Paternity Leave – Need or Paid Holiday?
Organized sectors are considering an increase in maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. It is being stressed upon that these are the crucial days of raising a newborn and that they need the utmost attention of mothers during these first six and a half months. In the same notion, paternity leave for men was also being considered so that they could take care of their child and wife.
Even before a verdict on paternity leave could be out, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi sparked debate with her comment that men will simply use their paternity as holidays instead of taking care of their child or wife. Given the men dominating nature of our society, how correct is Maneka’s statement?
1. Patriarchal society: We can never get passed the harsh truth that ours will always be a patriarchal society that still, in some deep rooted corners of their minds, believe that men are supposed to be the bread earners while women are meant to cook and clean and raise children at home. Has this ever changed? No wonder men will treat the leave as mere holidays.
2. No load sharing: Even when she’s a working woman who earns as much as him or even more than him, she is expected to look after the household tasks once she’s home. There is no load sharing moral for our society. How are we to expect that men will change overnight and offer to share the burden in the form of paternity leave? They need to start earning that first.
3. Sick leave: If a child falls sick, it is the mother who is to take sick leave and take care of her child. How many times does a father do that? Rarest of the rare case. Just as Gandhi stated, they could consider the proposal of paternity leave, if men show this one little hope by taking leave to stay beside their sick child while the wife goes to work.
4. He’s clueless: When it comes to taking care of a new born, men don’t know and don’t even try to know what to do most of the time. The man who pretends to know everything all his life suddenly looks at the woman like the child came with a user manual that she has been hiding from everyone. What is he supposed to do during paternity leave anyway?
5. Let him work and still help at home: Women does that all her life. She wakes up early, takes care of her home tasks, leaves for work, comes back to clean and cook and spend the rest of the time with her child. Men can do that too if they have half a heart to do so. And she could recover all too well when she’s left by herself for the day. It is not rocket science, women have been doing it since forever.
6. What do men do on Sundays? There should be entire book with three volumes on this. Even when he has a wife recovering from childbirth and a tiny teeny version of himself cranky at the slightest sound and touch, men usually consider they have a right to relax and rejuvenate on Sundays. Where is the hope that he would utilize the paternity leave for what it is meant for?
1. There are other works too: When a woman is recovering and healing from childbirth, there are tons of other necessary household works that she cannot do. Laundry, cleaning, moping, cooking, buying groceries, heading out to buy medicines, a hand to help with her little one – that’s what men are supposed to be doing on paternity leave.
2. Time to bond: A newborn imprints upon people he spends time with. Just like children bond with mothers, fathers too must get this opportunity. It is only possible when he has enough time and not when he leaves home a sleeping child and comes back home to see him asleep again. He does have a right to watch over as his little one grows up.
3. The big change: New parenthood is a beautiful time when both the parents need to support and complement each other emotionally. She’s going through turmoil of hormonal changes that give mood swings and make her emotionally helpless at times. She could use a little emotional support from her husband to show that he cares.
4. Comparing with US: The biggest comparison is made with US not having provisions for paternity leave. Well, that’s because they rely on nannies. We Indians don’t.
Paternity leave could be well utilized by men and could be totally wasted by treating them as holidays. First, men need to start sharing the load of household tasks on all days, a small gesture towards showing that you care for her daily needs. Men in our society need to show that they are willing and trying to give up the rules of the patriarchal society and only then can it be considered that paternity leave, if given, will be used in the right way and not as a holiday.