Feminist Philosophers

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Helping Fathers Get Involved February 25, 2009

Filed under: maternity,paternity — Jender @ 4:04 pm

The UK has decided to overhaul a variety of policies with the goal of getting fathers more involved in parenting. A laudable goal, and much needed. When I was pregnant, I was deluged with information about how to care for babies, while my male partner was offered nothing. Worse yet, I was told that it was essential to do things which would in fact impede his participation– like holding newborn baby against my bare skin as much as humanly possible. I had a caesarean and my partner wasn’t allowed to stay with me for the first two nights in hospital. So my introduction to parenting (a deeply unpleasant one) was being on my own with a baby after major abdominal surgery (and no, the staff were not much help). Looks like these policies are being changed. But what’s not being changed? Fathers still only get 2 weeks’ paternity leave, compared to mothers’ 52. (I know that sounds like a blissful fantasy to US readers, but it’s still obviously very unequal and definitely perpetuates the idea that parenting is women’s work.)

Thanks, HA!

 

6 Responses to “Helping Fathers Get Involved”

  1. Monkey Says:

    This is great news! It’s also a good example of the way in which one ‘site’ of gender injustice affects both men and women.

  2. telbort Says:

    This is interesting Jender, not least because my partner and I went through much the same as you and Mr Jender and got the same kind of information and “help”. I thought I’d just share my recent experiences.

    I’ve been very keen to be involved as much as possible, but as a male, my efforts were derided by professionals – for example, the maternity nurse took the baby away from me during my half-arsed attempt at a nappy change, and said “your a man you don’t know what you’re doing” whilst my partner, who could barely stand after the caesarean, was instructed to get on with it. Also, my motives in wanting to take on a fair share of responsibility of caring have been viewed with some suspiscion. There are many instances, but two stand-out.

    First, during my first visit to a “parents” room (at a shopping centre) where I went to feed and change Telbort jnr two mothers in the room quickly bundled up their babies, eyed me with a knowing (and disaproving) look, and left indignantly.

    Second, and most disturbing to me, was the following. Whilst we’re not in the U.K., so don’t have access to any statutory parental leave, my University has tried to create policies which allow fathers the same amount of paid parental leave as mothers. The university takes this very seriously. However, when I enquired, the administrator responsible for the scheme expressed some scepticism about the scheme’s value, and suggested that as a male I was unlikely to help my partner and would probably use the time to play golf.

    Anyway, I think you’re absolutely right that parental leave for fathers should be extended, and this seems ultimately to be the best means for securing some equality here, but if changes in government policy help to undermine what seems to be the pervading view that child raising is women’s work and a willing male is somehow unnatural, then that would be a good thing.

  3. Heg Says:

    I *passionately* support the equalising of parenting policies between men and women. Their ridiculous nature was brought home to me when I reviewed my University’s proposed paternity leave policy, which claimed to include lesbian co-parents by insisting – in a footnote – that the word ‘father’ was being used in a gender neutral sense. Right. As a woman, it would sure make me feel included to fill in forms about when I was due to become a father.

    Of course, I support the extension of an aspect of parenting leave to same-sex co-parents. But in the UK, the division Jender referred to between ‘maternity’ and ‘paternity’ leave means same-sex couples have to designate one partner as a ‘mother’ and one as a ‘father’. This is true even if they adopt, because only one parent can have the 52 weeks adoption leave, and once the leave starts, it can’t be transferred to the other.

    It’s enforcing a bizarre hierarchy of primary and secondary care-givers, but the fact that straight couples currently have the designation forced on them according to sex seems to have obscured its weirdness!

  4. Amalthea Says:

    Hooray for fathers!

  5. Katy O'Leary Says:

    As a midwife in this world we now live in father’s have been left out of the equation as an imbalance we experience in most of our everyday lives. Balance is what we seek as human beings and no less after a birthing. Partners who wish to share the experience not only of birth but of raising the child for years, would benefit from finding supporting providers, That is not going to happen very often when you get “pot luck” at your local “institution” ~ commonly a hospital. Surrounding yourself with people who share your vision is best but in the meantime let don’t take anything personally and live from your instinct.

    A new idea is having a couple/midwife man and woman who guide you through the process. The possibilities of change are endless! Good Luck.

  6. Jender Says:

    Telbort, that’s really awful (though nice to hear from you–hi!). It’s actually pretty amazing that the university has put the policy in place but then put someone like that in charge of it! Heg, what happens to gay parents: are they allowed to designate one as the mother and get that one 52 weeks, or do they both get stuck with 2?


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