Monday 19 March 2018

New mothers don't need a partner on paternity leave

Women don't want their role as primary carers taken away, they want support, writes Sarah Caden

In between advice for expectant mothers on breathing, visualisation and when to push, the midwife who gave us our pre-natal course had a few words of advice for the fathers.

In a nutshell, they amounted to "Keep out of the way" and "Don't imagine we'll have any time to worry about you". Beyond that, the only other advice aimed at the fathers was how to bath a new baby and change a nappy. It was all delivered and received with good humour, but there was an edge to it, a serious desire to convey that in the earliest hours, weeks and months of a baby's life, daddy is crucial, but he's crucial as back-up. In the earliest hours, weeks and months, mammy is life. And that's not theory, it's biology.

As Gordon Brown prepares to introduce an option of six months' paternity leave in the UK, you have to wonder what service is being done by persisting with the idea that men and women are the same and want, and should want, the same things. In reality, maternity leave, after a baby's arrival, is a matter of necessity, rather than being an intellectual choice.

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