updated 23 Feb 2011, 04:13
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Tue, Feb 15, 2011
The New Paper
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Paternity leave? Bring it on
by Jason Johnson

OVER the past week there has been a lot of talk about granting paternity leave to new fathers in Singapore.

Speaking as a father, and as someone who loves his leave more than anything in the world, I'd have to say I'm all for it.

The question came up when the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) conducted a survey which found that nine out of 10 parents with children seven year old and younger favoured mandatory paternity leave.

Yes! to leave

Something tells me that if they'd asked those same parents if there should be mandatory pet-care leave or mandatory kite-flying leave or mandatory foot-massage leave, the results would have been similar.

Who but an utter idiot would ever turn down leave?

"You mean you're going to PAY me to sit around in my underpants and watch reruns of UFO Hunters? No, thank you!"

According to Wikipedia - so it must be true - mothers in the Czech Republic can take up to FOUR YEARS of maternity leave, during which time they are supported by the state.

If the mother doesn't want to take the leave, the father can take it instead.

Allow me to reiterate in case you missed it: FOUR YEARS leave!

In Sweden, a pair of parents are entitled to 16 MONTHS paid leave, the cost shared between the employer and the state.

Out of those 16 months, the father or "minority parent" is required to take a minimum of two months.

When my wife took her maternity leave after having each of our two boys, I have to say I was jealous.

Why should she be the one to get leave just because she endured the pain of childbirth, fed the infants with the milk of her breasts, changed their diapers, washed them, patted them to sleep and catered to their every need?

Didn't seem fair!

Of course, it is arguable that she would have had a lot more help doing a lot of these things if I'd been kicking around at home instead of toiling at the office.

Except the "milk of her breasts" thing; I'm developing some pretty nice little honkers in my middle age, but they still run dry.

But the real reason that men should be allowed to play a larger role in the lives of their newborns, I think, is that the "miracle of childbirth" truly is something of a miracle, and to miss out on it is a pity.

Ushering a new life into the world is one of the more profound experiences a person - man or woman - will ever have, and it seems a shame to miss out on it.

Small price

Being absent from a few meetings or whatever seems a small price to pay for sharing in the first few months of a baby's life.

When I see women in the office coming back from their maternity leave, they're always in this sort of Zenned-out state, half-exhaustion and half-bliss.

They've been through a sort of baptism, a ritual of nurturing as deep and primal as anything they'll ever experience.

They've forged bonds with their newborn babies that will last a lifetime.

As a man, I'd like to have a better idea of how that feels.

Also, UFO Hunters.

It's all just so cosmic.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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