The time is right….The stars have aligned….The Gods have spoken! That is the feeling that every new father and mother goes through when they are blessed with the bundle of joy and a pure sign of nature’s benevolence. In retrospect and all honesty, that was also how I felt when I held my daughter for the first time. And as I was planing to spend the maximum time with her taking care of all the small duties and details that come with a new born baby, the reality hit me. I had to return to normal working office routine, which basically meant 9 – 10 hours of corporate slogging and my wife was left alone to shoulder the new parental duties.
Its 2019 now and I am sure mine is the story of many young dads in India, who want to play a larger part in their children’s lives right from day 1, but find themselves in a fix because of the societal expectations placed on working men.
Today Father’s are carving out new territory and in retrospect of yesteryears its amazing to see how fatherhood has transformed. For decades, there has been a fight for gender equality and struggle to treat them at par, even though we have made moderate progress, fathers now are free to build emotional, deep connections with children. But is the government and workplace doing enough to bring fatherhood at par with its importance in todays world?
People of my generation grew up thinking gender equality was going to be real, allowing us truly equal opportunities at work and at home. The women being equally ambitious as the males and spoke about similar terms about work and family. But while we were shaped by a new era, Government and workplaces are still stuck in the past. Take for instance the maternity amendment act of 2016 which increased the leave period to 26 weeks, and directed workplaces with over 50 employees to provide creche services. But even this hard-won victory emphasizes the concept that only women should be involved in child care. Around the world Japan leads the world in paid leave for fathers. It is the only country that offers at least six months at full pay for new fathers. The US fares the worst, has no paid parental leave. New parents get 12 weeks of unpaid leave but the law applies only to those at a company of at least 50 employees, and have worked for at least a year.
Back in 2015, when Mark Zuckerberg announced his 2 months paternity leave it was widely applauded as an equal parenting initiative. Also recently Zomato the food delivery portal made waves after rolling out a 26-week paternity leave for its employees. And yet, India remains among the 90 out of the 187 countries in the world that do not have national policies to ensure that new fathers get adequate paid time off with their babies.
But, lets also try and get a larger perspective from all the effected parties. A research shows that shows that when caring for their baby, more support from the father can increase the mother’s well-being and they’re less likely to experience depression after the birth. Since new mothers are more likely to take time off, their careers run a risk of being jeopardized. Having dad around during those ever-so-important first weeks of a fragile new life can enable working moms to return to work sooner (if they so choose) and keep on top of their careers. For employers a well structured paternity leave policy can also weaken justifications for discriminating against women in their childbearing years in the workplace
Lastly, lets not forget the benefits that fathers have as they spend more time with their babies. Dads on parental leave, can help their children develop emotionally and mentally, with improved cognition and mental health outcomes. Studies also suggest that longer paternal leave times are associated with higher cognitive test scores. Fathers who demonstrate empathy and sensitivity especially as they care for little boys, share an opportunity to exhibit themselves as nurturing father figures and something that boys increasingly need to see as they grow up and also something that the world needs.
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