AS experienced a father as David Cameron may be, he absolutely needs to be around in these first formative weeks not just to build a relationship with the baby, but to help his wife and older children adapt as well. Crucially, he must establish a pattern of involvement that will last long into the future.
Should the situation be different because he’s Prime Minister? Yes – how can he pledge to make Britain “the most family-friendly country in Europe” without demonstrating those family values right now? Those who want him to lose out on this special time by remaining at the helm are short-sighted. Better to hand over briefly to Nick Clegg than give rise to the guilt and resentment too often faced by parents in similar situations. I’d rather the leader of our country be happy in his own home, enjoying the stability gained through sharing parental responsibilities, than that he’s turning to public office to escape the strain of family life.
This is an opportunity for David Cameron to redefine himself as a dad while demonstrating to the world the crucial role that fathers play in the family. Given what’s waiting for him at home, I don’t know why he wouldn’t jump at the chance to set an example. Andrew Watson is a commentator on parenting issues. His guide for new fathers, Be A Great Dad, is out in October, and his diary of first-time fatherhood, Down To Earth With A Bump, will be published next spring.
PATERNITY leave is supposed to be about enjoying your newborn baby and helping the mother out. But in my experience (having been through it twice), it’s a bit different. Mainly, I’ve felt like a spare part, of little use to anyone. Paranoid. Restless.
A woman who has just given birth has no need of the sperm-donor – she’s got her hands full enough. Until men grow breasts, they are pretty irrelevant in the very first two weeks. Mothers and NCT (National Child Trust) friends are far more useful, as well as able to talk babies 24/7. Me – I couldn’t stop looking at my BlackBerry and I imagine David Cameron is the same. Then there’s the question of who at the office might be using my enforced absence to stitch me up.
All of which leaves me wondering why I have to take this “holiday” now – my children, my wife and I would all rather paternity leave kicked in six months down the line. Caribbean holiday en famille, anyone?
Cameron refusing to take paternity leave would lead to mass disapproval, even though I’ll bet he’s dying to get back – at least while he’s in possession of a BlackBerry. But what people don’t understand is that in refusing his paternity leave now, he wouldn’t be setting a bad example. On the contrary, he’d be showing an astute understanding of the role and place of fathers in the childbirth saga. Harry Owen is commercial director of CityA.M.