How Google’s “Paternity Leave Dadvocate” teaches fathers to own parenthood at home and the office
Google is celebrated for its inclusion and benefits for families, including its 18-week parental leave policy for non-birthing partners. Having been at Google for more than a decade, Erez Levin knew fatherhood would be a welcome milestone in his career.
Even before having his first daughter, Erez knew that dads at work played a major role in normalizing being dads…at work. Fatherhood is a positive part of life, and he was determined to be a strong advocate for men taking parental leave – especially since he worked for a company that was supportive of new and working parents.
Becoming a dad himself four years ago, Erez doubled down on what he stood for: dads should strive to take their full paternity leave, own their parenting role and be vocal about it.
He became what he likes to call a “Paternity Leave Dadvocate” and made it a personal mission to help coach new dads in planning and preparing for parental leave, embracing their fatherhood in the office, and being loud about their commitment to both home and work.
One way Erez is vocal about fatherhood is by regularly announcing his departure from the office around 4 p.m. to see his kids in a strategy referred to as “leaving loudly.” It took Erez practice to embrace showing up to work as a dad unapologetically, and he regrets not owning it as an advantage sooner.
He also includes his 12-week paternity leave time on his LinkedIn career experience. The description reads: "This was no less of a full-time job than my work at Google—in many ways, it was so much more.”
Erez is an advocate for normalizing taking (paid) parental leave as non-birthing parents. Read his full Q&A below to see what he learned from two paternity leaves and how he influences Google’s leadership and employees to be even more parent-forward.
Can you provide a brief professional summary that provides context about your work situation immediately preceding having children through today?
“I’m blessed to have a job I care deeply about, trying to improve the online advertising ecosystem, while pursuing important passion projects where I feel like I am contributing to a more positive future for my kids and humanity. I work as hard if not harder than I did before kids, but much more flexibly. With few exceptions, I get at least an hour and a half with my kids both before and after work/school, and if needed log back onto work after they go to sleep."
What did you do in preparation for parental leave to help set yourself up for longer term career success?
“I outlined all of my current responsibilities & projects, identifying those that would require coverage and who would be able to (and potentially benefit from) supporting those, and which ones could be put on hold for those 12 weeks.”
What mistakes did you make? Are there things you wish you had done differently before, during or after your parental leave?
“I wish I was even more vocal about taking my paternity leave up through my management chain and not just to peers, e.g. I should’ve listed it as an accomplishment in my performance reviews, not as the reason my “business results” might be perceived as “lesser” than my peers.”
What was the most challenging part of taking parental leave and how did you address or overcome it?
“Exhaustion and monotony. The first couple weeks of my leave were particularly draining, as I hadn’t yet figured out how to spend our time together optimally. Once I found some Mom friends on leave, I started switching up our routine, becoming more social, and breaking up the long stretches of the day.”
What did your manager or company do that was really helpful to your success transitioning back to work?
“Google offers ‘ramp back time’ to new parents upon their return, and recently announced a policy allowing for an extended WFH allowance after leave. Even though I didn’t utilize them, it was tremendously helpful knowing I had the option to ease back into work, and that the company and my manager were supportive of me during this time.”
What is one professional achievement that you’re most proud of since becoming a parent and why?
“While I had begun my advocacy for paternity leave even before my daughter was born, my efforts really accelerated once I had actually gone through it myself. In the past few years, I have coached dozens of new dads to help them plan and prepare for their leaves, many of whom are now eternally grateful that I encouraged them to take this time that ended up being so meaningful to them. And through a few high-impact efforts (e.g. a “Paternity Leave Pledge” I created, before realizing Dove had a similar one), I have been able to make the importance of paternity leave understood by thousands of employees and critical leaders across the company.”
If you had to name one thing (something you do, something you buy, something you have) that has had the greatest impact on your ability to manage working parenthood, what would it be?
“Time Blocks. Now that we’re in a hybrid work environment, and I live far from the office, I have blocked the first and last hour of each day I travel to the office, as those are my commuting hours. I typically use that time to work, and actually often find those hours to be very productive, but the biggest benefit is that it allows me to get all the upsides of office work without having to sacrifice much time with my family.
To pair with that, one new practice I have adopted that was shared with me is ‘leaving loudly.’ No longer do I quietly slink out of the office when I duck out early. Instead, at 4pm I gather my things and say to everyone, ‘Goodnight all! I’m going home to see my kids!’ This is how we normalize the concept of working dads and equal parents.”
Many parents say that once they had children their “bar” became higher. They no longer tolerated wasteful work, unproductive meetings, etc. What else would you say changed as it relates to your career or work style once you had kids?
“Some very wise words were passed along to me when my first child was born: ‘Life just got a whole lot simpler.’ That statement seemed so counterintuitive to what I expected, which was that a child would add so much more responsibility & complexity to my life. But in those very first moments, I instantly recognized the truth in that statement, as all the other non-family stressors in my life suddenly seemed so trivial.”
How would you describe the difference between returning to work after your first child vs. your second child?
“The second time around was much easier, not only because I already knew how to juggle the work/life balance and set that expectation with my colleagues, but also because COVID effectively changed the worlds’ consciousness in that everyone inherently understood that priorities (e.g. family, health, etc.) had shifted forever.”
You’re a passionate advocate for men taking parental leave. Can you share more about your perspective?
“The evidence is so insanely clear: If men are given and then take a meaningful duration of paternity leave, the benefits to those dads, their children, their spouses (and in effect their marriage), women and moms in general, and the net effect of all that on society as a whole, would be almost impossible to overstate.
What got me excited about becoming an advocate here is that I realized how much low-hanging fruit there is to start realizing this impact, with basic Behavioral Economics principles.
Just by informing dads of these benefits to them and their loved ones, and showing them that this is already a common practice amongst their peer group, we could shift norms and see significantly more adoption of leave and all the other societal benefits.”
How is Google encouraging men to take their parental leave?
Through a combination of policy, culture, support structures, comms, incentives, and nudges - many of which are best practices also recommended by Parentaly - Google is incredibly supportive of new and working parents.
With that said, there is always room for improvement, and it’s critical to remember that seemingly positive policy changes can have some negative consequences and need to be accounted for as well. For example, granting longer parental leaves to both men and women could in effect increase the gap in leave taken between them, while increased leave utilization could harm teams that don’t have adequate backfill coverage.
We try to anticipate those changes and account for them in advance when we can, but most importantly we have to continuously monitor all impacts, gather data & insights, and react accordingly.”
Many fathers we speak with are torn between taking one long parental leave or splitting it into two parts. What should they take into consideration when weighing these two options?
“I’ve coached dozens of dads on this topic, and while I try not to be too paternalistic (pardon the pun), I typically share this: There is overwhelming evidence that suggests that, generally speaking, the most benefits to all relevant parties is when men can and do take at least 1 long stretch of leave as the solo caregiver.
Depending on how much time the dad has available, and a whole host of other factors, I think it’s worth trying to spend a few of the early weeks at home supporting the family, and then saving the rest to use if and when their partner returns to work.
With that said, individual circumstances, which I always try to understand first, can and often should override that “default” to maximize the outcomes for the family.”
What can others do to help the cause of dads taking parental leave?
“There are a few basic actions everyone can take here: 1) New dads should try to take their full leave, and be vocal about it; 2) All employees need to unequivocally support new dads, encouraging them to take their leave; and 3) Leaders need to create a culture where new dads are encouraged, expected to, and celebrated for taking their leave.”
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