Pete Buttigieg Defends His Paternity Leave From Critics Following Arrival of New Adopted Twins

Photo: (Photo : Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has answered his critics who questioned his decision to take paternity leave in August to care for his new adopted twin babies, Penelope and Joseph, with husband Chasten Buttigieg.

During a session with "Meet the Press, the secretary said that he and his husband were not on vacation as having a new baby is still work, amid the joy and wonderful feeling of expanding their family. This was his answer to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who implied that the Buttigiegs didn't deserve the longer family leave because they were not "trying to figure out how to breastfeed."

In another interview via CNN, Buttigieg said that they have been bottle feeding the twins "all hours of the day and night." The secretary said he doesn't have to apologize to his critics for taking care of their premature infant twins.

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Crucial Paid Paternity Leave

Buttigieg has been off work at a crucial time for President Joe Biden as his infrastructure package, "Build Back Better," is currently under debate among lawmakers. Questions about his absence drew even more criticism when a spokesperson from his department said that Buttigieg was "mostly offline for four weeks" except for major matters that cannot be delegated to his staff.

However, the spokesperson reiterated that the secretary has been "ramping up activities" a month after his paternity leave though he continues to enjoy the parental benefits with his husband. Incidentally, paid family leave is also outlined in Biden's package, and Buttigieg's case has been highlighting how much every American parent deserves to have this proposal approved. Among the developed nations around the world, the U.S. is the only country that does not have a nationwide government-supported paid parental leave.

Molly Day of PL+US, an advocacy group for paid parental leave in the U.S., said that criticisms against Buttigieg show that the stigma around fathers taking a break from work to care for their children is still present. However, plenty of newer and younger generations of men are now more than willing to step up to their roles as parents, who are grabbing the opportunity to look after their babies. The advocate said that the public should support this changing tide among the men even as caregiving is still predominantly a woman's turf.

Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, also defended Buttigieg from his critics and said that she is proud to work with a "role model" who is showing that paternity leave is important.

Most Demanding to Take On

As a first-time parent with a high-profile job, Buttigieg said that having kids has been the most demanding thing he has taken on with his husband. Speaking with the "Morning Joe" show on MSNBC, the secretary said it had been an "amazing" first few months with their newborns.

He revealed that the biggest surprise for him was feeling so much joy even with the hard parts of raising a baby. He said he's getting used to taking naps at 5:00 a.m. because of the twins' irregular sleep schedule, but he finds himself "grinning half the time."

The Buttigieg couple first announced that they were having kids in August as they had decided to grow their family. He and Chasten married in 2018 while he served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

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