This would seem like it would have an obvious answer. But apparently not. There are some people in the world who don’t believe that fathers need or deserve paternity leave. The South African government are among these people. So let me explain why father’s need actual and official paternity leave.
I saw a tweet last night regarding this topic and I couldn't understand why anyone would be against paternity leave. I replied to the person and said that I would have loved if The Husband had gotten more than the 3 days family responsibility leave that South Africa deems fit for new fathers. Let me just remind you family responsibility leave also includes a death in the family, or taking off because of a sick spouse or child. I’m sorry but that is ridiculously unfair. Where is the time for bonding as a family? I was recovering from a c-section and while my mom was there for the first week I was home, from Week 2 I was basically solo from 7am to 6pm with a newborn baby. My dad would pop in here and there and I might actually have gotten to shower that day or eat lunch.
There’s no law for paternity leave at all in South Africa (unlike Italy who gives it’s fathers 3 months with 80% of their salary paid). So even a measly 2 weeks would be something. New fathers can suffer just as much from sleep deprivation as mothers and then are expected to be fully functional people in the work place. The Husband would get up with me a lot in those early months. I would breastfeed (every 2 hours!!), he would burp The Munchkin and put him back to sleep. Then there were midnight nappy changes, where he would inevitably pee on himself or even better poo everywhere and then everything needs changing. That will wake you UP! So yes, it would be nice for them to be able to nap during the day when baby slept too.
I often find that a lot of the time it’s non-parents who have these very sure and adamant opinions about parenting. Hell, I did! It’s such a damn wake up call when you come home with that baby and there’s no nurse to help you or husband to reassure you and help you figure stuff out.
I literally looked at my son and thought “Now what?” All those opinions jumped ship so fast! I went from “I’ll never have a baby in my bed!” to “Sometimes co-sleeping is awesome!“. “No dummies for my kid!” to “If it comforts him, then give it to him“. “My child will not be mesmerised by TV!” to “Put the Postman Pat song on so I can cut his nails“. My point is that before you’re a parent, you actually have no clue.
The person replied that maternity leave was for the mother to recover and feed the baby. But that can be refuted, we need 4 months to bond with our baby. I was getting to know my son and he was getting to know me and Dad was missing out on all that. Our family was missing an essential piece and it was very lonely and heartbreaking to be without him. The Husband would come home and be exhausted then still find the time to bath The Munchkin and spend an hour or 2 with him before it was time for bed AND still cook supper (That man is a damn star and I love him to death!).
A normal vaginal birth recovery can take up to a few days. A c-section can be a few weeks. After that it was all about getting in to a routine and spending time with my son. Some mothers also choose to formula feed and breastfeeding is recommended till at least 6 months by the World Health Organisation. Many mothers continue to breastfeed their babies successfully after they go back to work. So that nixes the “feed baby” part of the reasoning.
I just don’t understand how people can think that fathers don’t deserve paternity leave. Fathers are parents too, guys! You don’t get more importance just because you birthed a baby, you certainly deserve more care, looking after and support. So actually mothers need paternity leave too.
Do you think new dads deserve paternity leave?
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This post first appeared on Adventures in Parenting.