By Dr Alfred Murage
In these days of equality, men also enjoy the equivalent of maternity leave, albeit in unequal measure as most employers only allow two weeks. Paternity leave plays an important role, and no dad should let such an opportunity pass.
Paternal involvement in pregnancy and childbirth begins at the time a couple decides to conceive. This is a period of intense feelings and pleasure, which should be sustained for the whole of the pregnancy and beyond. The man should accompany his partner to antenatal visits, thus enhancing the family bond. The dad-to-be learns more about pregnancy and delivery, and serves as an advocate for his partner.
Ideally, paternity leave should commence when labour ensues, allowing men to attend the delivery. Women have the liberty to choose who accompanies them during labour and delivery. This could be anybody they feel comfortable with, but they should not leave their partners out. Who better to help with the delivery than the man who participated in the conception?
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Labour is stressful, and men come in handy with simplistic tasks that make the process more bearable. They can rub their partners’ backs, hold their hands, and help with synchronised breathing to ease pain. They can also be buttering rams; some have hand their fingers crushed with ever-tighter grips at the height of contractions. Others have been called unprintable expletives, all blamed on painful contractions, but quickly forgotten thereafter!
Mums are usually very exhausted immediately after delivery. It’’s dad’s time to make nice cups of tea, prepare three course meals and generally pamper their partners. Newborn care can be terrifying, but men quickly get the hang of it. They should be the first to arise when the baby cries, and needs a nappy change. If the baby is bottle-fed, the dad skilfully takes over, allowing his partner to have a well-deserved longer snooze.
The benefits of such paternal involvement are immense. An everlasting bond between the baby and dad is established pretty early, enhancing healthy growth and development. A caring father figure boosts the feeling of security for the family.
The mum also benefits. She feels cared for and loved, and can rely on her man to ease off the pressure of childcare. She reciprocates in kind; hence the benefits become two ways. The smiles of such couples tell it all, and they don’t take long to get into the family way again! And the cycle continues.
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Some dads, however, are only too happy to see the end of their paternity leave. They return to work with new enthusiasm, deliberately staying late to avoid baby chores. Their fatigue is also evident from sleepless nights with baby chores.
Unsurprisingly, there has not been much agitation from men to have paternity leave entitlement increased. But every dad-to-be should not let their paternity leave pass by.