Jennifer Siebel Newsom: It’s Time to Stop Treating Parenting as a Mom’s Burden and a Dad’s Adorable Hobby


On the morning of January 7, 2019, my husband was about to become the 40th governor of California, I was going to become the first “first partner” of California, and our four young children were going to take the stage and be thrust into the spotlight with a new level of national attention.

I had a plan for how I wanted to introduce our family to our state. The fight to put on tights and button-down shirts was won, though the fight to take off one coat was lost, and their hair was combed just so. And then, just a couple of minutes into my husband’s inaugural speech, our little Dutch wandered onto the stage holding his binky and his blanket “passie”—much to the audience’s delight and my chagrin.

The media hailed Gavin as “Governor Dad,” and our son Dutch became an internet sensation. I, on the other hand, was asked by too many people to count—in that half-joking but in fact quite serious tone—how could I have possibly let him get up on that stage, and also, why did he still use a pacifier?!

California Governor Gavin Newsom at his 2019 inauguration, alongside his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom and their four children

Eduardo Ezequiel

I tried to pretend it didn’t bother me, but the truth is it did. It was a reminder that despite our partnership and despite the support I feel in our relationship, I will always bear the responsibility of our children in a way Gavin never will.

And therein lies a deep truth about the struggle for equality, a truth that can often be hard to acknowledge: Policies and structural changes are essential, but on their own those can’t change our cultural attitudes and behaviors toward women. Until we stop treating parenting as a woman’s burden and a man’s adorable hobby, the gender gap we see at work and at home won’t disappear.

The research shows that when women become mothers they face a motherhood penalty at work. Employers are less likely to hire moms than they are to hire women without children, and when they do hire a mother, they offer her a lower salary than they offer women without children. Studies also show that mothers are considered less committed to their jobs in comparison with their childless coworkers, while men are considered more committed once they have children. In fact, men actually receive a fatherhood bonus, seeing a 6% increase in their salaries once they become parents! It’s not surprising then that my husband’s popularity seemed to soar after his big onstage dad moment!

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