Friday 28 November 2014

Dads want to care for their kids . . . so why don't we let them?

Rebecca Asher believes in parental equality. Liz Kearney reports

As a high-flying journalist and radio producer at the BBC, Rebecca Asher had always taken equality for granted, both at work and at home with husband Nick.

And when she gave birth in her late thirties to her first child, she wasn't surprised to find both her work and home life tipped upside-down.

What did surprise her was that Nick's continued virtually unchanged.

Despite both wanting to be involved, hands-on parents, from the moment Nick returned to work after his two-week statutory paternity leave, she realised, to her dismay, the job of bringing up baby was primarily hers.

Instead of the teamwork that had characterised their relationship up to then, Rebecca found herself dazed and careworn, coping with a sleepless newborn.

Being shut off from work and adult conversation left her feeling isolated and vulnerable.

"My life had become unrecognisable. I came to resent motherhood itself," she says.

Infuriated by the experience, Rebecca flung her energies into writing the highly engaging Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality, a fierce broadside against a system which excludes men from the child-rearing process.

Rebecca interviewed dozens of parents and built a solid case showing that the entire family unit would benefit from a more equally shared parenting system.

"The majority of fathers say they want more flexible parental leave and more chance to be involved with their children," she says.

"If we we allow fathers to be involved in the early months, then they will want to be more involved later on.

"Currently, they are not given the opportunity to develop their skills of caring for children."

In the book, Rebecca describes her first night alone in the hospital with her baby.

Excluding men at this crucial moment cements the idea that only mothers know how to calm and soothe the new arrival, Rebecca argues.

"Most fathers aren't given the opportunity to be pushed in at the deep end, and then after that, it's hard to become as involved and proficient as they might otherwise have been," she says.

It is nigh-on impossible to break these habits once they're formed.

Irish Independent

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