Recently I’ve heard a decent amount of chatter in the US news about parental leave, and I have to say the more I hear, the more concerns I have about how the issue is being discussed.
It might be worth mentioning, for anyone new to this site, that while I am from the USA, I’ve lived in Japan since 2004. It is here where I met my wife and together we started a family with two young kids. It’s also here where I have to deal with a complex system (and culture) that still clings to the idea that women should leave work either when they get married or have babies, and that fathers should manly support the family by continuing working.
I don’t want to dwell too much on the issues I have with Japan’s system, but I will say that at least there is more of a system here for women to take leave from work and both recover from childbirth and be able to spend time with newborns. But let’s put all that aside and talk about dads.
First off, I heard some popular guys questioning why men would need paternity leave? After all, I recall them espousing, can’t women just do it all? What is there for a man to do?
That brings me to my own question: Which are these guys worse at, being husbands or being parents?
First off, are these gentlemen aware that babies are born with the ability to poop and pee? And, after doing such business it is generally preferred that the babies then get changed and cleaned up. I know, I’m soft hearted like that.
My crazy soft heart also extends to the belief after giving birth, people probably want to rest a little bit. They probably also still want to eat and I’m just guessing that they’d appreciate having someone prep food for them. And here is the thing, prepping food can be just ordering in, answering the door, and possible just putting the food on a plate for mama. That’s still one less thing she would have to deal with.
Because babies, even if the are in that super newborn stage where they are most likely asleep, create a lot of work. It is too much work for one person. Honestly, it can be pretty overwhelming for just two. And if there is already a big brother or sister in the house, who also likely still wants attention and to be fed and cleaned, things can get a little hectic, especially on a sleep schedule that can nicely be described as complicated.
Even after the smoothest of births it should be obvious to all that fathers taking an actively parental role shouldn’t be questioned. It shouldn’t even be encouraged. It should just be normal. We don’t “encourage” moms to be a parent. Why should fathers be different?
This brings me to the other side of the issue. Reading this far you might have an idea of some of my social politics. I tend to lean more liberal and progressive. But, if I’m being honest, while I support a lot of their ideas, I do think a lot of their messaging is pretty weak.
For example, when I hear issues of parenting and leave and childcare discussed it feels like 4 times out of 5, it is pushed forward as a “women’s issue.”
Please, stop doing that.
I get why parenting is seen as a women’s issue. In most homes a majority of the housework and childcare is still being performed by women. This also tends to be the case when both parents spend equal time working outside of the home. So, yes, traditionally and in many ways currently women are the expected primary caregivers.
But that needs to change as well.
Every time we present childcare as a women’s issue we are slowing down men’s collective involvement with parenting. Not only are we telling all the boys paying attention that childcare is women’s work, we are also justifying every boss who thinks a man’s place is on the job not in the home.
If we want to change premise that men are involved in childcare we need to also change how we discuss the basic idea of proper childcare. Childcare is not a women’s issue, it is a parents issue.
That is not to suggest that by simply changing this one point will all men rise up to be the proper dads we should be. Nothing is ever that easy.
But, I do believe that language influences reality. And the reality is we need more men to be the fathers and husbands their children and partners deserve.
After an extended hiatus, I’m trying to get back to regular updates on this site and am exploring other areas as well. For now, I’d love some encouragement, especially in the form of liking this post and/or leaving a comment. Cheers!