Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Clearly babies are conceived by magic pixies

I'm bit late in blogging my outrage at HoS piece on Mother's Choice but better late then never.

The gist of the article is about the politics of mothers deciding when is a good time to go back to the workplace. To give the writer some snaps, she did take a very non-judgmental angle to what is a highly judgmental topic.

But there was one clear omission from the story - fathers. Why is taking time off for the birth of a child still seen as purely a woman's choice? Ok I'm a tad biased. My parents were these crazy liberals types who had no problem with Dad looking after me as a baby, doing the school run and accompanying his children on trips. Yes that made our family a bit freakish insofar as Dad was the only father who did so. But it worked out well for our family and my teachers often commented on how wonderful it was to have a Dad to help out with the school stuff for the first time ever.

I get that for 9 months post conception males largely are in a supportive role as far as baby caring goes and that some mothers might actually need some physical and mental time off from pregnancy and that whole birthing thing. But I'm sure my Dad isn't alone and there are other fathers out there taking time out from work to care for babies or volunteering to help on school trips.

How about some coverage pretty please? After all these children weren't conceived by magic pixies.


Julie said...

As part of my preparation for returning to work I got a few "working mum" books out of the library and was astonished at how little mention there was of fathers. One book had ostensibly interviewed over a hundred women, but no dads, and there were just a few pages about the role of the non-pregnant parent right towards the end of the book.

My observation (and I might turn this into a post one day) is that where both partners are prepared to make changes to their lives to accommodate the incursion of children everyone is happier. That's certainly been my personal experience to date.

Anna said...

I agree, Julie. My partner took time off work when we had our first, and quite frankly we wouldn't have made it through that time without two grownups on deck - it was really challenging.

And when we both worked, he was more likely to take time off to help out with school trips and stuff than I was. To be fair, there was a reasonable number of other dads who also helped out at the school (although, in their cases, they tended to be stay at home parents or students).

I think men now feel more able to take time off when their partners have kids. Not sure if it pans out that way in practice - I'd be interested to know.

Julie said...

Talking to fathers in their 30s I'm finding that they are more likely to have done a stint at home (totally and utterly non-statistical). I talked to one couple the other day who decided to sell a rental property so they could both stay home when their second was born, and then when he got a bit older they set up an ECE centre together where they both work. I must say their sons (3 and 5) were impressively well behaved and intelligent.

Psycho Milt said...

I took two weeks' leave to help out following each birth, and they seemed very long fortnights compared to the comparative luxurious indolence of full-time work. I also spent some time as primary caregiver of our first-born after his mum went back to work, but after a couple of months I slapped him in childcare so I could go back to doing work you get paid for. Strangely enough, he's also turned out well-behaved and intelligent, but that's probably down to years of effort by professional childcare workers.

One consequence of the above is that I have the utmost respect for stay-at-home parents, having proved unequal to the task myself.

Julie said...

I'm sure there are many pathways to well-behaved and intelligent children.

Part of the reason I'm really enjoying working full time at the moment is because it's a little like being on permanent holiday - at work I'm on holiday from all the pressures of home and baby, and at home I'm on holiday from all the pressures of work.

Tamara said...

I went back to work part time when our child was nearly a year old and her Dad now stays home one day a week to care for her. It's not about the money because with his earning power it comes out about equal but it's great for him to have one on one day with her every week. It also initially opened his eyes to what is involved in being the stay at home parent. Plus, I think it has contributed to the fantastic relationship they have. For me, it was great to get back to work so i could get more balance between being mummy and a legal professional using my brain for other stuff. And being in the office is usually much easier than being at home!