Is it really such a shock? In the year since shared parenting leave has been made available for both Mums and Dads, it seems that only one per cent of men have taken advantage of it, according to My Family Care and the Women's Business Council.
A lot can happen in nine months, but even more can happen in a year. That's why the decision to take a whole year out to bring up baby was a no-brainer for me. When I heard today that only one in a hundred men have taken up paternity leave, I can't say it shocked me. Why so cynical? Well, I know these are modern times and I'm extremely proud to live in a country that is as open-minded and committed to equality, but there's a good number of reasons why it still makes sense for Mummy daycare, and it's not sexist - it's for practical reasons, and here's why...
1. Boob juice
Should a Mum decide to breastfeed, it is extremely hard to return to work and manage to express at the same time. Don't get me wrong, it can be done, but not without a huge commitment to the cause. My friend Shamila lives in New York, and due to the archaic American system, she like every other Mum returned to work after three whole months. In between meetings she sneaks off to the 'restrooms' to pump, dump and then get a taxi to take it to her nanny. Now this is extreme, but if I had been a breastfeeder and returned to work at three months, I wouldn't have much choice either. Ergo, it's easier for the woman to stay at home.
There is still a gap when it comes to salaries, often being the case that men earn more than women. This of course is a whole other debate, but it does make you question why you would chose to cull the healthier wage, and have the smaller income to live on for the potential 50 weeks (of which 37 weeks are paid).
3. Coffee Zero
Lets be honest, daytime life is completely geared towards women. Turn on the TV during the day you're faced with Loose Women and This Morning, try and escape the house and you'll notice the local coffee shop is packed with buggies and mummies, not a manbag in sight! Is it any wonder there aren't more men staying at home to bring up baby, when the outside world is geared towards women.
4. Going ga ga
At the last baby class you went to, how many Dads were there? Probably one, maybe none? Ever been to a class on a weekend and notice how it's suddenly filled with working week Dads? In a similar thought to the above, it's hard to find male company during the week. And ok, I'm not suggesting just because you're a man you want to be around men all day... but neither would you probably want to be just with women all day, and yet...
Pop along to any of those noisy, overheated, saccharine playgroups during the working week and you're faced with an army of oestrogen, singing Mothers and the clap-happy brigade. They can dress it up as baby massage or sing-a-long with ding-dong, or whatever they like, but they are mostly aimed at the female market, to keep maternity leave Mothers occupied.
It's sad to admit, but I still think there's a social stigma around men staying at home while the woman works. It shouldn't be this way, but sadly since it's still such a new concept, people are taken aback. I say this with some knowledge - one of the couples in my NCT group has gone through it. The Dad decided to quit his job to bring up baby, while the Mother returned to work after six months. It was a wrench like it is for all of us, but it was a joint decision and one that seems to be working perfectly for them. Yet Steve still faces people who have to double take or justify his choice to them. He is one of these refreshing people that doesn't care what others think of him. But he is rare. Because most of the men I know, my husband included, would probably be ribbed by their friends if they became house-husbands.
I too have fallen victim to the mentality of always assuming that the stay at home partner is always the woman. I hope times are changing, and I hope by time my son becomes a Father, this debate would seem ludicrous. In a world where we so often complain about the gender gap, about the pay gap and about the difficulties of being a Mother, it's time to take stock and give Dads credit where it's due. The struggle is real for us all.
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