January 24, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
It appears that this writer, Mava Enoka, woke up one day and discovered anti-dad discrimination in a couple of areas of New Zealand life (New Zealand Herald, 1/23/18). She’s now so expert on the topic that she’s written the linked-to piece advising all of us what needs to be done to make fathers and mothers equal. Predictably, she gets a lot wrong. But, to her credit, she gets some things right that need saying.
For me, the first signs that imbalance existed in the perceived roles of mothers and fathers came on the day my son was born. My husband rushed from work to be by my side but after our son was delivered, it felt like he was expected to go home.
The nurse at the hospital seemed to think he was an extra in the scene, perhaps not quite understanding how babies are made. My husband wasn't allowed to lie or sit with me on the bed, he certainly wasn't allowed to stay the night with us. He wasn't allowed to use the toilet next to our room. He wasn't allowed to be in the room after 11pm. Here is literally 50 percent of the child, my primary support and partner, who was made to feel like he shouldn't be there at all.
And it was more than his feelings at work. Apparently the hospital at which their child was delivered has a policy of no dads allowed. That was even true of one woman who’d had a C-section and couldn’t even get out of bed to see to her newborn. Dad? He could have done the job and saved the hospital precious staff time in the process, but he wasn’t allowed on the premises after a certain hour. As Enoka points out, that delivers an unmistakable message to both fathers and mothers.
Unfortunately, while Enoka understands that the hospital’s policy is wrong in many ways, her article is another that seems to conclude that, with a few tweaks to parental leave policy, everything will be hunky-dory.
Currently in New Zealand a parent is entitled to 18 weeks of paid parental leave, although "paid" is a strong word…
The primary eligibility for paid parental leave lies with the mother. She can transfer all or part of her entitlement to the father, if he's eligible…
In New Zealand, mothers are usually the ones who take the significant chuck of parental leave. A 2009 report by the Families Commission found that out of 1721 fathers surveyed, 42 percent working full-time and 54 percent working part-time were unable to take any parental leave.
Interestingly, Enoka’s hymn to the wonders of parental leave and the necessity of fathers being equally entitled to it doesn’t extend to her own husband. By law, she has 18 weeks of leave, any part of which she can transfer to her husband, but he took only 2 ½ days off work to be with his new child. She explains that by the fact that he’s the primary breadwinner in the family and they couldn’t afford for him to take more time off.
Does it occur to her that the same is true in a great many of Kiwi families? Does she grasp the fact that, because that’s the case, the law can grant dads all the leave it wants, but most families will be unable to afford for them to use it? Does she realize that those facts mean that her “solution” to the absence of fathers in children’s lives is no solution at all?
The answers to the above questions are no, no and no, respectively.
Meanwhile, does Enoka once mention family courts? No to that question too. In New Zealand, as throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, courts adopt the same anti-dad bias that the hospital demonstrated so pointedly. But to that issue, she’s deaf. Perhaps next time she’ll use her space in the NZ Herald to call for parental equality in family courts. After all, while parental leave has been shown time and again to make little difference in parental behavior, family courts are one of the major reasons why so many children are effectively fatherless. As such, family courts are uniquely situated to make the biggest impact on that worst of all social problems.
Still, despite the many flaws of her piece, Enoka does deliver some information that every reader needs to know.
Perceptions and stereotypes of fatherhood need to be challenged, too. Specifically, the idea that babies need their mums at home while dads, who are not as innately nurturing, should keep working.
Nathan Mikaere Wallis is part of the Brain Wave Trust and X Factor Education. He has been a lecturer brain development, language and communication. He says there's nothing inherent that makes women better parents.
"There is no scientific evidence that I'm aware of that genitalia has anything to do with your ability to parent a baby."
It's about attachment and who pays quality attention to the baby. The human brain is more concerned with finding someone who will provide it with intimacy and language rather than the gender of the person, he explains.
"The stereotype isn't really true. Men are incredibly nurturing and loving and can have sustained, reciprocal interactions with infants."
I wonder if any family court judges read her article.
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#parentalleave, #fatherlessness, #familycourts