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Being modern: Paternity leave


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.