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Paternity leave left Paternity leave left
by Asa Butcher
Issue 16
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According to a study commissioned by the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti, more than seventy percent of Finnish men decide not to take advantage of extended paternal leave, and even fewer take the opportunity to be the primary caregiver. Don't they realise what they are missing by returning to their desk and paperwork before the umbilical cord stub has even fallen off?

The study discovered that the large majority of new fathers use less than 18 days of paid paternal leave despite the law allowing them to share 158 days with their partner. Working as a freelance writer from home has meant that every day has been spent in the company of my newborn daughter and it has brought us closer together. My wife is also at home on maternity leave so having both parents providing continual stimulus has proved beneficial for her development.

However, I am not going to detail how it has helped her because this is a selfish article about how great staying at home with my daughter has been for me. I am there when she wakes up in the morning, she can see me working at the computer while she has breakfast and she wanders in and out of the office throughout the day with special presents, such as the remote control we had lost.

Being at home during her first few months allowed me to become involved in her bathing and nappy changes, which are important to a father when the mother develops a bond via breastfeeding. Nobody knows for sure how influential the early months are for a person's character, whether they form the foundation for the years to come or are forgotten, but I did not want to miss out on the memories of my first child's early months.

What is more important than spending time from work engaging with your offspring? Would you rather be stood around the water cooler gossiping or sat cross-legged on the floor teaching your child how to blow a raspberry? Do men rush back to work to avoid changing nappies and helping around the house or are they just terrified of children?

I say 'terrified' in the sense that they don't know how to interact with a baby. They don't know how to play with one, they don't know how to talk gibberish to one, they feel self-conscious making silly noises in public, they have no imagination and they just feel safer in the work environment instead of learning these skills that will help them in the future.

There are men in the UK who also struggle to overcome this self-consciousness, but Finns have a reputation of being introverted and do not enjoy being centre of attention, which can be difficult when your baby is crying on a bus. Listening to a whinging baby on a bus, train or plane journey is irritating for other passengers but when it is your baby I always say, '**** them!'

Your first thought should be for your child, not what other people think of the situation, which is why men should say, '**** work!' and spend as much time with their newborn child. Remember that this is time you will never get back and you are missing out on some amazing moments…time to go, I can hear my phone ringing from the bottom of the laundry basket, so that's where she put it!


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