Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's announcement that he would take a two-months paternity leave when his daughter is born is a huge indication that dads are not excluded in parenting duties--and that does not only include waking up in the middle of the night to change nappies, but also playing with their kids.
Actually, this isn't the first time we've heard about involved dads. It's rather the norm in the Netherlands. The Dutch have dubbed it "papa dag" or daddy day--and the benefits the whole family get from this is clear.
Danish kids have bragging rights (and the scientific data to prove it) to call themselves the happiest kids in the world. Why? Several reasons, but one of them is that their dads play a more equal role in raising them. They are more hands-on in taking care of their kids in all aspect of it, including bringing the kids to school, on errands, to the playground. In fact, Dutch fathers get incentives for working less and spending more time with their families.
While Daddy Day is still a very long way from being implemented in our country, dads still get to spend time with their kids. The Republic Act No. 8187 or the Paternity Act of 1996 allows fathers to take a leave for seven days, with full pay, for the first four deliveries of his wife. This can also be given to men whose wives suffered a miscarriage. However, the law only applies to married fathers who are living with their spouse. It's quite limiting, really, granted that this law was drafted more than 10 years ago. Today, dads want to be more involved and not just bring home the bacon.
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"I would really rather enjoy a day with my kids. I'm proud to say that I'm a hands-on dad, from diaper changing, bathing and dressing them, you name it, and I do it. And I would encourage all dads to do the same," admits Ken Ruben, who recently became a dad of three. While a mother’s instinct is there, there’s no denying that dads do develop a maternal side, too, when they have kids.
Dad-of-one Rene Borromeo adds, "It's not really that hard and complicated as it is imagined to be. Would I recommend it? It's every parent's obligation to take care of the child. That's not a suggestion. It helped me improve my parenting skills. I get to know my daughter more intimately, and therefore, I know how to better respond to her needs." This kind of attentive parenting is just what today children need is.
The good thing is we are walking the right path in terms of giving fathers the chance to spend time with their children. Back in April this year, Lower House Representative Edcel B. Lagman of Albay proposed a revision to the current law. He argues that a husband’s physical presence is essential to the recovery of his wife during the first month after childbirth, and that the government should make it mandatory that they get an additional 15 days of unpaid leave to give him time to help his wife recover after delivery, as well as take care of his child.
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"During the first weeks of a baby’s life, the family bond is formed and intensified daily as the baby recognizes his primary caregivers. A father also feels a great desire to hold his little one as much as his wish to provide financially for his family’s needs,” Lagman said. We can only hope that this law gets passed, but as of now, dads can freely use their vacation or sick leaves with pay to squeeze in quality time with their kids. Some dads even take a leave without pay just to be there for their kids.
Family therapist Steve Biddulph writes in his book Raising Boys, “Our fathers’ generation included a few great dads, but most men in those days proved their love by working, not by playing, cuddling, talking or teaching—the things that kids really love. The fact is, men bring different things to parenting, things that are unique and irreplaceable.” It’s not too late to overhaul our parenting culture. The time is right to push for a more equal parenting between moms and dads, which can in turn protect, uplift, and usher the Filipino family towards a better future.
Sources: November 11, 2015. Why are Dutch Kids so Happy? Maybe it’s the Weekly “Daddy Day” (goodmenproject.com) September 19, 2013. “The 8 Secrets of Dutch Kids, The Happiest Kids in The World” (findingdutchland.com) June 20, 2015. “Philippine laws that shape the 'padre de familia' role” (cnnphilippines.com) April 6, 2015. “Lawmaker wants paternity leave extended from 7 to 30 days” (philstar.com)