Mark Zuckerberg’s First Dad Screw-Up

Mark Zuckerberg managed to really foul up the announcement of his daughter’s birth. At the same time he told the world that he and his wife had just welcomed their new baby girl, they also announced that they’d donate $45 billion to charity. The latter got most of the press.

That’s an inauspicious start to fatherhood, Mr. Zuckerberg.

This isn’t to take away from the clear good intentions he and his wife have in donating so much money to good causes. I have no problem with that. I only criticize the timing of the announcement, but I criticize it harshly.

When anyone becomes a parent, the attention immediately leaves them and goes to their children. The focus of their parents, siblings, friends, and their own focus as well. Go have dinner with a parent: ninety percent of what you discuss will be about or closely related to the kids. This is why people without kids sometimes get bored talking to the people with kids. Or compare parenting to having a dog (never ever do that, people).

So with his first status update as a father, Zuckerberg managed to put all the attention back on himself and his money. Bad move. It’s going to be difficult enough for this kid, being the child of the man who created Facebook — that’s a heck of a shadow in which to grow up. It’s even worse when your dad takes away with his billions and billions of dollars, generous as he’s being with those dollars.

This annoys me partially because the conversation about fatherhood is just starting to get going. What it means to be a good dad is getting increasingly complex (as it is for being a good mother), and not that many people discuss it. Zuckerberg has a chance to be a huge example, and blew it on day one.

All that said, I don’t want to condemn the man just yet. I remember being a new dad, and all I could think about my newborn daughter was, “she doesn’t really do anything.” I couldn’t feed her, or comfort her really, and while I changed her diaper and tried rocking her to sleep, there wasn’t much connection.

It takes every dad some time to figure this whole thing out, and I’m sure a lot of moms as well. But we do, and then it’s cool. The baby starts smiling, starts looking at you, recognizing you — then it’s over. That kid owns you.

So, irritated as I am, I do give Zuckerberg a pass. (Well, a pass on fatherhood, no one gets a pass for blighting the internet with Facebook, but that’s another blog post.) The guy’s got to figure it out, and I hope he will. There’s no reason to think he won’t.

And then, if you have to take the attention from your kid right when she’s born, creating a billion dollar charity isn’t the worst way to do it. My guess is that in ten years he wishes he’d waited a month. No one’s going to miss the news of a $45 billion charity because it’s thirty days after that Facebook guy’s daughter was born.

I’m just glad I didn’t have to figure out this dad thing in the public eye.