News & Politics

The 5 Dumbest Takes on Pete Buttigieg’s Paternity Leave

Powerful people shouldn't take parental leave? Oh, please.

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg welcome twins Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg. Photograph via Buttigieg on Twitter.

Pete Buttigieg has been on paid parental leave since August when he and his husband Chasten adopted twins. Now political opponents are finding all sorts of ways to criticize the Transportation Secretary for taking time off to care for his newborns. These are their worst takes:

1. Parental leave isn’t work.

Tell this to literally any sleep-deprived, non-showered new parent and they will laugh in your face (then probably cry). If anything, it’s a full-time job with particularly terrible hours. As Buttigieg has reminded everyone in interviews over the weekend, parental leave is not vacation. “It’s joyful work. It’s wonderful work. But it’s definitely work,” he said on MSNBC.

2. Paternity leave isn’t manly.

Right-wing provocateur Candace Owens called Buttigieg “sickeningly pathetic” for taking two months leave during a national transportation crisis. “Privileged times have produced the weakest men that have ever lived in America. Remove this little boy from office,” she tweeted with the hashtag #BringBackManlyMen. Some, like The View co-host Joy Behar, responded to the attack by noting Buttieg served six years in the Navy Reserve and was deployed in Afghanistan. But let’s call out Owens’s line of thinking for what it really is: an obviously homophobic and horrendously outdated notion of “manliness.”

3. But he doesn’t have to breastfeed.

“Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went,” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson quipped. News flash to the father of four: Not all mothers breastfeed either! But that doesn’t mean new parents aren’t waking up every three hours to feed their newborns. There’s also much more to parental leave than making sure your kid eats, like, you know, bonding and care time critical to their health and development.

4. Powerful people shouldn’t take parental leave.

Senator Todd Young tried to make the case on an Indiana news channel that some people are too important to take leave. “I think that paternity leave is something that, as a society, we’ve decided to rally around,” the Republican lawmaker said. “At the same time, I think if you’re at a top position in government, people expect you to be on the beat during an economic and public health crisis.” If anything, though, it helps set an important example to junior employees—and society at large—when top officials take advantage of parental leave policies.

5. You can stop crises if you’re not on leave.

A favorite line of attack among Republicans seems to be that Buttigieg shouldn’t be out during a global supply chain crisis. Um, ok, leaving aside the fact that plenty of other capable people should be in place to address crises big and small, is the theory here that the new parent could have prevented a major crisis in the first place? In Buttigieg’s case, it’s particularly laughable that a single person could make or break a sprawling global issue involving pandemic fallout from reduced production of goods and labor shortages. Buttigieg said on CNN on Sunday that supply chain issues will likely continue into 2022. He argued the best solution was for Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.