Employed new fathers have been able to take advantage of two weeks’ paid paternity leave for a while now.
But proposed legislation is consolidating the rights of fathers to extend the leave to nearly a year. Not paid like those first two weeks, but still, a year!
I’m recently back at work after 11 weeks’ unpaid paternity leave at home with my daughters, a four-year-old and a 12-month-old.
Even that brief window convinced me that we fathers are about to be handed an opportunity to push the concept of parenting into new and exciting areas.
Here’s what I learnt:
• Never demur at the opportunity to serve cous cous to a 10-month-old: surely the most dynamic and interactive dining experience available.
• A few narrow-minded parenting manuals pooh-pooh the idea of a lone parent undertaking DIY with small children. Not I! That shelf will be up in weeks, literally.
• Get yourself a man-pinny – the children will respect your authority and your partner will be aroused as never before.
• Forbid the children from watching OOglies on CBBC at all costs. It’s dark, it’s violent, it’s too good for them, frankly.
• We all lose patience with the food preparation – accept that paternity leave is fundamentally like running a crap restaurant and you’ll be back on track.
• Point out where your wife has been going wrong in her own childcare. Follow up with an email. She will see sense and the necessary changes will be made.
• Let the four-year-old take charge of the baby whenever possible – nothing is more important than the special bond between them.
• The pre-school pamper night: it starts with prosecco and facials, it ends in The Greatest House Anthems... Ever! and a punch-up over a missing lunch box. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
• Accept mums’ play-date invitations, and enjoy the always surprising reaction of husbands when you next see them and tell them how much you love what they’ve done with the bedroom.
• Agree to impersonate your four-year-old’s favourite Toy Story characters all day long for a rich and varied interior life.