- Even a few years back, the notion of men availing paternity leave would invite derision and snigger from different quarters. In a largely patriarchal society like India, one could imagine how people reacted when someone broached the topic of availing paternity leave to assist women postpartum with accompanying responsibilities handling a newborn. No surprises to guess reactions forthcoming as expectedly disdainful, dismissive and condescending reproaches will freely flow from the patronizing lot. Changing diapers and nurturing infant does not portend nor glorify pre-conceived notions about masculinity, you see.
PC: Kajal Kundalia
- As the times evolved, gender equality slowly started gaining traction allowing for mutual sharing of responsibilities even while raising progenies as well. Most of the urban dwellings have nuclear family’s and as such, married couples deciding to extend their families usually used to bank on elderly parents to bail them out by offering to take care of the newborn. At least for the initial few weeks or months depending on their availability and of course, health permitting, most often than not obliging elderly parents were the saviors.
- This scenario used to be a common denominator in the urban and semi-urban centers not so long ago. In a welcome change, call it progressive or pragmatism or simply understanding and caring, men have realized they too are not only expected to share the responsibilities of nurturing newborn infants but also extend whatever help/support to the female of the house in day-to-day chores. Gradually, the prospect of childbirth and infant care traditionally considered as purely women’s domain paved way for fathers essaying a distinct role in a child’s formative years.
- Thus emerged the concept of paternity leave for men to compliment women in their endeavor to see through the excruciating energy-sapping and mood swinging initial weeks of childbirth. Though India does not have a national policy yet on extending paternity leave for the eligible, the central government employees can avail 15 days before or after the birth of their child. Most hearteningly, some corporations now allow up to 26 weeks of paternity leave but somehow the majority of men are still reluctant to make good use of it.
- Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli seeking and getting permission to avail paternity leave has indeed opened up the debate on masculinity habitually associated with child rising. Research substantiates that men actively participating in feeding and bathing children tend to positively affect the emotional and cognitive growth of children and also in terms of life satisfaction for fathers. The hurdles faced are more social and cultural as child care is seen as a favor to women rather than a working family’s unavoidable need. This notion is changing for good.
- Men extending a hand in child care would possibly help women from dropping out of employment or work twice as hard to keep home and job together. Otherwise, compromising women invariably had to drop out allowing men to carry on undisturbed in their careers. It’s a no-brainer to see a win-win situation emerging for the family when men decide to share the responsibilities for a few weeks that will go a long way in sustaining the needs for subsequent years. Forget about masculinity or feminine identity, equal responsibility alone matters.