Nick Clegg has announced plans for parents to share parental leave, allowing mothers to return to work early if they so wish and letting the father take up the remaining leave, up to a maximum of six months.
At the moment, new fathers are given two weeks paternity leave, described by Clegg as "Edwardian". He then went on to say that current rules "patronise women and marginalise men".
Whether it's two weeks or ten months, paternity leave is an important time for new dads. There is a risk that newborn fathers can feel slightly isolated or frustrated if they don't know how best to spend their time in their new role, and so can struggle to bond with their baby.
However, the function of a father during paternity leave – and beyond – can simply be summed up as 'hands-on'. For a new dad, getting involved in the two weeks following childbirth, when his partner is undoubtedly exhausted, is a great way to learn the ropes of the most important career he will ever embark upon.
So, dads: here are a few ways in which you can make your paternity leave count:
Be a Bouncer
In no way does this involve grabbing people by the collar and throwing them out the front door:
but, as any new parent will tell you, the first few days following birth are a blur of visitors, all clamouring to see your new arrival. As nice as this may be, an exhausted mother plus a screaming child plus a throng of people can equal a very irate new family. Therefore, it's your job to police the amount of time visitors spend at your house, to give mum time to rest and al of you all time to gel as a family.
Set up a codeword system by which your wife can secretly tell you that she's had enough, giving you the cue to start ushering people out the door. If you do not wish to be so forceful, a great way to prompt guests to leave is to make up an appointment. Simple, really: when the visitors arrive, warn them that your wife has to go to see her doctor in half an hour for a check-up. It gives them a set time by which to leave straight away, and is a great excuse for a bit of peace and quiet.
Get Your Rubber Gloves On
Washing up gloves, I should clarify. While mum is regaining her strength, it is your job to do the household chores: cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing. You might not be great at it, and it is a very real possibility that you will leave the kitchen in a complete state, but at least you'll be helping (although your wife may not see it that way. Make sure the house is clean and tidy, and that you're not wading through a waist-high sea of crisp wrappers just to get to the bathroom. If you keep the house spick and span, you'll be a superhero in mum's eyes.
It is always a good idea to freeze some pre-cooked meals before your baby is born, so that you can reheat them with minimal fuss after birth. That's also your job, but thanks to the wonder of microwaves, the chances of you messing it up are slim to none.
Your baby, that is. If your wife is breastfeeding, you may feel a little helpless when it comes to feeding time. However, there are certainly ways that you can help at other times, such as winding your newborn or getting involved in changing nappies, as revolting as it may be. It will give mum time to have a nice bath, as well as giving you some valuable one-on-one bonding time with your little guy or girl.
Become Errand Boy
You will undoubtedly be called upon to run several errands a day, whether it be buying food from the supermarket or running down to the local corner shop to stock up on breast pads, nappies, wipes, and all of the other things that your shopping list will consist of now you're a father.
Sort Out Her Social Diary
Many mums dread their partner going back to work after the fortnight is up, and some may be nervous about looking after their baby without your support. A great way to help ease the transition is for you to organise mum's social calendar for a few days once you're back at work. Visits from friends and family will be a breath of fresh air, and help allay any fears that you may have as new parents.
Dads know best