Don't stigmatise involved fathers

A father holding the hand of his child.
A father holding the hand of his child.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

I read with interest the article on dads not taking paternity leave (6 in 10 dads did not take paternity leave last year, says MSF, Aug 7).

One reason dads do not use up their paternity leave could be a lack of acceptance of fathers who are perceived to be overly involved with their families, as this contravenes the traditional role of men being breadwinners for the family.

A change in organisational culture is needed to encourage greater involvement from fathers after a baby arrives.

Employers should not stigmatise fathers who take time off to care for their families. They can encourage employees to take paternity leave by arranging for a colleague to cover their duties or allow flexible work arrangements.

Even if employers are supportive, fathers may feel a sense of guilt leaving their work behind.

Another reason fathers do not take paternity leave is they feel they are not required, given the help that is available to mums, from grandparents to confinement nannies.

With help on hand, there is a sense of stability and security for new parents. However, the family should not discourage the father's involvement in infant care duties as this may delay the sense of bonding fathers have with their babies.

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which reviewed 43 studies on depression in new fathers, said prenatal and post-partum depression was evident in about 10 per cent of men and was relatively higher in the three-to-six-month post-partum period.

The family can help fathers reduce the risk of paternal post-partum depression by involving them with their newborn babies.

Having a newborn child can be a joyful yet stressful period for the entire family.

The Centre for Fathering runs a Beginning Parenting programme to equip parents to manage stress in the family and effectively co-parent during this phase.

The course emphasises strengthening the marriage relationship because marriage is the foundation of the family.

Bryan Tan Hon Jonn

Chief Executive Officer

Centre for Fathering and Dads For Life

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2019, with the headline 'Don't stigmatise involved fathers'. Print Edition | Subscribe