"You are taking paternity leave?! Wow, that is a week of watching TV and relaxing eh!"
Have you heard this at work? I have! A superior of mine said that to me when I was an excited young dad preparing for the birth of his first child. How do you think I felt?
I wasn't even given a chance to prove myself. I was gutted.
"You are sharing your maternity leave with your husband?! Are you sure he won't just be bumming around at home?"
That was the first thing Debra shared with me when I picked her up from work that day. She felt angry that anyone would direct an insult at her husband. I was angry that such generalisations are allowed to be spoken so casually.
Then I realised, this is common!
I do need to qualify that there are lazy men and bad husbands who choose to neglect domestic and child-rearing duties. However, it is far more common than it has ever been for dads to be as involved as moms.
Why this is discrimination and should stop
1. It affects our jobs and appraisal
People perpetuate the idea that men are useless at home, useless with kids and useless as husbands. They perceive men to be slacking when they apply for paternity leave or childcare leave. This affects your superior's perception of you even if you are genuinely taking leave to care for your children. How would your appraisal look if you took a several days off? That is discrimination.
2. It affects our marriage
"Should I apply for childcare leave? How would my boss view me?"
How would your spouse view you if she is always the one who takes childcare leave? How would she feel about your level of commitment if she is always the only one caring for the children?
3. It is WRONG.
It is unjust and prejudicial. If people made unjust remarks and treated another person distinctly different because of their gender, sexual orientation or race, that constitutes a crime (in many developed and civilised nations). Why is it okay for people to perceive/judge men this way?
4. It is hurtful.
I felt hurt that my contributions towards my home are not valued. It was actually viewed with suspicion.
5. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy
If you make a generalisation long enough, it becomes a norm. If equal contribution between parents is something we all desire, speak life into that!
Give them advice if they ask. Just say "good job" if your colleague brought his baby to a company dinner because there was no care arrangement. Don't say "wow! You can care for the kid alone without your wife?!" It will appear condescending even if you didn't mean it.
Don't discourage men from being great dads and husbands by making irresponsible behaviour the expected norm of men.
Make feeding the baby, changing diapers, cooking for the family, baby carrying and household chores the new norm if it isn't. Encourage your colleague to be the greatest dad and mom they can be.
Kudos to all the loving dads for your labour of love! Don't lose heart!
Read the entire "The Odd Life" Series HERE!
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.