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A Dad Told Me Paternity Leave Would Send Me Crazy. He Was Wrong, I Loved Every Minute

03/01/2017 17:50

owen and lucia

I'm going to assume it was a dirty protest at my return to work. As I prepared to leave the house to come back after three months off, my darling daughter decided an explosive poo was in order.

Before I was out the door, I helped peel off her soiled pyjamas and hurriedly ran the bath to give Lucia a much needed clean. With my daughter handed over to her mother, I was off, back into the world of work.

My 12 weeks being a stay-at-home dad were over, and I was gutted. I had loved it - much more than I thought I would.

When my partner and I discussed childcare arrangements ahead of our daughter's birth last May, I was keen to pull my weight and take my share of the responsibility. I have always considered myself a feminist, and if I couldn't, in this key moment, put my beliefs into action, then I would surely be a hypocrite. Why should my partner take a full year off work to look after the baby just because she's a woman? Why should her career be put on hold while I just carry on with mine?

If we are serious about tackling the gender pay gap, us men need to step up and become much more involved in this sphere of society. Women are currently penalized by a motherhood pay gap, but this could begin to be tackled if men shared the childcare duties. Would we suffer together, or would we all work together to eradicate this difference in pay?

Also, if an employer knows that regardless of whether he employs a man or a woman they are equally as likely to take parental leave, it might help any unconscious bias when it comes to recruitment and promotions.

Aside from the grand, egalitarian reasons, there are obvious personal benefits to caring for your child.

Another dad I knew told me he was bored during the two weeks off he had after his first child was born, and that a full three months looking after a baby would send me crazy.

He was wrong.

I loved every minute of it. I was there when my daughter crawled for the first time, when she pulled herself up on the sofa, when she started clapping her hands for no apparent reason, when she started saying "Da-da-da-da-da-da". Every day was like watching evolution in action. Every day, some other little side to her personality was revealed, or she discovered a new object to be wondered at, or a new piece of food to spit out on her clothes.

I took her to playgroups, where she mixed with other babies with varying degrees of success - some she liked, others she just tried to scratch.

I mixed with the mothers - it was mainly mothers - and swapped stories of nighttime terrors, daytime tantrums, and bedtime tears.

The lack of men was obvious - at one playgroup I went to every Tuesday morning I did not see another man at all. It was slightly better at a music group we went to every Friday, where about a quarter of the parents throwing their children around to the Hokey Cokey were men.

I was off from October until January, and as such missed a few political events I would like to have covered: the Trump victory, the ongoing Brexit developments, a Ukip leadership election. I thought I would be climbing the walls at not getting stuck into these events, but I wasn't. There will be another US presidential election; Brexit will rumble on for years; Ukip are averaging a leadership contest every couple of months. There will always be politics to report on.

But watching Lucia bang a tambourine for the first time, or try her first piece of apple, or pull herself up in her cot - those things won't come round again. I would choose them a thousand times over.

The saddest aspect of the whole affair is that Lucia will never be able to join in with me when I reminisce about this time in years to come. She will have no memory of the three months we spent together and how much fun we had.

Perhaps she sensed that today it was over, and, like I said, that was the reason behind the dirty protest. Or it was the result of yesterday's carrot and sweet potato puree.

Either way, it was certainly a send off.

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