Pete Buttigieg is getting crap from conservatives about taking parental leave

pete chasten2

In 2014, there was a major kerfuffle in Major League Baseball – the Mets’ Daniel Murphy took his full three days of paternity leave to see his child being born and to support his wife. In so doing, he missed the Mets’ opening game of the season. MLB has a players’ union, and the union successfully got paternity leave in their collective bargaining in 2011. The old-guard sports commentators were dripping with toxicity about how pathetic it was that big manly baseball players wanted to be supportive partners, husbands and fathers. The nice thing about that incident is that there was a significant backlash to the toxic douchebags, and there was a substantive conversation about the importance of paternity leave. I would have hoped that by the year of our lord Beyonce 2021, we wouldn’t still need to have those conversations.

In late August, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten welcomed their twins, Penelope Rose and Joseph August. I didn’t know until now that Cabinet officials do not have the same parental leave benefits as other federal employees, but Pete didn’t care – he ended up taking something like seven or eight weeks of parental leave. Politico framed it as “Pete was MIA” and “how dare he leave the administration for something as unimportant as bonding with his babies and supporting his spouse.”

Pete Buttigieg has been MIA. While U.S. ports faced anchor-to-anchor traffic and Congress nearly melted down over the president’s infrastructure bill in recent weeks, the usually omnipresent Transportation secretary was lying low.

One of the White House’s go-to communicators didn’t appear on TV. He was absent on Capitol Hill during the negotiations over the bill he had been previously helping sell to different members of Congress. Conservative critics tried (unsuccessfully) to get #WheresPete to trend and Fox News ran a story on October 4 with the headline: “Buttigieg quiet on growing port congestion as shipping concerns build ahead of holidays.”

They didn’t previously announce it, but Buttigieg’s office told West Wing Playbook that the secretary has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies.

“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. “He has been ramping up activities since then.” As he does that, Buttigieg will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” the spokesperson added.

That ramp has been steep this week, as Buttigieg reverts to his “go everywhere” media habits. Since Oct. 7, Buttigieg has appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “MSNBC with Geoff Bennett,” CNN’s “New Day,” CNBC’s “Morning Bell,” Bloomberg TV’s “Balance of Power,” and the NPR Politics Podcast. He participated in virtual events to promote the infrastructure bill with the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Citizen Budget Commission of New York. He also attended a high-profile meeting with President Joe Biden Wednesday on supply chain bottlenecks.

[From Politico]

Politico and Fox News tried to make “how dare he take parental leave” into a thing throughout much of Thursday and Friday. Tucker Carlson was particularly nasty about it on his Thursday night show, making a crack about breastfeeding.

Disgusting. Secretary Buttigieg is perfectly capable of defending himself though – during his interview blitz on Friday, Pete said that Tucker Carlson “doesn’t understand the concept of bottle feeding, let alone the concept of paternity leave,… What is really strange is that, you know, this is from a side of the aisle that used to claim the mantle of being pro-family. What we have right now is an administration that’s actually pro-family.” Pete also gave a lovely interview to the NY Times where he spoke about how childcare and childrearing IS work: “The big thing is having a newly personal appreciation for the fact that this is work. It may be time away from a professional role, but it’s very much time on.”

Anyway, I’m so glad he had this time with his babies and it does not seem at all like President Biden is mad about his Transportation Secretary taking leave. The supply chain mess is not the fault of one man, one Cabinet secretary. And we get to see a great example of what a truly pro-family administration looks like.

Pete Buttigieg

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Instagram.

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58 Responses to “Pete Buttigieg is getting crap from conservatives about taking parental leave”

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  1. AmyB says:

    Once again, the GOP, the “so-called party” of pro-life, morality, pro-family, Christianity etc. etc. – showing its true hypocritical nature! I cannot believe how far gone these Republicans have gone. Not all, but many. Disgusting on all levels.

    • Mac says:

      They aren’t being hypocritical. They truly believe all child rearing is the domain of women.

    • goofpuff says:

      The Republicans have never been pro-family, pro-life, or particular about morals. They stand for greed, protecting the rich, protecting white supremacy (because it helps protect the rich), and toxic patriarchy.

      I find it sad though how many still cling to the party because of their own personal greed. It’s usually “I don’t want to pay for it, but I want it anyway. Make other people pay for it.” Dude you ARE the ‘other people’.

      • AmyB says:

        @goofpuff Oh, I am aware that they are not these things, they just pretend to be. That’s why I said the “so called” party LOL. They protest against a woman’s right to choose regarding her body, and are pro-life when confronted with abortion – but now when hit with mask compliances to combat the virus we have dealt with for almost 2 years, they scream about personal freedom!! They are a joke. Yes, they want everything to work out in THEIR favor – and screw everyone else in the process.

    • myjobistoprincess says:

      OMG I’m in Quebec, Canada where fathers get 5 weeks of paternity leave and more if they decide to share something like 36 weeks of parental leave with the mother. This conversation would not pass here. It is accepted and very well seen to have fathers taking time for their families. this takes us back to soooooo many years ago. ewww gross statement

      • Emma says:

        Yeah, four weeks isn’t even all that long for parental leave. The US (my country) is so far behind on this issue and many others relating to healthcare.

      • Ania says:

        I’m from eastern Europe, and we have a full year of maternity leave and dad can take one month off too. My country fails on many levels but this one they did well. And we got 80% of our previous years salaty the whole time too.

        When I hear that moms have to come back to work after 6 weeks my heart breaks for them. We constantly complain about the youth yet freak out when a parent wants to actually raise a child and have a good relationship with him/her.

        The „old guard” needs to go before we change the mentality of people that a father has childcare responsibilities too. My husband heard once „don’t you have a wife?” comment when he said he needs to stay home with sick child and the same manager said to me (when we met for the first time on work party) „so you’re the wife that doesn’t let him work more night shifts?”. Very pleasant… we had a baby at that time and yes, I asked him not to work whole week plus at least one day during weekend because at one point I was like a single mum.

    • Malificent says:

      The Republicans are the party of “I Got Mine”. In this case, it’s “I got my stay-at-home wife who does all of the child-rearing.”

  2. minx says:

    As I understand it Fox offers the same paternity leave. But Tucker didn’t mention that, of course.

    • lemontwist says:

      I don’t know any concrete info about their parental leave myself but I wouldn’t doubt it.
      God forbid Fox News gets caught being responsible & ethical employers.

      • minx says:

        It’s the same as their covid policy. Fox is very careful, requiring vaxxes and testing. In the meantime their on air idiots like Carlson are railing against mandates. The hypocrisy is off the charts.

  3. Lightpurple says:

    The right-wing reaction to this, pushed by homophobic, misogynistic pigs Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Charlie Kirk, has been absolutely disgusting. They make it clear that men, straight or gay, should have no role whatsoever on raising those babies they insist must be born, and that the leave should only be for the purpose of the women’s body to heal. Once she’s healed, back to work, woman! The kid can raise itself.

    All of this ignores the FMLA of 1993 and the more recent federal employees paid leave act. Your employer can’t order you to shorten your parental leave because of supply chain issues or any other problems.

    • Esmom says:

      It’s truly mind-boggling and disgusting. I’m glad Pete is responding – especially with the fact that raising kids is work, hard work. It’s exactly why, as one of my old bosses once said, dads like him were so eager to get to the office every day. I remember going back to work after 16 weeks of maternity leave and being back on the office felt like a vacation. The guilt I felt about that is a whole other story.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      This is what I essentially came to point out- they think they are taking a dig at the Buttegieges, but they are really showing their true colors about parenting and humanity in general.

  4. VS says:

    Pete is so smart and eloquent… when I hear him dissect any topic, make his case for this or that, I am just in awe… a ticket Kamala and Pete might work (I know I am a dreamer; this is the USA after all, land of many racists and many homophobic assholes)

    • NIlestheninja says:

      I could have written this comment myself. Kamala and Pete would be so qualified and competent-the only thing stopping them would be the nasties…of which we have many, I am afraid.

  5. Becks1 says:

    Good for him. I said this when there was the debate over Prince Harry taking leave – we need to normalize parental leave from the top down, and we need to normalize paternity leave. Frankly, I think the more paternity leave is normalized, the better it will be for maternity leave. (As in, if we accept that new fathers should take 8 weeks of leave, we’ll accept that new mothers should take 12 weeks AND that there should be government funding for it, which is the sticking point for many right now.)

    Federal employees just got 3 months of paid parental leave for a new child (my babies are long born so I’m not sure all the details, I know it applies to having adopted and biological children and I think it applies to fathers as well but am not positive.) I do think that might have been under Trump though, as much as it pains me to say it.

    But by all accounts Biden is very pro-family, I remember seeing something (either from when he was VP or when he was inaugurated) – a letter he sent to his employees basically being like, don’t miss the school play, don’t miss the baseball game, if your child is sick stay home. Biden himself is so obviously pro-family, even with working in high levels of government for decades, that I really think he probably loves that Buttigieg is home with his twins.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Fathers are included and the bill belonged to NY Rep Carolyn Maloney, who had been fighting for it for years. It was finally passed under Trump as part of a deal; the House would give him something he wanted but it had to include Maloney’s bill. Of course, Ivanka tried to claim it was all her idea – none of it was.

    • kimmy says:

      My husband was a civilian employee for the government from 2015-2020 and he qualified for that leave. His leave was better than my 8 weeks unpaid…..which is completely infuriating.

    • melo says:

      Biden is pro-family, look at Hunter!!

  6. Sofia says:

    Conservatives will scream about being pro life and how abortion is murder yet mock people who take time off to look after their baby once born.

    Paternity leave should be normalised and with more and more people taking it and highlighting it, hopefully it’ll become the standard for everyone (and maternity leave will also increase)

  7. Kay says:

    Wow do these men keep telling on themselves. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in December, and we work for the same employer, which means we share a bank of FMLA for “bonding with baby.” So, because he, you know, WANTS to spend as much time as possible with his wife and newborn child that he’s legitimately excited to parent, we’re having to jump through hoops to get paperwork and as much time for “caring for spouse during recovery” as we possibly can without it taking from my 12 weeks.

    And I’ll (hopefully!) be breastfeeding! Even with that, and zero newborn experience, we both know that there’s many many hours of work a day he can do with a baby: rocking, changing, bathing, holding for hours a day since newborns hate sleeping on their backs alone, feeding pumped milk, burping, diapers, etc. Literally everything except the actual feeding, and my experienced friends joke about how when their spouse is on shift once baby masters nursing, you barely even have to wake up…lay down, pop baby on, and have your spouse right there watching, ready to snatch them up to do the burping/changing/supervising for the next 2 hours. But no…men don’t need paternity leave…

  8. Willow says:

    Parental leave is wonderful, but fathers (and mothers) first have to work somewhere that accepts people using that leave. Having bosses actually use parental leave is such a huge help to changing workplace stigma against that. So Pete is helping more than his newborns by using parental leave.
    Also, raising a newborn is not a vacation!

  9. Twin falls says:

    My first child I took 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave (FL), my second 12 weeks of leave with short term disability pay (CA). 12 weeks is barely enough time.

    I love Pete.

    • cassandra says:

      That was a big shocker for me when I entered the workforce. In the US pregnancy and pregnancy leave = short term disability. I know it’s a way of getting extra time with the baby, but the fact that it’s labeled as such really tells you everything you need to know about our culture’s views on working mothers (or at least our old school views).

  10. Jocelyn2 says:

    I think the mildly insulting thing about this is how many women don’t get what he is getting for paternity leave. I’m pregnant and I’m lucky to get 2 weeks paid leave at my work. Everything else is unpaid if I chose to take it.

    While we can congratulate him for taking time off, on some level we need to do more to get women the time off they need (heck I’m sorry, but I’m actually birthing out a baby). It’s hard to see him get 3 months while I’m lucky to get one. That’s just my take on it.

    • BabyLawyerIncoming says:

      I’m so sorry – 2 paid weeks is barbaric. I sincerely hope you have a smooth delivery and can spend as much time as possible with your new baby.

      The way I see it is that fighting for reasonable “parental” leave rather than maternity leave makes it slightly less likely that the issue of caring for newborns will relegated to a woman’s issue. I know when I worked for a law firm that had generous maternity leave, but no paternity leave, some partners were reluctant to staff pregnant women on cases, which had a negative impact on the advancement of female associates. Once men got equal leave, and started taking it, parental leave simply became something that case teams worked around whether the lawyer taking it was a man or a woman.

      I definitely hear you that policies should recognize that women who give birth have to recover! The way it worked for my family is I took 6 weeks of sick leave after giving birth before starting 12 weeks of parental leave. Once my leave is up my husband (who also works for the government) will take his 12 weeks of parental leave. I’m so grateful we have this option and think it should be the bare minimum for everyone. Unpaid leave is BS, and no leave is beyond horrific.

      • Ocho says:

        Yes, Yes and Yes. “Maternity Leave” and “Paternity Leave” need to be replaced with “Parental Leave”. And additional Medical Leave for people who have given birth, have medical complications due to birth, surgery or breastfeeding or if the baby has extra medical needs. Also, the system should take into account the number of parents. Otherwise, parenthood ignores same-sex couples, single parents (or even a three-parent or three-carer family), fostering, adoption and surrogacy. Luckily, we live in the UK which has a more generous system. (But it’s far from perfect, by giving women a huge chunk of Maternity Leave (26-52 weeks) and men getting a much smaller chunk (1-2 weeks, I think), thereby creating very different career paths for women and men and different roles in their children’s lives.) A male colleague of my husband and his wife took considerable time off when they adopted several children from the same family.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Then contact your state legislators and governor and demand they do something on your state level. Also contact your congressional representative and two US Senators and demand they do something nationally. Unless we make it crystal clear that this is what we demand, they will only hear the Tucker Carlson pigs of the world and try to scale back FMLA and NEVER work to make it paid leave. Protect FMLA and make it paid.

    • sally says:

      Where I live, women get up to a year of leave after giving birth, and it’s because women’s groups (conservative AND socialists, funnily enough) fought for it from the 1890s onwards. They got 6 weeks back then and feminists in the 70s and 90 have furthered it since. I’m in this lucky position now, should I ever want to have children, because of women fighting long and hard for it. If you want this, you need to fight for it too, companies and the state won’t hand it to women out of the goodness of their hearts. As @Lightpurple said, contact your politicians, contact the unions, if there are no unions, build them. It’s the only way to change that and Buttitgieg isn’t the enemy here. It’s not his department, but maybe write to his publicist, get the guy to talk about his decision and turn him into a powerful ally, maybe.

      I find him wonderfully subversive, I may not agree with all his politics, but his way of being admonished by the right for being gay and not conforming enough to stereotypically male roles but also by the left for not being “gay enough” (read: not flamboyant and wanting marriage and children) warms the cockles of my heart.

  11. Va Va Kaboom says:

    Please forgive me for this random tangent, but I love when “the year of our Lord Beyoncé XXXX” is used. I have visions that in a thousand years archeologists and historians will piece together the minutiae of our time and there will be enough evidence they’ll come to the, not entirely incorrect, conclusion we worshipped her as a literal God-Queen. The idea just tickles me pink for some reason!

  12. Tootsie McJingle says:

    I had twins in July and I also have two older kids. When my older kids were born, my husband’s job didn’t offer paternity leave. When the twins were born, he was in a new job that offered him 2 weeks at full pay or 4 weeks at half pay paternity leave. Let me tell you how grateful I was for that with twins! Pete and Chasten are really going to need each other’s support in the early days. I don’t know how I would have made it through that first month if my husband had had to go right back to work!

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      Twin mom here, too. I barely remember those days, and we had an almost three year old at the time. Spouse is MD and he used vacation time for two weeks post partum with our twins. The US is horrible in this aspect.

  13. Normades says:

    Good for Pete for setting an example. Also I love the twins’ names! Classic and earthy at the same time. With cute nickname possibilities…Penny and Joe.

  14. Rhoda Cowboy says:

    Joy Behar burned Tucker’s ass with this comment: “I would just like to say that Pete Buttigieg served six years in the Navy Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan. Tucker Carlson got booted off Dancing with the Stars after he couldn’t even learn to do the Cha Cha.

  15. Rhoda Cowboy says:

    Joy Behar burned Tucker’s ass with this comment: “I would just like to say that Pete Buttigieg served six years in the Navy Reserve and was deployed to Afghanistan. Tucker Carlson got booted off Dancing with the Stars after he couldn’t even learn to do the Cha Cha.”

  16. Snappyfish says:

    The hypocrisy of the GOP is astounding. They aren’t pro anything except Pro power. I am forever stunned to see people barely able to keep their head above water rushing to the polls to vote for those who are doing all they can to push their heads under.

    I proudly wear my Pete2020 shirt & plan to wear it on the day he is inaugurated.

    • Joan Callamezzo says:


    • ama1977 says:

      They are just the Party of No. They don’t have solutions, ideas, or plans for anything. They sow chaos, discontent, and enmity wherever they go. They want to police anything and everything that’s not exclusively enjoyed by rich old white men, so they pile on to a new father ::::gasp:::: parenting his children. Like that is something to be scorned instead of admired. Fortunately, Pete has their number. He kind of shrugs and rolls his eyes, explains his imminently reasonable position calmly and carefully, and then goes back to his lovely family and great job. Suck it, Tucker, you chode.

  17. Charlotte says:

    Sigmund… I understand your point, but still… It’s NOT a good look that the Sec of Transportation is in parental leave, in the middle of a crisis!! And Thank you for replying to me, without attacking me!! because I’m not a Trump fan!!

    • BabyLawyerIncoming says:

      I hear your point about the supply chain issues, but the problem is that there is always *some* kind of crisis in every workplace and employees can’t wait until everything is smooth sailing before taking parental leave (or any kind of leave). Otherwise, managers could never leave if there was a project deadline, doctors could never leave if there was a pandemic, lawyers could never leave if there was a trial scheduled, postal workers could never leave if there was a backlog, etc. Rather than insisting that workers wait until it’s convenient to take leave, we need to normalize proper staffing so people can delegate responsibilities, as Secretary Buttigieg did here.

    • Tanya says:

      But the supply chain issue isn’t a DOT issue. It’s factories and ports shutting down due to COVID and global shipping backed up as a result (not to mention the Ever Green fiasco).

      When you get to a certain level of seniority, there is always going to be a “crisis”. None of my babies were born at “convenient” times professionally. But if you don’t take parental leave, you create a culture where other people are less secure in taking theirs. And quite frankly, if your staff can’t function with you out of the office for two months, you’re not doing your job well as a CEO. American work culture is so broken, and normalizing leave is one way to make it better.

    • Aang says:

      You do realize that there is a deputy secretary and an entire department? There is a worldwide infrastructure at play here. And Pete isn’t driving the boats, unpacking them, loading the trucks, and delivering the stuff Target himself.

      • SarahCS says:

        Exactly, if he’s a halfway competent leader then he has a strong team around him so that any one of them can take time out as needed (from vacation to parental leave to medical issues and on and on…). Life is more than work and every one of us is more than our jobs. Different countries seem to be at very different points in the journey to this realisation.

      • Charlotte says:

        Aang… Thank you so much for your funny reply!! I cannot stop laughing at “Pete isn’t driving the boats, unpacking them, loading the trucks, and delivering the stuff to Target himself”. I’m stealing this comment from you!!

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      Pete stated he was available for the biggest decisions and delegated the rest, which is exactly what a competent leader would do. What else would you have him do differently?

      • Lori says:

        Also, per the NYT article, Buttigieg was “mostly offline” (but available for emergencies / nondelegable matters) from mid-August through mid-September — when all of Congress (and much of official DC) was on recess or on vacation. His parental leave, which the President expressly authorized, was about the least disruptive leave he could take as the Transportation Secretary – even accounting for the multiple deputy and assistant secretaries who could temporarily take on his duties.

        The supply chain issue is, from what I understand a) an issue with the private operators of the ports; and b) a labor shortage issue caused, in part, by the pandemic – specifically, an inability to procure workers who could move goods from the ports to other destinations. This issue is not exclusively committed to his authority.

    • LightPurple says:

      Sorry but the ilk Tucker Carlson represents would like nothing better than to be able to fire all employees who take family or medical leave. Arguing that leave should be reduced or eliminated altogether because of some workplace crisis plays right into the scheme to do away with these worker protections. As someone who continued to work through a year of treatment for cancer. missing time only for actual medical appointments and 1 week for surgical recovery, I needed to be the one who said which days I wasn’t going to be at work. That should never be left to any employer.

    • Colleen says:

      @Charlotte – there’s a really informative episode of The Daily from last week that breaks down and explains the global supply chain issues. It’s been caused by a massive backlog from early last year.

  18. Tanya says:

    So many bad fathers telling on themselves.

  19. KL says:

    “‘For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,’ said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. “He has been ramping up activities since then.'”

    So, in other words, he was still working and made sure the duties of Transportation Secretary were attended to while on leave… which makes this a complete non-issue. I’m just so sick of the cynicism, hypocrisy and blatant bad faith of conservative US news media.

    I’m Canadian. My family (parental leave can be split between parents) had the option to take 12 or 18 months of leave when my baby was born in December 2020. We took 12 months total, and it made more sense for me to go back to work after 7 months and for my husband to take the last 5. Nobody has blinked an eye at this arrangement, because it’s becoming very common as it is simply a reality for many families where both parents work and the husband is not the default breadwinner.

    The comments from parents who had to go back to work right away just make me sad. Babies need their parents in the first year, and parents feel the need to be with their babies as well. It’s disturbing and cruel that the US is so far behind in recognizing these fundamental facts of human biology. The idea of women having to go back to work right away, while their bodies are still healing, and having to put newborn babies in daycare turns my stomach. What a country.

  20. Gracie says:

    I get 12 weeks unpaid under FMLA (unless I want to bleed out my vacation time). I cobbled together as much paid time off as I could for my second, but the last month was unpaid. Fortunately my partner is a federal employee so could continue getting paid. We put both of our kids in daycare at 12 weeks and we’re in and out of doctor’s offices for the next 3 months with various colds, etc. I think it probably costs my company more to give just 12 weeks unpaid than it would to pay for 5-6 months – maybe enough time for baby’s immune system to get stronger. Good for Pete for taking parental leave – neither partner gets any sleep those first weeks and that’s true with just one. We desperately need to rethink caregivers in the workforce and how we accommodate.

    • ama1977 says:

      I 1000% agree that parents need more than 6 weeks (or 8, or 12) and that 6-12 months shared parental leave is more ideal. However, my experience as a mom who went back to work when both kids were babies vs. my friends who stayed home until preschool (2-3) age or later is that they are going to get all of that stuff anyway, whether it starts at 3 months or 3 years. My kids both went through periods of lots of colds, etc. when they initially started school, but after the initial wave, both are extremely healthy and rarely get sick even when they come into contact with sick friends. My friends who stayed home also had a wave of illnesses with their kiddos as soon as they were in a school setting, but once it’s over it’s usually done.

  21. Celina says:

    I love the tell that this is that these people giving the Buttigiegs crap about this are actually pretty crap fathers. As James Fell pointed out.