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It wasn’t a convenient time for parental leave. Pete Buttigieg took it anyway

October 18, 2021, 12:51 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A prize-winning female author is revealed to be three men, employees and talent continue to protest Netflix’s Dave Chapelle special, and Pete Buttigieg is a new dad—and a voice for paid leave. Have a wonderful Monday!

– Leave it. Parental leave has become, to some degree, a bipartisan issue. But the issue slid back into partisanship last week as Republicans criticized Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking time with his new twins during a supply chain crisis and the hashing out of a major infrastructure bill.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on his show that Buttigieg, who welcomed twins with husband Chasten Buttigieg after a year of the adoption process, was away from his job on “paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed.” (Politico first described the secretary as “MIA.”) Carlson’s comments go beyond the usual rhetoric that discourages fathers from taking parental leave and veer into the homophobic. But Buttigieg, and the White House, have stayed focused on supporting the secretary’s choice and using his new parenthood as an example of why paid parental leave matters.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Buttigieg a “role model” for taking four weeks of leave. And it’s true that his choice is notable: one of the last cabinet secretaries to have a child while in the role, former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, took just a week off at the time. Buttigieg has now brought attention to the reality that his time out of office isn’t a vacation—and that welcoming a child is, in fact, “work.” “It may be time away from a professional role, but it’s very much time on,” he told the NYT.

As the NYT notes, no parent can know in advance exactly what they may miss at work when a child arrives or a loved one falls ill, requiring caregiving at home. For Buttigieg, his twins’ arrival happened to coincide with a busy time at work.

Taking leave is rarely, if ever, convenient—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it. As unpredictable as the workplace can be, it’s easier to forecast the eventual need to cover for employees than it is to predict far in advance when exactly a child will arrive or a parent will become sick.

Buttigieg didn’t let a demanding time at work stop him from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with his new babies at home. As the Biden administration attempts to pass 12 weeks of paid parental leave in its major bill, the secretary may have done as much to promote his boss’s agenda as he could have from his full-time cabinet seat.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Mystery writer. Carmen Mola has been known as Spain's Elena Ferrante, a crime novelist said to be a university professor writing under a pseudonym. On Friday, Mola won the prestigious €1 million Planeta literary prize—and was revealed to be three men. The TV writers said they chose to write under a joint pen name because collaboration wasn't valued in literature. Financial Times

- Special effects. Netflix is still dealing with the fallout of Dave Chapelle's standup special. The company fired an employee who leaked data about the special, which contains anti-trans jokes. And comedian Hannah Gadsby spoke up against Netflix after co-CEO Ted Sarandos cited her special as an example of positive queer content on the streaming service. Gadsby asked the "amoral algorithm cult" not to "drag my name into your mess." Guardian 

- No scrubs. Women in the medical field have often dealt with patients who don't believe they're the doctor, and not the nurse or medical technician. The pandemic made that worse by, in many hospitals, requiring all staff to wear scrubs instead of a white coat, business casual dress, or other attire. The Atlantic

- Good in a crisis. Women took on even more "invisible work" during the pandemic. And much of that isn't being recognized. Research shows that women managers who provide emotional support to their employees are often seen as "caretaking" rather than given credit for strong crisis management. Harvard Business Review

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Cross category. Kacey Musgraves's new album Star-Crossed won't be eligible in the Best Country Album category at the Grammy Awards, an anonymous panel of people in the country music industry decided. (The album will instead compete in the pop category, even as a single song remains eligible in a country entry.) The decision tracks with a long history of barriers for women in country music. The 19th*

- TV subplot. How has TV created our current cultural narratives around abortion? Since the 1980s, television shows have portrayed abortion as, often, medically dangerous, a "necessary evil," only sought by people who don't want to be parents at all, and a decision with "high moral conflict." Those storytelling choices have influenced how abortion is seen by many today, this piece argues. Vox

- Wizarding world. For 23 years, New Zealand has paid Ian Brackenbury Channell to serve as the Wizard of New Zealand. The 88-year-old promoted Christchurch through "acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services." But he's made off-color comments about women throughout the years, and the city council has now ended his wizarding contract. Guardian

ON MY RADAR

At Axel Springer, Politico’s new owner, allegations of sex, lies and a secret payment New York Times

Ciara on her investment and co-ownership in rum maker Ten to One Fortune

The cruel paradox of Linda Evangelista's fate New York Times

WNBA union denounces Texas abortion ban in New York Times ad The 19th*

PARTING WORDS

"There are these big decisions on the macro level, affecting the global business. But when you get down to it, it’s just siblings being siblings."

-Actor Sarah Snook on the new season of Succession, which premiered on HBO last night

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