Keeping Mum
Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Daddies done bad by


Happy Father's Day, Daddies of the world!

We all say it, send a card, buy a present, and certainly mean it. But do we, as a society, really encourage fathers to get stuck into family life right from the get-go?

It seems to me that there's one gift all Daddies could get from the Government that would have a hugely positive impact on families up and down the country.

That's this: paid paternity leave. Meaning - let's say - two weeks' paid leave written into law for all fathers of newborns or new adoptees.

I realise employers would faint from the added cost and the usual argument - "why should we subsidise others' choices?" - would be wheeled out by the happily childless.

Why indeed?

Well, a few reasons really. It's in society's interests that fathers are bonded to their kin - even in a childless society. Yes, you over there with your toned tanned limbs, piles of disposable cash and carefree expression!

Firstly, a bonded Daddy is a better Daddy. The main reason many fathers now attend the birth of their children is because it's been discovered that a man who witnesses the birth of his child is more likely to be bonded to that child throughout his or her life.

It doesn't mean that every father who sees his child born will play the role he should, or that if a father misses his child's birth he won't. But it does mean that being there, as Peter Sellers once famously showed, is very very important.

However, bonding doesn't always happen the instant the screaming, scrawly mess is handed over from obstetrician to parents. For some it takes time.

Surely it's harder still if poor Dad has to schlep it back to work the very next day or lose half his pay packet.

As everyone who has had children knows, the first few weeks adjusting to the new arrival are critical, especially if it's the first child. An extra pair of hands to help/shoulders to cry on are extremely precious.

And it's particularly critical for establishing breast feeding.

It's been shown that if a father is present and encouraging of his wife's breast-feeding efforts she's more likely to persist, even when the inevitable problems arise.

He's more likely to be in the mindset to encourage and support if he doesn't have an 8+ hour work day to contend with on top of everything else.

But the main reason surely has to be: what bigger event in life warrants time off? Only a bereavement, or a pre-booked holiday to some sunny Pacific Island.

Why not grant fathers a few weeks of paid leave to get themselves close to their families, to allow them time to sleep in after late nights helping the mum, to revel in creating the fruit of their loins?

Why not give Daddies a better deal?

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