What Not To Say When A Man Takes Paternity Leave

September 9 is the number one birth date in the United States, with September being the month where more people are born than any other.

Goes to reason then we’re in the No. 1 month for people starting parental leave.

At some point in the next six weeks to six months, those new parents or parents now with multiple children will return to work.

Mothers have dealt with return-to-work nonsense for ages. If it was my story to tell – as my daughters say – I’d share what my wife faced from a former partner. It’ll surprise no woman.

But I want to talk about dads and why it’s key for them to take their leave and to return well. For managers, here’s what NOT to say when fathers return to work.

“I didn’t take any time off when my kids were born.”

“Do you know how many things I missed for my kids?”

“What are you going to do with your time off?”

And then when they return, here is the worst of the worst: “How was your vacation?”

The people uttering these phrases might think they’re being funny, but they’re not. If anything, they’re showing how out of touch they are with the world of work today.

Do you really think it was a good thing not to take time off when your children were born? And is missing so many moments that were important to your children a good thing? Last I checked no one has said on their deathbed, “Please run through one more PowerPoint presentation for me!”

And then there’s the most clueless of all – the one where a manager thinks time off with a newborn or a newborn plus other children was a vacation. If that was the case, most parents would ask for a refund – or at least call the front desk and request complimentary cocktails.

What are better things to say?

“Please, do not check in. We’ve got it here. This time is important for you.”

“When you return, we’re going to let you ramp back up. We value what you contribute here.”

“Is there anything else we or HR can do to support you?”

Beyond saying the right thing, companies need to require men to take parental leave. There is nothing good or productive or macho about not taking time off to be with your spouse, newborn or adopted child.

To be there is good for fathers as humans, for sure. But more broadly – and importantly for number-crunching bottom-line folks – it’s good for the workforce.

Parenting isn’t something that only mothers do – hello parenting ERGs, let’s welcome the dads in! It’s something that everyone does, with increasing numbers of workers in their 20, 30s and early 40s taking a different approach.

But one way to discourage fathers from pitching in early and often is to mock them for taking their full parental leave. Whether you’re a parent or not, we’re all caregivers and it’s not easy to balance that with work. Let’s make it a little less stressful this month for parents going out on leave.