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HomeWorldIN FOCUS: Child's play? Why many fathers don't take paternity leave and...
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IN FOCUS: Child’s play? Why many fathers don’t take paternity leave and why experts say they should

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IN FOCUS: Child’s play? Why many fathers don’t take paternity leave and why experts say they should

When his first daughter was born in 2017, he and his wife did not have any other help, Mr Lee said.

He did the housework, took care of diaper changing for the first two weeks, bathed the baby and ensured that his wife, who was recuperating from childbirth, had enough food.

“My wife was sleep-deprived, and it’s important that one person is there functioning normally and providing support in whatever way that we can, and I think it’s the husband’s role to do it well,” said the 38-year-old.

The second time round, in 2020, Mr Lee looked after his older daughter who was then three years old so that his wife could take care of their newborn without worrying too much about their older child.

BENEFITS OF TAKING PATERNITY LEAVE

Taking paternity leave has benefits, experts said, urging fathers to use their entitlement.

Yale-NUS College Associate Professor Anju Mary Paul said that studies show that fathers who take paternity leave soon after their children are born and are involved during those stages tend to be more involved for the rest of their children’s lives.

“That’s why it’s important to take paternity leave because it starts them on the right path,” said the sociologist who studies policies protecting family caregivers and paid domestic workers around the world.

Paternity leave is a time for husbands to support their wives during a time of transition in the family as well as start building a bond with their babies from birth, said Mr Bryan Tan, chief executive of non-profit organisation Centre For Fathering which promotes active and involved fathering.

Fathers who support their wives and are involved in their babies’ lives tend to experience greater satisfaction in their fathering journey, as well as less conflict with their wives, he added.

“This not only benefits children, it strengthens the marital relationship, and (that) also has long-term benefits for children,” he said.

He said that fathers who care for, nurture and play with their babies also raise children with better language and cognitive skills.

On the work front, a company can reallocate its resources when a member of the team goes on paternity leave, Mr Tan said.

“We know from experience that many things would crop up at home in the first four weeks of a baby’s arrival that would require the dad to be away from work at short or late notice. Planning for paternity leave would help to mitigate the disruptions at work,” he said.

A local study by NUS also found that children whose fathers took paternity leave are significantly less likely to have behavioural issues such as hyperactivity or anti-social behaviour.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

MP Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon), who has raised the issue of paternity leave in Parliament more than 10 times, said that a study needs to be done on why men in labour-intensive jobs are less likely to take paternity leave compared to those who are professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) – a finding from the NUS study.

The study should also look into how Singapore’s policies can be adjusted to help them, he said.

“We have been looking at workplace culture (as a barrier to taking paternity leave), but actually, it might just be workplace culture for the lower-income,” he said.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said that company culture, individual mindset and social norms are some of the factors which may affect how men choose to utilise their paternity leave, and these will take time to change.

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children IN FOCUS: Child’s play? Why many fathers don’t take paternity leave and why experts say they should

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