CiC Interview with author Josh Levs on Fatherhood
Along with the rest of the country, CiC celebrates Father’s Day in June. This month we will host our annual Men & Birth, ushering in a wave of soon-to-be dads with inspiring stories and tips. We also celebrate the many acts of advocacy taking place to create more family-friendly workplaces and policies. Last month, Josh Levs launched his new book, All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses Alike – And How We Can Fix It Together, and he spent some time talking with CiC. Levs will be speaking at the 92nd St. Y on June 2 with Matt Schneider, co-founder of NYC Dads Group, and CiC will be giving away 2 copies of All In at Men & Birth.
CiC: Your book starts with a description of the “Don Draper” type of father, sitting outside the delivery room with a pipe between his lips. How has men’s involvement during birth shifted how families take on childrearing and parenthood?
JL: It’s night and day. (Perhaps literally, since these days lots of dads do midnight feedings, etc.!) The vast majority of dads are very involved in child rearing from the beginning. Working dads spend an average of 3 hours a day with their kids. Virtually all dads who live with their kids bathe and dress them, eat with them, help them with their homework, and speak with them about their day several days a week or every day! But our structures operate against that equality. Our laws, workplace policies, and stigmas are acting as gender police, pushing men and women into traditional norms.
CiC: You referenced in your book some sportscasters who recently criticized a player’s decision to take some time off after his wife gave birth, despite the fact that it was opening season. How can we get people to understand the very real and very serious health risks that can be associated with elective cesarean births?
JL: To be clear, I’m not taking any kind of position on what kind of birth women choose. But the remarks of those radio DJ’s were shockingly callous. The idea of telling a couple that they should schedule the birth of a child around the man’s work schedule is moronic and offensive! Who says something like that? The same Neanderthals who think that paternity leave is a joke and that men aren’t capable of nurturing babies. They’re backward thinking and standing in the way of equality for women and men.
CiC: In your experience interviewing for your book, did you get the sense that there is real pressure for families to try to control timing of birth due to the fact that the US has no paid family leave policies?
JL: I’d say the lack of paid family leave is hurting moms, dads, children, and businesses in numerous ways. Certainly, one effect is concerns about how to get time off from work, and that can lead to all sorts of difficult decisions.
When people learn what paid family leave policies actually are and how they work, they discover that these systems benefit businesses and the economy. When done right, these policies do not require businesses to pay people for time spent not working. The businesses come out ahead! Families shouldn’t have to make desperate decisions about the initial weeks of a child’s life.
CiC: What’s your best piece of advice for a first-time expecting dad when it comes to preparing for birth and the first few weeks of fatherhood?
JL: I say in the book that having a child is like a big bang in your life. Suddenly there’s a whole universe that you have to, and get to, care for. Take deep breaths and understand that it’s the beginning of a marathon, not a constant sprint. Do as much as you can with whatever time you can get at home — bathing, changing, holding, and feedings if the mom is pumping or you’re using formula. Those initial moments are critical for both parents. They build a system of caregiving and a balance of responsibilities at home that last. You won’t get much sleep during that time, but you’ll be feeling incredible love, and it’s worth it. If your work gives you paid leave, take it! We all have to stand up against the stigmas that are preventing men from taking the paid time they’re offered. Think of those stigmas as a bully, and don’t give in.
Josh Levs is the author of All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses Alike – And How We Can Fix It Together, published by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Book Publishers, May 2015, RRP $25.99 hardcover.