing a policy intended to level the playing field for women so he can get a leg up. AND he’s bragging about it. He sucks.

        1. Midwest is Best*

          I don’t want to assume his intentions in terms of advancing his career but everything else you said is spot on. A man will never truly understand the challenges and sacrifices working moms make every second of every day (sorry, I know there are good dudes out there, but even the good ones don’t fully understand).

        2. dubitably*

          He is harming his wife’s career specifically. He only has the opportunity to do consulting work because she’s going to take care of the baby for him during his parental leave.

          She might be totally on board with this, but it is still enhancing his career at the direct cost of hers.

      2. Midwest is Best*

        Yeah, having experienced the sacrifice of not getting to spend ANY time with my kiddos at home before going back to work, it’s not worth it. 1000% not worth it. I get that he’s trying to do a good thing for his wife but that’s not the goal or the intent of the parental leave policy. It sucks that his wife didn’t/doesn’t work for a company that has a better parental leave policy. Truly it does. But that doesn’t mean he can abuse the system at his employer to try to make things better for her. She doesn’t work there, that’s not fair. AND ALSO if he wants to be a truly equal partner to his wife (which they both should want), he needs to spend time learning how to care for and parent his new child. I read too many stories of moms who end up resentful and pissed off at their husbands because they (the moms) can’t even poop in peace for 5 minutes because their useless spouses say they “don’t know how” or “can’t” do simple parenting tasks. So the best thing this guy could do as a new dad is care for his child and support his partner in pushing for a better/more flexible arrangement at her own job/switching to a job better suited to her current wants and needs.

        1. Midwest is Best*

          Edit to add: him trying to benefit his wife by mis-using his paid parental leave is negatively impacting his colleagues. I don’t care about this Fortune 500 company or whatever, but I do care about all the individual workers and managers who are taking on more/hiring a temp worker, training new people, etc. etc. so that he can go off and use his parental leave improperly. Doesn’t sit right and his colleagues (including OP) are rightfully upset about that.

          1. catsoverpeople*

            Yep, she even got unpaid leave for six months beyond whatever length of time her paid maternity leave was. Her employer might not be a Fortune 500 company who can afford to hire someone to cover her job for that long; wonder what her coworkers would think about this scenario? Maybe they’d be less willing to help cover her job duties over that unpaid leave time if they knew her husband could be caring for the baby and she could be back at work.

  63. A More Brilliant Orange*

    I would like to applaud the guy for his inventiveness. It may not meet the spirit of the law, but it (imho) meets the letter of the law.

    Why would this be OK:
    • Wife stays home with baby while husband works
    • Wife returns to work
    • Husband takes leave & stays home with baby

    But this not be OK:
    • Wife stays home with baby while husband works
    • When wife’s maternity leave ends she quits working
    • Husband takes leave and gets 2nd job (enabling wife to continue to stay home with baby)

    In either scenario, the husband’s company is out the exact, same amount of money. The company is not damaged in any way any more by the second scenario than the first.

    1. Temperance*

      Because it’s a fraudulent use of the benefit. It’s not there to subsidize his family, it’s there for him to stay home and bond with his child. Not for his wife.

      Someone else said this below, but it’s like taking bereavement leave to go on a cruise. It’s dishonest.

      1. Don*

        So long as someone actually died I’d be fine with that too. Why involve the company in deciding the right and wrong way to grieve?

      2. A More Brilliant Orange*

        “Because it’s a fraudulent use of the benefit.”

        Is it? The purpose of the benefit is to care for the child. He’s caring for the child financially.

        Is there language in the company policy saying he must spend 10 hours a day holding the child; must feed the child at least 3 times a day; must change at least 4 diapers a day? What exactly does it say?

        I suspect is says nothing more than “the purpose of the leave is to allow a parent to care for a child”. It may not even say that. It may just say “anyone that has had a child is allowed to take a 6 month leave within 1 year of its birth”.

        His actions are caring for the child. It may not be how you would do it, but it’s how he and his wife are defining it.

        Bonding and anything else is something you are reading into the policy. It’s not going to be in there. You might think that’s what it’s for, but it’s not in the policy.

        BTW, if going on a cruise is how someone gets over the death of a loved one, so what? When I had a relative die in my youth, I went hiking. Spent a couple of days backpacking through the woods. It’s how I dealt with it. What business is it of anyone’s how someone deals with grief.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          OP clearly states:

          My company recently expanded its parental leave policy so that anyone, regardless of gender, gets the same, generous leave of six months fully paid. It’s called “bonding leave” so the intent is pretty clear.

          (emphasis added)

          So you’re mistaken in claiming that the point of the leave is to care for the child and that “Bonding and anything else is something you are reading into the policy.”

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            So, if he had a child that couldn’t be bonded with for some reason (slipped into a coma, let’s say) you’d be fine with saying he can’t use the benefit?

            Sorry, I don’t want a company making decisions like that, or about what the ‘right’ way of meeting family responsibilities is. Probably has something to do with them being inherently sociopathic institutions, and my doubts that they’d be able to make good decisions on the matter… you know, backed up by the historical data of them not doing so.

            1. dubitably*

              He could still emotionally be there and support a child in a coma. Even if the child was stillborn, he could support his partner and help them recover. That would all fall under the intended use of parental leave.

              This definitely falls under things companies can place restrictions on. I can’t take my sick leave to work another job, so why should non-birthing parents be allowed to take parental leave to work another job?

        2. Gimme a break*

          It’s not called “work another job while you still get a paycheck here” leave. It’s PARENTAL leave. You’re supposed to spend it parenting, which is what birth-giving parents do with it because they have no other choice. Women/birth-giving parents aren’t spending it working a second job or writing papers or otherwise advancing their careers, which sets them back compared to men, who don’t have to go through the physical recovery.

          If all dudes are gonna do with “parental” leave is use it to advance their careers, then they shouldn’t have it. It defeats the primary purpose (to do PARENTING work) and the secondary purpose (to reduce the impact on women).

        3. Temperance*

          He could financially care for his child by working his regular job. This is bonding leave. Not “work contract jobs while getting your salary” leave.

        4. Polly*

          I agree. Without the actual policy language, we’re all just assuming whether the OP’s coworker’s actions fit within it or not. Just because the OP is “appalled” (and the fact that she can’t put a finger on why hints that the policy doesn’t outright prohibit this) doesn’t mean the coworker is engaging in fraud, a terrible parent, a sexist, or any of the other accusations being hurled his way.

      3. Anallamadingdong*

        It is not like going on bereavement leave and then going on a cruise! That doesnt even make any sense saying its the same! Its like going on bereavement leave and then staying in bed instead of going to the funeral. Or working in the family business so that another family member can go to the funeral. Or sitting with a family member who cannot bare to go to the funeral.
        Its the same purpose. Same with this paternity leave. The end result is the familys financial stability and the baby and mother getting time together.

    2. dubitably*

      In one scenario, the impact on men and women’s careers is the same.

      In the other, the man’s career is advanced beyond what it would have been by working the job, specifically by disadvantaging the woman’s career.

      Sure, the individuals’ genders might be different in some situations, but this would still predominantly harm women and advantage men.

    3. Burger Bob*

      Because in the first scenario, he is taking the paid leave to perform parental duties (which is what the leave is for), but in the second scenario, he is taking the paid leave to work a second job (which is NOT what the leave is for). I don’t know of any employer who wants to pay their employee for six months to go work a whole other separate job. It’s pretty disingenuous to act like those are the same thing when it’s very obviously NOT the spirit of the leave policy.

  64. Alex (they/them)*

    how is this any different from using sick leave to work a second job. this isn’t what the leave is meant for.

  65. Barb*


    I don’t get all the anger at these parents for working out a way to do what is best for their family.

    Imagine if this company had a 12 month paid leave for the mother, and she used the second 6 months to work a second job while the father stayed home for those 6 months with no income.
    Would there be the same outrage? I don’t think so.

    From what is presented here, both parents are getting to do what they want, the baby is going to be cared for by a parent, the father’s employer is not losing any money, and the family’s finances are helped. What is wrong with any of that?

    Parental leave is supposed to help parents work out how to integrate a new person into their lives. This family is doing just that. I don’t see any gaming of the system or cheating here.

    And FWIW, I am a mother who took 3 mos off, about 1/2 paid, for each of my children, following which my husband became the stay at home parent for the rest of their childhood. No regrets from any of us.

    1. Liz*

      A lot of people here do not understand that it’s okay to disagree with how someone else uses their leave time, but that it’s NOT okay to loudly express your disapproval or complain to HR about something that is not illegal and that has nothing to do with you. Parents have absolutely every right to use their leave time to craft the best life and family set-up for their own situation and it doesn’t matter if busybody coworkers approve or disapprove.

    2. Temperance*

      Of course there would be outrage. People get mad at women taking the basic leave to which they’re entitled under FMLA, with or without pay. A woman who had a full year of paid leave who chose to work a second job so her husband could stop working would *absolutely* be used as an example of why women shouldn’t get maternity leave. She would be fired, and if not fired, her reputation would be tanked.

      1. dubitably*

        +1 this isn’t a “swap the genders and it’s ok” situation. Plus if you swap the genders, they likely wouldn’t be able to work the consulting job the whole time because they’d have to give birth, recover, and possibly breastfeed.

    3. Anallamadingdong*

      I had the same thought! How would people feel if it was the mother working a second job?

      1. NLR*

        The woman would be savaged. Women frequently draw anger for taking more than one maternity leave even when they’re only a couple of months each. If a woman took maternity leave and was working another job? Fired and loads of hate going her way.

  66. my 8th name*

    In my opinion, this guy is misusing his leave. I wouldn’t like someone using bereavement leave to go on cruise, so I don’t love this either. The net benefit to his family doesn’t really change my conclusion.

    That said, I’m not sure I believe any action should be taken. I’m torn because I’m generally a rule follower in practice, but I am also team MYOB that vast majority of time.

    1. A More Brilliant Orange*

      If there is no death of a loved one and they are lying about it, then I agree. But if going on a cruise is how they deal with the death of a loved on, so what?

      I once went hiking after the death of a relative. The fact that I enjoyed hiking otherwise doesn’t change the fact that that’s how I dealt with that death in the family.

      1. Temperance*

        Bereavement leave is to handle the logistics related to a family death, like travel for a funeral. Not a vacation.

        1. foolish fox*

          Does that mean that if the funeral is in town on a non-work day and all the other logistics were worked out by the deceased before their death that they don’t get the leave? Because thats not what bereavement leave is for?

          1. dubitably*

            How much bereavement leave are you all getting? I could see cruise-length amounts for close family members where you have a lot of logistics to deal with, but if all you’re doing is attending a funeral, why would you have enough leave to fly to and then go on a cruise?

            Bereavement leave isn’t supposed to be long enough to fit the whole grieving process, it’s supposed to be for logistics and death-related events.

        2. A More Brilliant Orange*

          Not just that.

          It’s also to handle the emotional damage that occurs when a person close to you dies.

          1. Burger Bob*

            This is something of a misconception that has been discussed on this website before. Bereavement leave does often wind up serving the purpose of giving you space to grieve, but that isn’t what it’s FOR. It’s there because there are typically a lot of logistics involved when a close family member dies and you need time off to deal with them. The sadness is not what the leave is for, because it can’t be, because everybody’s length of work-impacting sadness will be completely different. Some people will feel nothing when a close relative dies (estrangement situations, for instance). Others will feel completely broken for a month or more. Bereavement can’t address the recovery from the grief, and it isn’t really meant to.

  67. Lynn*

    I think LW is borrowing trouble here. I would be willing to bet they don’t currently have children and the prospective father doesn’t realize how involved and exhausting having a baby is going to be. I would be really surprised if this arrangement works out the way he is expecting and he doesn’t go through with these plans as intended anyway.

  68. Temperance*

    I know it’s not popular, but I would go to HR and report this. What he’s doing hurts all actual involved parents and all pregnant women in your workplace; he’s showing off that a.) actual parental leave for non-birthing parents isn’t necessary, because you can just take on another job during it, b.) he’s advancing his career on the backs of women, using a benefit that we fight for to line his pockets instead of to care for his child, and c.) he’s bragging about what a genius he is for gaming the system.

    He has 6 months of parental leave. Not 6 months of “take on contract assignments for hella $$$ while my actual employer pays me” leave. It doesn’t matter one bit that his wife wants to stay home; she doesn’t work for OP’s employer, and OP’s employer shouldn’t be subsidizing her leave.

    1. Midwest is Best*

      100% this! His leave also results in more work for his colleagues and/or additional costs to the company above and beyond the cost of his salary during this time. That’s the crux of the issue, to me. If I’m his coworker, covering a portion of his duties while he is out, I’m fine with that, knowing he is spending time caring for his child. I’m NOT fine with covering for him so his WIFE can spend time with their newborn. That’s where I’d go to HR and refuse to cover any of his duties because he is misusing his leave. Or of the company is hiring a temp or a contractor of their own, that is money above and beyond the salary they are paying during that time and I, as a manager, would be (rightfully) coming down on him for that.

      1. Gamer Girl*

        THANK YOU. I’d be hella mad if my dept spent out on temp coverage plus this guy’s salary, covered his workload, and likely took on extra hours, only to find out he was making it rain by taking on a contract job instead of parenting. No way. This is parental leave, not “make extra money on the side” leave.

    2. Burger Bob*

      So glad to see someone with this take. I don’t know if I would go so far as to report it to HR, but it strikes me as pretty obviously wrong what this guy is doing. It doesn’t matter if he has the most noble of intentions. At the end of the day, he is using Parental Leave as Go Work a Second Job Leave. There is no employer who wants to pay you your normal salary for six months to do zero work for them and all the while be working for someone else and collecting a second paycheck. That’s very clearly not what the leave is intended for. What the wife wants to do and what they’ve decided would be good for their family has absolutely no impact on what the leave is for.

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, I can’t get past the fact that he’s essentially turning paternity leave into maternity leave.

      Heck, if everyone is cool with him making money as “parenting”, why don’t they just hire him as his own temporary replacement at his own company? He’s the best qualified, and that’s what the benefit is for, right? I’m sure everyone here endorsing this would be cool if their coworker got double pay for 2.5 years total because he had five kids while working there.

      1. Burger Bob*

        Yes! This exactly! How does the fact that he’s using the money for his family suddenly make it okay that he’s basically hoodwinking the business into paying him to work for someone else (who is also paying him) and leaving his coworkers to cover for him while he makes two paychecks? It doesn’t matter what he’s using the extra money for. He’s still being dishonest and using a leave policy to not take leave.

  69. Miller_Admin*

    I’m not ready to believe that his wife wants to take care of the baby full-time. She needs to sleep. He could do more chores around the house during this period and spend time with the baby. I think this is his way of getting out of taking care of the baby, house or his wife.

    I am wondering if he wasn’t allowed to work elsewhere while out while on baby leave; if he would take it. I have heard and seen it through some of my friends’ marriages that many times the husband will try to find a way out of taking care of the children. They see it as a burden they want to pass on.

    I am wondering about the state of his marriage. If he’s this selfish in having his wife take the full burden of child care; what else he’s stingy with.

    1. Emm*

      This is so unnecessary. We’re supposed to take the LW at their word, and in this instance, that includes accepting that the arrangement between this husband and wife is something preferable and agreed upon for them as a family.

    2. dubitably*

      I think it’s reasonable to raise these questions in a general way (after all, most women married to men do more of the housework and child rearing, and men who have the opportunity for parental leave but have to use it to take care of the child do often turn it down). But it’s not fair to project this onto the person in the letter when we don’t have any information aside from his financial plan and the fact that he’s a man married to a woman.

  70. Person from the Resume*

    It never ceases to amaze me that some people who are trying to take advantage of a loophole or outright break a rule (we don’t know how strictly the policy is written) will blab about it to others.

    It’s clear that this guy is at a minimum violating the spirit of the baby “bonding leave.” Given the size of the company he’s not likely to ruin it for everyone if he’s found out, but he likely to get in trouble himself or lead to a more clearly written rule.

    It seems like that his colleauges are either picking up his slack for the 6 months he’s out or the company hired a temp to do his job (best as a temp can) while the they’re also paying his salary. I have more sympathy for the colleauges than he bottom line of the company, but it’s still very much not cool.

  71. bamcheeks*

    At some pint you’re got to look at people who value money over getting to bond with their baby and think, well, your loss.

    1. bamcheeks*

      (And if HR didn’t consider possibilities like this and draft the policy explicitly to include or exclude them, that’s really on them.)

      1. dubitably*

        This is the real answer. HR needs to be notified, not about this specific guy, but about the way their policy could disadvantage birthing parents and others who use the leave as intended.

    2. Marina*

      Do you feel the same way about women who take less than the full three months of unpaid FMLA leave, that they’re choosing money over getting to bind with their baby?

      1. bamcheeks*

        Probably, some of them? Others I feel deeply sorry for because they didn’t get a “choice” either way. My point was really that’s there’s no point getting angry about the decisions other people make about childcare— you can feel angry, you can feel pity, you can be baffled by other people’s priorities— but fundamentally it’s none of your business and the important thing is that people get to choose.

    3. Lilo*

      This ignores that babies are really, really expensive. He’s helping his wife afford to take leave.

      1. Midwest is Best*

        Right, but it’s not his company’s job to subsidize her leave. It really, truly sucks that her leave policy isn’t better than it is/leaves her wanting more time at home. But that is not the husband’s company’s responsibility to fix and he is taking advantage of his company AND his colleagues by doing what he is planning to do.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Hence the word “choice”— I mean, most people don’t get to choose! He’s either in a situation where he doesn’t have a choice, in which case there’s no point judging him, or he’s someone whose chosen working over bonding with his baby, in which case, I pity him. Either way, there’s not point getting pissed off about whatever trade-off someone else is making.

  72. Frenchie, Too*

    He IS taking care of his family! I might have an issue if both parents were gainfully employed, but that’s not the case. One parent IS staying home with the baby.

    Our real anger should be with US business and politics that are still stingy with parental leave.
    While other countries provide ample leave, and even care packages, we are policing each other to make sure our neighbor is just as screwed as we are.
    Geez. I get it that maybe this guy hasn’t fought for maternity leave. But he is taking care of his baby by working so that mom can stay home with baby.

    Come on, folks. Let’s be better.

    1. Temperance*

      They DO both have jobs. His wife is employed. She just doesn’t get as much paid leave as she desires.

      He’s exploiting something that women have been denied, repeatedly, and using it to build his career and enrich himself further. He’s now essentially two steps ahead of any woman who gives birth at his company, because he has special experience that she can’t do while covering from labor AND he made all that extra cash.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        … enrich himself further. … he made all that extra cash.

        Wait, are you imagining that the money from the second job is going anywhere other than taking care of the baby and the family? Do you think he’s socking it away in a personal fund or something? I mean it’s possible. But that wouldn’t be my base case.

        1. dubitably*

          If they were to separate immediately after he finishes the leave, he would be better off than her even if the money was split evenly or all went to childcare. He would have consulting contacts AND a full-time job and would have advanced his career. So I definitely see how this policy could give him a leg up over his wife and anyone else who used the leave as it was intended.

  73. kiki*

    I wouldn’t report this to HR because I’m just never going to care much about somebody “taking advantage” of a large corporation that is likely exploiting plenty of workers every day. And maybe the guy’s family really, really needs the double income. From what the guy said, it seems like he and his wife agree that it’s the best path forward for them, so it’s not really my business.

    But yeah, this irks me! I think Alison and some other commenters have hit the nail on the head as to why. The issue isn’t really this dude individually (having a double income and allowing his wife to take more maternity leave than she would have been able to probably *is* what’s best for his family), it’s that our whole system for child-rearing is broken.

  74. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

    Maybe I’m coming at this from the wrong mindset, but my understanding of the point of making parental leave non-gendered is that it will help increase gender equity on a **systemic** (not just individual) level. Which is why some countries have policies in place to just-by-default GIVE men parental leave instead of just offering it to them (because they found that most of them were opting out even when it was offered). I see some people commenting to say that this is just a benefit for this one employee at this one company, or that it’s a personal decision between this one couple, and I just think that’s missing the bigger-picture purpose of these policies. If OP’s company cares about equity on a broader scale –and this generous policy makes it seem like maybe they do– then they should also care that it’s currently written in such a way that it can be misused to subvert that equity-promoting intent. I don’t think it’s “tattling” to point that out to whoever writes the rules.

    1. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

      I feel like proposing an evidence-based policy change is a lot more effective than narcing on this one dude. If you narc then the result will be focused on consequences for this one person and any changes to the policy will be explicitly to address this one loophole, not to evaluate if it is serving its purpose effectively.

      This would not be the first and won’t be the last well-intentioned policy that either didn’t do what it was meant to or made something worse. But the bitterness directed at this one dude feels pretty unfounded to me and our energy should be spent on like… mandating all new parents take 1 year of fully paid leave or something.

      This is obviously not a fully thought through policy suggestion so much as an example to demonstrate that if all company policies were more generous, families wouldn’t have to make decisions like this one.

    2. kiki*

      I don’t disagree with you at all, but I feel like parental leave is an issue where both the systemic and the individual are very important. Parental leave needs to be given to both parent as matter of course to ensure company parental leave policies aren’t contributing to gender inequity. But at the same time, this coworker is in the financial situation he’s in– it sounds like his wife doesn’t get much (or any) paid leave and it wouldn’t be the right choice for her to keep working. I don’t know if the solution LW’s coworker landed on is really above-board, but I can see why they think it’s the best path forward.

      The way to address this at a systemic level is to have substantial, paid parental leave mandated for parents at all companies. Until that happens, individuals are going to be forced to look for workarounds to accommodate their specific situations.

    3. hbc*

      I don’t think you get out of indirectly “tattling” on this guy (how many guys have bonding leave coming up that OP could know about?), but I 100% agree that the goal of approaching HR should be about the general “this policy isn’t really ironclad in supporting equity.” If this guy ends up with the second-best option of taking care of his own kid while his wife works, he and his family still be better off than many, many people out there.

    4. !!!*

      Oh what a relief, yes, this is the point. All this twisting facts and logic into pretzels as to why this is A-OK without considering the point of the leave and the broader issue it addresses is mind-boggling.

      It feels like this type of narrow individualistic thinking, which was in full sight over the two jobs scenario (as if that person were somehow sticking it to The Man), is what stands in the way of real progress.

      The policy has an express purpose, and it’s not opaque.

  75. Confused By People*

    Unpopular opinion: I think he is using a loophole to provide the best possible solution for his family. By him working while taking the leave (ethically questionable, but doesn’t sound prohibited) you said his wife is able to take six months of unpaid leave from her job and desperately wants to stay home with the baby. What he’s doing is giving her exactly what her and baby want. They probably can’t afford for her to be a stay at home mom, but this policy gives her crucial additional bonding time with their baby without having to sacrifice the financial security of their family.

    Of course, all of this would be a moot point if the US provided paid parental leave on par with the rest of the world. He wouldn’t have to work the system to do what’s best for his family.

    1. Mewtwo*

      Yeah, I think if it’s a mutual decision to just extend their parental leave time it’s fine. It would suck if she wanted to go back to work and is staying home longer instead, but I hope it’s the former situation.

    2. Lilo*

      I’m a mom who had to save leave and pre-work time for my own meager three months and my attitude is, do what you can within the system to help out your wife. That’s what he is doing.

  76. Mewtwo*

    I don’t actually have any insights into whether this is an HR violation or even ethical…but the truth is this has been a common unintended side effect of paternal leave for some time. While I still think it’s a good thing to exist, it can only do so much to change this deeply entrenched gendered division of labor we have in our society, which means men taking paternal leave tend to treat it as a sabbatical while women continue doing the actual parenting. There are studies on how this affects people in the academic fields. Men use paternal leave to get ahead on post-doc work while women have to actually parent and fall behind.

    1. dubitably*

      This is why I think the problem is with HR and the policy, not this individual guy. If their policy allows some parents to substantially advance their careers while others spend their leave as primary caregivers, it’s only going to exacerbate existing inequity.

  77. Jane M.*

    This is absolutely none of your business. You don’t know what goes on in his family, his arrangement with his stakeholders, or with his wife and baby. This is a perfect opportunity for you to do nothing. Stay out of it – it is not yours to address or judge.

  78. Rachael*

    This is the first time I’ve blatantly disagreed with Allison. This guy is using the company’s generous policy to allow his wife to fully bond with their baby for an extra six months. He doesn’t want to take six months off. But she does! He’s found a way for them to both do what they want and what’s best for their family. Good for him.

    I agree that this probably violates the “spirit” of the company’s policy, but I see it as a loophole that he’s taking advantage of. Not some moral failure on his part. Besides, the end result is the same: Baby gets a fully present parent for an extra six months, without negative financial impact to the family. That should be celebrated!

    1. Anallamadingdong*

      Yes! Exactly this! I would go so far as to say I don’t even feel it violates the spirit of the policy, if the intention is to benefit the baby with parental bonding.

  79. What About It?*

    OP, I think you’re letting you’re feelings about this policy not applying to you when you had your baby cloud your judgment on this. (Which does suck so I get it). You’re thinking in terms of well I didn’t get this so how dare he use this time for anything other than to stay home with his baby. Instead of, wow, he’s being a great dad and using this time to give his wife the wonderful opportunity she wants to stay home with their child. Also, if he’s blatantly telling people at work he’s doing this, what makes you think his boss or HR doesn’t already know?

  80. Polly*

    The assumptions being made about the coworker here (whose story we’re hearing secondhand (third-hand if you count Alison’s edits)) seem to say a lot more about the commenters than the coworker himself.

    1. Annie*

      I don’t really see it this way. This guy was proud to announce his intentions to a near-stranger. He can’t pretend to be surprised when it naturally makes its way to HR. Don’t yell about the shady things you’re doing if you don’t want natural consequences.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had a subordinate who spoke loudly about not paying taxes. I did not want to listen to the crap.

        So I said, “I pay all my taxes that I owe. And so do other people. If you keep announcing loudly that you do not pay taxes someone WILL report you. It won’t be me. I will just tell you I don’t want to hear this kind of talk. And I will warn you that if you keep saying that where everyone will hear I can almost promise, you will get reported by someone who is not me. I have seen cohorts get reported before over the years. It happens predictably.”

        She never talked about her taxes again.

  81. Raul Ibanez*

    What if his wife and he made the decision jointly that he should do this? Maybe they needed two incomes to survive? I wouldn’t jump to conclusions this fast. This strikes me as a MYOB situation.

  82. urguncle*

    Tell him he needs to shut up about it. Use your leave however you would like, but you don’t need to advertise that you’re using a loophole.

  83. Sandy S*

    As a small business owner who just started our first paternal leave policy. The full time pay money is 100% funded by us, there is NO government support. I would be angry–as would our team–if the person took time simply to get two paychecks. It’s causing strain on us to cover him, but we think family bonding is essential!

    1. Sandy S*

      Sorry–hit send early above. I would be angry as our team is covering for family bonding time. Since we are small, this is not an easy task, but we feel strongly in supporting our new parents as well as trying to support the team working his day to day job while he is out. As a company of 99% women, many of us moms, this would damage his reputation and integrity forever. Is it really worth it?

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          “we feel strongly in supporting our new parents as well as trying to support the team working his day to day job while he is out.”

          F500 companies can absolutely feel the same about supporting families and F500 coworkers, some of whom are surely women, can absolutely feel the same about some dude gaming the system.

        2. Midwest is Best*

          I tend to agree though – 6 months is a long time to be out and someone or multiple people are (presumably) covering his duties. So he is creating hardship for his colleagues by taking the time off. Most people are perfectly happy to cover for something reasonable like actively parenting a newborn infant, I think it would certainly rub a lot of people the wrong way to know what he’s actually doing.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      But only for your employees apparently – not for their spouses and their family? Because that’s what you’re de facto doing when you say “no no, you must do this thing I think is important in the way I think it should be done.”

      Family bonding would be happening, and your policy would be enabling it to do so – why are you so invested in it happening in the specific variant that you want?

      1. dubitably*

        Do you have the same feelings about people who take advantage of unlimited sick leave to go on extra vacations? Or people who take the maximum bereavement leave but don’t attend or plan the funeral because they weren’t actually that close to the person?

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I see no issue with either of these. Because I don’t care what someone else does on their leave, nor do I presume to know the totality for their circumstances.

          Person using the unlimited sick leave to go on vacation – I presume they know themselves and their mental and physical health well enough to know that this is the right call for themselves and their lives.

          Maximum bereavement leave even when you’re not engaging in the socially approved grieving process? I see no issues the person taking the leave is using it in a way that benefits them. I also don’t force someone who wants to come back to work early to get away from the logistics of things (“I need to focus on something else now”) to take more of the leave then they want.

          I feel pretty confident in being a near absolutist that our employers should fuck right off when it comes to thinking they have any input in how any of us spend one iota of our life outside of work.

      2. Burger Bob*

        Paid leave is not for family members. It has nothing to do with doing “what I think is important the way I think it should be done.” The wife is not their employee. They are under absolutely no obligation to subsidize HER leave. Just like I don’t get to take FMLA so that I can work a whole other job and collect two paychecks just so that my husband can stay home if he wants to. My leave is to cover MY inability to work, not to cover my husband’s wish to stay home.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Paid leave absolutely can be for and about family members. We let parents and caregivers use sick leave not just when they are sick, but also to care for those within their care.

          1. Burger Bob*

            Yes, we let them use the leave to *engage in caregiving* (typically caregiving that nobody but them is going to be able to provide). We do not let people use leave to go work a separate job so that someone else in their family can stay home if they want to.

  84. Delta*

    The end effect is that a new parent is able to stay home from work and take care of their baby, which is the goal of paid parental leave.

    I definitely understand why this feels sketchy given all of the context, but if his partner could have longer paid parental leave, do you think he’d have tried to game the system like this? (Maybe he would’ve! I sure don’t know him, and it’d feel more frustrating in that situation for sure)

    LW, I’m sorry your parental leave was shorter than it should’ve been.

    1. dubitably*

      The goal is also to decrease the impact of parenting on women’s careers, and this directly goes against that.

      I think you can disagree with the policy/loophole without faulting the individual. He’s doing what’s best for his family and that’s great, but it’s not something that should be allowed because permitting it increases, rather than decreases, the negative career impact on women and parents who use their leave for bonding.

  85. kiki*

    This is none of my business and likely not something LW will ever know, but it’d be interesting to know what Double Pay Guy and his wife think of this arrangement 3 months after the baby’s born. I feel like I’ve known a fair people (of both genders) who were genuinely surprised how intensive parenting is for the first year of a baby’s life. I think we’ve seen at least one letter come through Ask A Manager about a mom thinking she would be ready to come back to work two weeks after giving birth (though if I recall there was a financial needs component to that). I’ve also seen dads plan their reading lists for their paternity leave. Both parties were very wrong about how things would go. Happy if it works out for double pay guy if his wife has an easy pregnancy and time with the baby, but I’ve just seen so many people’s grand plans for parental leave be thwarted by how difficult parenting is.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, the letter you’re thinking of was in the “warning coworkers about my book’s adult content, returning to work 2 weeks after having a baby, and more” short answers post. In the update, the LW ended up taking 10 weeks off work to recover/care for the baby.

      I would also be interested in an update (maybe a year from now?) if the OP has any idea how things shook out with this guy’s plans for his “bonding” leave.

    2. Green Tea*

      Some dads plan their reading list for paternity leave and then are able to read those books because they are not helping out enough with the baby – the average burden of care at home is very disproportionate across gender lines.

      One reason this situation bothers me is because paternity leave is obviously supposed to help men directly, but it is also supposed to help women who marry men because it will reduce the uneven caretaking workload from the beginning. A common dynamic is that the women takes maternity leave and the couple gets into a pattern of her doing more caretaking, which continues even after she returns to work.

      This guy has set things up so that if his wife does realize she needs/wants help with the baby, he has an excuse to get out of it. And at the same time, this situation is making his wife 100% financially dependent on him short-term and is potentially reducing her earning potential long-term.

  86. Robin Ellacott*

    My initial reaction was annoyance, because it felt like the old colleague who used to boast about using her sick days to have a nice day off because it was sunny… in front of the person who had tried to cover her desk AND their own while she was off with no notice. Tactless at best, given that we had ample vacation time. I also don’t like the fact that a policy which is meant to help people escape forced gender norms is being used to do the opposite.

    But on reflection I have to say some people genuinely choose the stereotypical paths for their gender and that’s ok too.

    I can see why it feels off to OP, though, especially given his bragging. It would be doubly irritating if coverage is going to be an issue in his absence.

  87. Marina*

    I don’t get how tightening up the policy would benefit anyone. Does OP want her company to define specific actions people are required to take during parental leave? Must spend at least six hours a day changing diapers and feeding the baby? Is proof required? What if someone hires a babysitter for a day, should OP’s company refuse to pay parental leave for that day?

    Nothing good ever comes of wanting companies to determine how employees are allowed to spend the hours they’re not working.

    1. Moira Rose's Closet*

      This is where I come down on it, too. I don’t think that *any* good can come from reporting this guy.

    2. dubitably*

      My company can say that I’m not allowed to work a second job or provide childcare while I’m on the clock, and they don’t have to nickel and dime every second I go to the bathroom or take a phone call from my kid’s school for it to be an enforceable policy.

      Saying parental leave is for parents to be the primary caregivers of their children isn’t overreaching, nor is it unenforceable. You can still have the flexibility of hiring a babysitter, even if something like enrolling your kid in full-time daycare would be considered a violation.

      Places that do have parental leave manage to administer it just fine.

    3. Burger Bob*

      Look, in general, I agree that we shouldn’t be overly policing how people use their leave time. I don’t think you must remain in your sickbed twenty-four hours a day if you are taking sick time, for instance, and I don’t think you must be literally holding the child eight hours a day if you are on parental leave. But I do think it’s pretty obvious (and not at all unreasonable or unenforceable) for a company to expect you to not literally go work for someone else, all while they are paying you ostensibly to NOT be working. We can argue all day about what “parental leave” looks like, but I would think we could agree that ̶