Sunday, 5 April 2015

On leave

I am writing after a sleepless night (here I was thinking that once we hit three months baby O would sleep in longer than two hour intervals...) and with the help of a sling. Baby O is blissfully asleep against my chest, probably lulled by the rhythmic movement and sound of my fingers on the keyboard. 

As a new parent I have been reading a lot of articles on parenting. This week this one made quite an impression on me: 

I am definitely a newbie at this parenting thing, yet I have already done quite a few of the things that I had vowed never to do: I have given sugar to my 20 month old, have bribed him with bananas and breadsticks if he would sit on his buggy so we could leave the playground, have more than once violated the sacred 7 pm bedtime and have more than once dressed him in yesterday's clothes (more on a post to come). It's ok, I can live with myself. 

However, there is one thing, an idea more like it, that I am adamant about keeping. And that is the idea that D and I are both equal parents. I might be at home more, I am still on maternity leave after all, but we still try to keep a balance for our sake and the sake of our two boys. 

Maternity leave in Greece for most mothers (but not all, some have more, some have a lot less) is around 9 months and I am hoping to take most of it. I was shocked to find out that paternity leave is only 2 days! I guess what a lot of dads do is take some of their annual holiday at the time of their partner's birth, yet that's not possIible for many, including teachers. And so two days it was.

I know that in the UK they are keen to get you out of matenrity hospital as soon as possible (and I can see why) and I realise that a lot of women don't even go into hospital to give birth - homebirths are certainly on the increase, but for my first birth I wanted the reassurance of a big hospital and intervention, should it be needed, close at hand. I also enjoyed staying in hospital for three days after the birth, food and care being provided while all I did was cared for my little one and rested. I did miss J and D, and J could not visit due to rules saying that children are not allowed on the maternity ward, but he didn't seem to unsettled and very importantly I got some time to establish breastfeeding with my little one. 

I was upset by the two day provision, however. O was born right at the end of the Christmas holidays and D was not allowed to take any further leave. That meant that less than a week from the birth of his second son (and if it hadn't been for a snow day, before I had come out of hospital) he had to return to work, leaving the exhausted new mother with a tiny baby and a toddler. 

I was lucky - a quick and natural birth had not left me exhausted or hurting and O, although premature, started gaining quickly and took to breasfteeding with gusto! Also J seemed to like his new brother and jealousy was limited to feeding times, which after about a week I managed to coordinate around naps and activities so as not too upset him. 

But the two days paternity leave has still been on my mind. All the more when I read articles like the one above... How is a man to bond with his baby? What is the role of the modern father? Is he just default breadwinner, while mum still does the bulk of the childcare? And how might that affect the children? Not to mention how it affects women's employment possibilities... 

We are unlikely to have any more children (at least not for a long while!) so maternity and paternity leave rights are no longer relevant to me. I do, however, think about just how lucky families are in Sweden, with all that quality time to gel, to get to know each other and to cement themselves in their new roles in the family. 

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