Mothers at home matter; dads need not apply

Fatherhood Institute, shared parental leave, Mothers at home matter, paternity leave, maternity leave Glassdoor

Quick! Get that child away form him before he bonds with it! Pic credit below.

Shock horror! A new survey has found the majority of men disagree with shared parental leave, which will come into force from April next year.

The survey in question comes from online recruitment specialist Glassdoor. According to Glassdoor’s blog, the survey of 2,000 men and women aged 50 and under found that;

  • 23 per cent of men agreed new parents should share parental leave
  • This figure rose to 31 per cent of men in the 18 to 24 year old age group
  • 42 per cent of men would take the maximum paternity leave in the event of their partner having a baby and
  • 12 per cent would take the maximum paternity leave while their partner took the minimum maternity leave and returned to work.

Are these finding surprising? Not in the slightest. The introduction of shared parental leave represents a massive cultural shift. It’s going to take years for society to change and acknowledge that early years childcare is not the sole preserve of women.

Even so, Glassdoor’s findings, as published on its website (see link above), are somewhat lacking in substance. It sheds no light whatsoever on the earning potential of the men and women questioned. If daddy earns four times what mummy does, then you can hardly blame him for having concerns about his salary being slashed to the statutory minimum for a protracted period of time following the birth of a child.

The most fascinating thing to come out of this survey, however, was a discussion that took place this morning on Radio 4’s Today Programme. Two interviewees were on the programme to discuss Glassdoor’s findings; Adrienne Burgess, chief executive of the charity and think tank the Fatherhood Institute and Lynne Burnham of the campaigning organisation Mothers at Home Matter.

I’ve always had a quiet admiration for Mothers at Home Matter. Although a father, I’ve kind of assumed it would still represent my interests as a stay at home parent. Unfortunately the outcome of today’s interview changed my opinion significantly.

Not too surprisingly, Burgess came out supporting shared parental leave but was realistic and conceded it was a “baby step.” There was also a very interesting discussion about the impact shared parental leave may have on breastfeeding rates. Although I’ve not written about it, this is something I have pondered over. I can imagine the next piece of family friendly legislation may well be an obligation on employers to provide women with facilities to express and store milk in the workplace, but back to the Radio 4 interview.

Burnham was asked if she thought men would “take advantage” of shared parental leave. Her response was staggering. I was so taken aback I listened to the interview on iPlayer so I could transcribe it (you can listen to the interview here, skip forward to 2.54:34). Here is what was said:

“Well no, I’m not sure men will take advantage of it because as this report says, one in three fathers (I’m not sure where Burnham got this figure from) don’t actually want this shared parental leave. I think it’s really important that fathers have a full role with their young children, with their babies, but dad’s role comes into play much later on in their child’s life. When they are babies, babies need to bond with their mother and this won’t help anybody, let alone small companies who won’t be able to afford to run this project.”

So there you have it, Mothers at Home Matter says that “dads role comes into play much later on in their child’s life.” Forget all the breathing exercises you learned at National Childbirth Trust or Parentcraft lessons. Don’t show any interest in the birth plan. Don’t learn about breastfeeding and don’t whatever you do consider skin to skin. It would appear this is women’s work and you, as a dad, have no place getting involved.

The choice of words was very poor indeed and it delivers a dreadful message to men. It is exactly this type of sentiment that makes men reluctant to consider shared parental leave and such ideas must be challenged. It’s also an insulting thing to say to a family like mine. There were complications after both my wife’s births and I had to be on hand from day one looking after the children and running the household. Under the circumstances this was most definitely my role and to say otherwise is wrong.

I’ll finish by saying that shared parental leave is an evolutionary step, not a revolutionary one. The legislation behind it has a few flaws but it has the potential, over time, to bring about massive cultural change. Crucially, however, it will give families much needed flexibility to decide on how to spend those early months with a new child. It will give men a greater opportunity to spend time with their new born and how this can be criticised is beyond me.

Image sourced from Pixabay. Photographer unknown. Reproduced under Creatve Commons agreement. For more information about Creative Commoons and a link to the various agreements visit this page.

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11 Comments

  1. December 1, 2014 / 11:20 pm

    Hi John
    As I commented on Twitter, I think that it was quite an ignorant comment in some ways. just like it is for mothers, the early days of a child’s life is an important time for fathers to bond with their new child, especially as they haven’t had as many opportunities to as the mother who has felt the baby develop inside her during pregnancy.

    Men are often forgotten when it comes to pregnancy, we often plod on trying to fulfil or roles while everyone ask’s how is mum, or how is the baby? So to many fathers the first months are precious, it is finally the time when they can be truly involved at that level and many savour every moment. I know I wouldn’t swap anything in the world for the the time I spent with my children just after they were born.

    Regards
    Dave

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 2, 2014 / 8:18 pm

      Thanks for commenting Dave. I’m in total agreement, men can be forgotten when it comes ot pregnancy and yet we have the power to be such a positive influence. SUch comments fail to appreciate this fact.

  2. December 2, 2014 / 10:00 am

    Unfortunately I am not surprised, on a radio 4 interview I did I was informed that dads couldnt wait to get back to work, when I challenged this I was both shouted down by the presenter and the “expert” Amazing how commentators and the media seem to actually believe their beliefs are far more important than actual evidence.

    Now I could be writing for hours in response to you piece but I will try and keep it short.

    Firstly their is plenty of evidence that looks at the benefits to childhood development of an involved dad. Through both my book and my classes I recommend dads start the bonding process even before the baby is born. The reason is simple the benefits for Baby, Dad and the whole family are huge.

    What these outdated and misandry, commentators fail to realise is they are actually doing a huge disservice to the women that they claim to be campaigning for. By actively encouraging and supporting dads involvement, by improving flexabilty in the work place, we are in turn supporting the WHOLE family. The transition that families go through when a child is born especially the first is an extremely difficult and stressful time for most families. There are total relationship adjustments that take place and this is why the most common time for a relationship to fail is in the first year after the birth of a child. By easing and supporting that transition which will support the family.

    Damn I could be ranting about this all day, I think maybe a fuller post will be forth coming on the DaddyNatal blog shortly so thank you for bringing this to my attention

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 2, 2014 / 8:17 pm

      Ah Dean, I thought you may have a thing or two to say on this subject! The most important point you make is that the approach suggested by these comments leads to women being left unsupported, as much as men. It’s a very outdated and frankly unrealistic proposal to suggest that men are not needed in the early days. Without wishing ot overstate my importance, I know my presence was vital. The whells would have fallen off the bus completely if I hadn’t been on hand from BEFORE my kids were born.

  3. December 2, 2014 / 11:02 am

    That is a shocking and ignorant comment and very insulting to all those wonderful dads out there that are very involved in their children’s lives and upbringings from day 1. It also completely ignores the importance of the support that dads can provide in those early days even if the mother is doing most of the ‘hands-on’ parenting.

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 2, 2014 / 8:13 pm

      Agreed Louise, it was a very unfortunate sentiment to express. I simply hope Mothers at Home Matter reconsider its stance on the invovlement in the early years of their children’s lives because this was not a helpful thing to say.

  4. December 3, 2014 / 12:24 pm

    My ears perked up at the mention of Breastfeeding as this is the one element in our household which stops the husband being the stay at home parent. If we took away Breastfeeding then he would have just as much right as I have to stay at home with the children. I exclusively Breastfeed for the first year of my children’s lives so it’s not physically possibly for the roles to be reversed in our lives. Now that we have had our last baby when Breastfeeding comes to an end we may explore the idea of husband staying home with the children.

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 3, 2014 / 1:50 pm

      Yes Emma, breastfeeding is a controversial subject when it comes to shared parental leave. I have some sympathy for the Government though. Would it be correct for the Government to legislate in a way that essentially forces women to stay at women (as you could argue the present mat leave system does) or does the Governemnt recongise the fact few babies are breastfed beyond the first month or two and legislate accordingly? It would be a very authoritarian step for a Government to take the former step.

      In time I think shared parental leave will lead to legislation forcing employers to provide milk expressing and storage facilities. I think it will open up a legal minefield, but it would at least enable women to combine work and breast feed if they and their partner feel this is the correct thing to do.

      Thanks for commeenting, especially on this aspect of the new rules which is, without a doubt, very thorny!

  5. Darika
    December 4, 2014 / 1:27 pm

    Good call – parental earnings are a big factor I suspect.

    Fun fact: UK employers are already legally required to provide an appropriate area for mothers to express milk and “lie down”. Not sure what the latter is for and if anyone takes advantage of it but the former is very much needed!

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 4, 2014 / 1:43 pm

      Wow. I didn’t know that! The former is indeed very much needed and yet I’ve never come across a work place that provides such a facility. Thanks for commenting. You have enlightened me.