"Maternity" leave is not about you!

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Recently we ran a story called "Gay dad challenges maternity leave law" and needless to say, we got a lot of responses. Some of them were in support of the couple and some, well, not so much.

It's to those dissenters that I speak to now.

Firstly, this is not about gay rights. It's about child rights. Because really, maternity leave is not about the mother. Or the father. It's about the child. It's about looking after a new human being who can't fend for itself and to bond as a new family. Has the concept of family become so devalued in our society that we begrudgingly hand out maternity leave (and don't even get me started on paternity leave)? 

Many of those who commented on the article thought that because you haven't personally birthed a child, that meant you didn't deserve maternity leave. Well, no. Medically, it takes 6 weeks to recover from birth. I had a c-section and was up and about in a few weeks. Granted others may take longer to recover but not 4 months. Four months is the amount of maternity leave granted in South Africa (which doesn't have to be paid). Take out the fact that they are gay; they were awarded the same rights as adoptive parents, who are only granted 2 months leave. 

Two. Months. Do you know how vulnerable a 2-month-old is? I certainly hadn't gotten the hang of motherhood nor bonded with my baby enough at that point to even want to leave him with his father! 2-month-old babies are basically just squishy shapes who can't even smile yet and rely completely on their parents to survive. They're still getting to know their parents too. All they understand is that here is this person who I've become pretty attached to... and suddenly they're gone - because babies don't understand what work is.

What people don't seem to understand is that maternity (or paternity) leave is not about the parent. It's for the child's benefit. The kid is still learning how to be a human. And how are they supposed to do that when their parents aren't there to guide them?

"Send him to a day mother/crèche", I hear you say. Would you send your 2-month-old to a stranger? It's already hard enough when they're a bit older and you have to do that, but when they're still newborns? That's harsh.

What is a 2-month-old baby supposed to do? Look after itself? Don't be ridiculous!

The bottom line is, no matter how you became a parent, everyone needs the same time to look after their newborn and to adjust and bond as a family.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Do you think the gay dads deserve an amount of leave equivalent to maternity leave?
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