Author Josh Levs makes case for dads’ rights in ‘All In’

You hear about a hot new book called “All In,” and it rings a bell.

Oh, wait, that was “Lean In,” the 2013 best-seller by top Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg.

But the comparison is no coincidence.

When CNN “dad columnist” and longtime reporter Josh Levs was shaping his book about revving up dads and employers to beef up parental policies, Levs got the message loud and clear.

“Both the folks at my publisher and my agent said, OK, this is your ‘Lean In,’ ” Levs recalls. “This is you telling us the way. Lay out the steps.”

Sandberg’s book launched a new movement to further inspire and empower women both at work and at home.

With “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together,” Levs throws himself on the front lines of another movement.

The longtime Atlanta journalist even gave himself a head start: In 2013, when he was denied the adequate parental leave he sought when his third child was born prematurely, he filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Time Warner (CNN’s parent), demanding equitable paid leave.

At the time, the company gave 10 weeks of pay only to “primary” caregivers — even if a baby was adopted or born through surrogacy — but the traditional biological dad got just two weeks of pay.

Levs eventually won his claim. Time Warner improved its policy and now gives dads such as Levs six weeks of pay. Levs became something of a hero at work.

“I say a blessing to you every night,” a fellow CNN journalist on paternity leave recently wrote to Levs.

Still, there’s a long way to go. Only 14 percent of companies currently offer paid paternity benefits, Levs notes in the book. He’s a well-oiled fact checker at CNN; “truth seeker in chief” is among his nicknames.

For “All In,” Levs interviewed dozens of fathers across the country, including a number of popular dad bloggers. “I interviewed fantastic dads who think they are the exception,” Levs says. “I told them, ‘No, you are the rule.’ They were shocked!”

“Make no mistake, today’s dads love parenthood,” Levs writes in his book. “We want to make things better because we love it and want everyone else to have an even better, easier ride with it.”

In “All In,” Levs covers every aspect of the issue. He includes every category of dad you can think of, from the single dad and the custody-battling dad, to the military dad and the imprisoned dad. He also has suggestions for workaholic dads seeking more balance in their lives.

Levs lays out solid ideas for putting better policies in place; he even suggests a way to create a paid family leave by lowering taxes.

Levs, 43, lives in the Candler Park/Lake Claire neighborhood with wife Melanie and their kids, ages 8, 5 and 20 months.

Here are more highlights from our recent interview with Levs:

Q: What’s your quick definition of an “all in” dad?

A: Being “all in” means being fully committed as a parent and understanding that you are part of the overwhelming majority of parents in this country who want true equality.

Q: You state that businesses benefit when they beef up their policies that help families. How so?

A: Businesses that support both males and females in their roles as parents have happier, more loyal, more productive employees. That is proven.

This is not left or right or Democrat or Republican. Caring for children is good for society. Paid family leave is a part of that. It’s the missing link in the chain.

Q: Women are still fighting for rights. So, realistically, might it take a long time, decades even, for men to get the “dad support” policies they want?

A: Only if we don’t fight the good fight. What I learned in writing “All In” is that women and men, we’re all one team, and all of those who want gender equality and a stronger economy can do this. It’s up to us all to knock down the outdated structures — the laws, policies and stigmas that are part of the 1950s mindset.

Q: How did you become the “enlightened” guy, the crusader for dads seeking more dad respect and support at work?

A: I grew up believing in gender equality and the “Free to Be … You and Me” mentality. I knew I wanted to have tight emotional relationships with my kids. I knew I wanted to be there. I didn’t ever think I had to prove manliness by not showing my emotions. Boys are still getting these messages, that they should act one way. But at least they are getting it less than the generations ahead of me did.

Q: What advice do you give to dads who are frustrated because they feel they are held back from being the “all in” dad they want to be?

A: We talk about knowing your rights, knowing that there are positive ways to bring ideas to your workplace, to help your workplace move forward. Presume your business will do the right thing. Don’t be afraid to take action if necessary.

Q: How do you advise any dad out there that he can reshape his day-to-day life, both at work and at home?

A: There’s no laundry list. But we have had the benefit of women fighting for equal rights for all these years. When we as a nation confront the facts in “All In,” then policy changes and the end of old-fashioned stigmas will follow. It’s very simple.

Q: Do you leave work for reasons like teacher conferences and kids’ doctor appointments?

A: Depends on what I’m doing any given day. The kind of work I do for CNN Digital is pretty much with a set schedule, but I can schedule time off. I always try to work it out and I’m not afraid to ask.

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