Rhona Bir­rell Weisen, a life­style coach, thinks that it’s women who should be car­ing for new­borns pri­mar­ily, not men...

No. 1 Magazine - - THE GREAT NO.1 DEBATE -

Should we fol­low Nor­way’s lead and give men 12 weeks manda­tory paid pa­ter­nity leave? I think not. Most em­ploy­ers ac­cord a week of pa­ter­nity leave al­ready and in most homes I imag­ine this is suf­fi­cient for the fa­ther to play his role in sup­port of the mother. Quite sim­ply men are not nec­es­sar­ily needed at home after the birth of a baby. In my opin­ion the first few weeks after the baby is born is best kept an af­fair of women. Men should be en­cour­aged to help, and they are en­cour­aged by the cur­rent pa­ter­nity pay con­di­tions, yet they shouldn’t be given the im­pres­sion that they are equal to the needs of the mother. It should be quite clear that men do not play the lead role in the care of a baby, es­pe­cially not the new­born. I would be quite con­cerned that giv­ing men a full 12 weeks of pa­ter­nity pay would give them the wrong sig­nals from the au­thor­i­ties as to what their role is at home in re­la­tion to their baby. Women need to con­serve the role of prin­ci­ple care­giver to the new­born baby and any ef­forts to as­sist fa­thers should not un­der­mine this. More ef­fort rather needs to go into help­ing en­sure that all women ac­cess full ma­ter­nity pay without difficulty and for as long a pe­riod as they feel nec­es­sary to bond with their baby and, of course, breast­feed. This should be the govern­ment’s top pri­or­ity. Women need more help from the govern­ment to en­sure that they can take ma­ter­nity leave without com­pro­mis­ing their con­di­tions of work. Too many women are forced back into work be­fore they are ready. If we want to bor­row from the Nor­we­gian model we would make it eas­ier for moth­ers to take long pe­ri­ods of time off work after each child without com­pro­mis­ing their ca­reers. It should be pos­si­ble for a mother to stay at home a whole year, then re­turn to work only to soon after stay at home an­other full year with baby num­ber two. That is some­thing women can do in Nor­way and still keep their jobs open to them with all the same prospects of then con­tin­u­ing on their ca­reer path. I doubt women in the UK have par­ity with the women in Nor­way and this should be the most im­por­tant work of the govern­ment first, to make sure that women are sat­is­fied with the con­di­tions of their ma­ter­nity leave. What would be use­ful is if other fe­male mem­bers of a fam­ily, es­pe­cially the grand­mother, could ac­cess paid time off work to pro­vide sup­port to the new mother. This would be more in line with the re­al­ity of how a young mother pre­pares to nur­ture her child, with ideally her mother’s sup­port or the sup­port of her mother-in-law. Men shouldn’t be seen to be on the front­line of baby care. Too much em­pha­sis on the role of the fa­ther has cre­ated prob­lems for women when it comes to a di­vorce in the early years of a child. A mother should never be ex­pected to be sep­a­rated from her in­fant, yet giv­ing men equal sta­tus in di­vorce cases means women could have to share the care of their young child with the fa­ther. The place of the mother has to be given most sig­nif­i­cance. All too often women are dis­crim­i­nated against when ap­ply­ing for jobs be­cause they might plan to have a fam­ily. Mak­ing 12 weeks of pa­ter­nity pay manda­tory for men could have a sim­i­lar neg­a­tive ef­fect on the ca­reers of young men, who could find them­selves dis­crim­i­nated against if they let it be known that they in­tend to start a fam­ily. In this case young fam­i­lies would run into even more dif­fi­cul­ties than they do now. It could even tran­spire be­cause of this that the manda­tory pay­ments wouldn’t be wel­comed by young men. Fi­nally the con­sid­er­a­tion comes to em­ploy­ers. I think that if em­ploy­ers are find­ing manda­tory pay­outs dif­fi­cult to take on board then the pri­or­ity has to stay with the needs of moth­ers. In this re­spect, em­ploy­ers still have a lot of work to do to make sure that women know that ma­ter­nity leave is their right and that it is a positive thing that should be em­braced without feel­ing guilty in any way.

In my opin­ion the first few weeks after the baby is born is best kept as an af­fair of the woman...

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