Don't treat paternity leave as more paid leave

I am amazed at the vigour with which the subject of extended paternity leave is being debated ("Extended paternity leave a burden for SMEs" by Mr Francis Cheng, and "Dads exert strong influence on kids" by Mr Tan Chin Hock , both published on Wednesday).

It begs the question: Will extended paternity leave make any difference to the development of a child?

I am a father of three, all born in the 1980s.

During that time, the organisation which I worked for granted me three days' paternity leave.

To me, it was useful and sufficient. I view paternity leave as time to be used in doing last-minute necessary errands, preparing for the discharge of mother and baby from hospital, helping the mother to settle into her new role, and finalising a routine, given the addition of another member to the family.

It cannot be denied that fathers have a great influence on the development of their children, but to think that this can be achieved through extended paternity leave is a myth.

The emotional, psychological, mental and behavioural development of a child is a long-term process, especially crucial during his growing-up years. This is the time when parental engagement will help to shape character, outlook, attitude and values.

Let us be mindful that quality rather than quantity of time matters more.

A baby is too young to make sense of his surroundings, let alone be able to engage with his father, even with extended paternity leave.

So, while extended paternity leave is a welcome gesture, it must be granted for the right reason, and not as additional paid leave.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2016, with the headline 'Don't treat paternity leave as more paid leave'. Print Edition | Subscribe