February 21, 2021

Making the case for paternity leave

Many companies seem to think that children only have mothers. We talk about ‘maternity leave’ and ‘flexi-time for working moms’ but what about the dads?

Well, in the UK dads are entitled to 2 weeks paid parental leave from work. 2 weeks to be with your child, 2 weeks to bond and help mom recover, 2 weeks to learn to be a dad before you need to go back to your 9 to 5.

And that is of course if you are lucky enough to have had a straightforward and uneventful labour and mom and baby come back home straight away. Because

there are cases where mom and baby need to stay in the hospital for a few days at which point dad is at home alone not even enjoying life as a parent.

I’ve always believed that dads deserve just as much time off work to enjoy parenthood as moms, but since becoming a parent that idea has really cemented in my mind. With COVID 19 completely throwing off our normal routines, I have been shocked and appalled how my husband has been treated as a second class citizen when it comes to parenthood.

He wasn’t allowed to come along to antenatal appointments. When I was in labour, he was only allowed to come to the hospital after I was 4 cm dilated (which meant I spent about 8 hours labour in the hospital by myself) and now that our beautiful son is here, he’s only allowed 2 weeks off work.

Right now, as I feed and bathe our son, and change nappies, dad is working. The silver lining of COVID is that Axl working from home so he’s never really too far away but that isn’t the case for many dads out there. As I struggle cluster-feeding our 3 week old baby at night, instead of asking for help, I have to be considerate that he has work in the morning. And as much as he wants to help and be available to us, the truth is, I have to be mindful that from 9am till about 6pm, Monday to Friday, daddy is working and we can’t disturb him.

How is this fair?

How is this fair to Axl, to me or to our son? Dad needs time with his son, baby needs time with his father and i need at least 10 mins a day away from the baby to shower.

And this isn’t just the UK. Globally, paternity leave isn’t really a thing. Even today, child rearing is mainly considered a woman’s job which is why paternity leave is pretty much non existent as a concept. Worse even, when paternity leave is offered by a company, the pressures on men not to take it are often extreme. Some new dads have been fired, demoted and lost job opportunities for doing so.

Toxic stereotypes which see women as the caregivers and men as the breadwinners are the reason why moms struggle at home alone, while dads are denied the bonding experience of taking care of their child. But it isn’t easy to stand up to the pressures against taking paternity leave and demanding greater flexibility for working dads. With a new child in the home, things are hectic — and, in most cases even pre-COVID, money is tight. The last thing dads can do is risk their jobs and careers.

So what can we do to change this toxic environment?

  • Advocate for paternity leave, speak to your managers and superiors, raise the issue to decision makers
  • When offered time off work, please take advantage and take it! If you are entitled to 2 weeks, take the damn time off.
  • Speak up and normalise the idea that dads are parents too, that they don’t just babysit their offspring but rather they are just as important as moms and need to be present in their kids’ lives.
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