Jan Ravens: Paternity leave? Good idea, but can we have just a bit at a time?

Hair encrusted with purée won't go down well with the chicks

Share

So, what do we think about men getting six months' paternity leave? It will certainly even things up in the world of work. Now, men too will have that "Sorry? And you are?" treatment that women returners have had to go through when their mothering responsibilities are discharged. But a good idea to give couples more choice over how they divide up paid work and childcare. Yes?

Ripple dissolve and plinky flashback music to 1987. I have been in labour (and agony) for 18 hours. We had attended active birth classes, so I had expected a drug-free, squatting earth-motherly experience. I am only five centimetres dilated and approaching the end of my tether. "Give me some drugs!" I scream. "I want an epidural!"

"Now," my then husband intones, "remember the birth plan." At this moment, I know our marriage is doomed. Since then, too, I have wondered whether it is at the obstetric and post-natal stages that men's time can most valuably be used. Couldn't the six months off happen later? Possibly in bite-sized chunks?

It's like when you were little, saving up your sweeties to eat later when all the other kids have finished theirs. Similarly, my sisters, put your time in early on, and later you can reap the rewards. When your offspring requests endless games of football and cricket; when it is time to train him to ride a bike; and when it's time to go tenpin bowling, paintballing or to one of those ghastly deafening places where they all fire lasers at each other, then you can tell your darling co-parent it's his turn, and that you are off to indulge in some late-onset binge drinking or to run up soft furnishings - whatever.

If a woman is going to breastfeed for the first six months, say, then she has to be around anyway. No, don't talk to me about expressing, because I'll have no truck with that. Enough painful and unattractive things have happened to the mother's body without sticking your breast into something that looks as if it were invented by James Dyson. So Mum's in the milky-den stage, where the nearest you get to a funky accessory is a congealed muslin square; and where you imagine your partner leaves you every morning for some golden land full of glittering chatter and glamorous assignments (which is in fact more likely to be a day cooped up with all the other arses at West Ruislip Polymers).

At this point, most women don't really want the guy to take paternity leave; they want him to take husbandry leave. Women can look after the babies (genetics, programming, etc), but we do then need someone to look after us - to cook the dinner, buy us some carrot cake, stroke our heads (no, don't go near my tits), and generally do the kind of pampering that doesn't involve infant sanitary products.

I am not some person from a Tory think-tank on family policy. I don't think that men who want to spend time with their babies are a bunch of wussy Jessies. I know lots of men who take to fatherhood very naturally. Great that they can choose to be with their new offspring. But gentlemen, beware. Remember that Nineties poster of the muscly boy in the faded denim jeans sharing a fond gaze with a gorgeous cherub? It isn't going to be that way. So any guys contemplating full-time childcare as an image-enhancing exercise, think again. Trackie bottoms and hair encrusted with Hipp Organic spinach purée isn't a look that's going to go down well with the chicks.

But the trade off is that you get to spend all those precious moments with your little treasure - and a few years down the line it's Mrs Highflying Businesswomen who has to go to Laser Quest.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?