Raising Children, It’s Not Just a Mother’s Job

It should not be taboo for fathers to be involved in their children’s lives (Source: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Popular media and sentiment has lead the Indian, and worldwide, public to believe that raising children is solely the mother’s job. This has lead to a gender bias in parenthood, where mothers are expected to do much more in terms of parenting than fathers. This has lead to paternity leave being given a stigma in Indian society. When speaking to Indian Express, Maneka Gandhi, the Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development claimed that: “Paternity leave can be considered only if, once the woman goes back to work after her 26 weeks of leave, we find that men are availing their sick leave for a month to take care of the child. Let me see how many men do that. I will be happy to give it but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything”. Reinforcing the idea that men shouldn’t be given paternity leave also reinforces the gender difference in parenthood.

These sentiments have been repeatedly disproved by studies showing that children with fathers who took paternity leave reaped long-term benefits. A study from the University of Oslo proved that children of fathers who took paternity leave generally received better grades in secondary school. Another study from four rich countries showed that fathers who took paternity leave were more likely to have an active role in raising their child even after their furlough had ended.

Therefore, there should be an active effort in Indian society to have an equal responsibility in raising children. Ideally, there will be rulings in the future that allow for paternity leave, but this is a far way off. There is some sort of allowance for paternity leave for public servants: the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 551 (A) which was passed in 1999 allowed civil servants and public sector workers to give 15 days of paternity leave to a father, granted he only has two living children. There is one main problem with this: it is gives only 15 days, which are available to public servants with only two living children. This is an extremely niche group of workers in society, and excludes an overwhelming majority of fathers in the workforce. Additionally, a little over a fortnight is not enough time for a father to create connections with their children or help the mothers of their children.

Children need the support of both of their parents. It is unfair to lessen a father’s role in life and to overly emphasise a mother’s role. This leads to mothers being less likely to return to the workforce, as the work that comes with parenting is left completely on the mother’s’ shoulders rather than being equal. This imbalance leads to the decline of women returning to the workforce after having children, as well as hindering a father’s influence on his children.