Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

Earlier this week, the law changed to enable men to share the leave that women are currently entitled to after the birth of a child. From 5 April next year, men can take up to 50 weeks of paternity leave, while their partners can go straight back to work.

The prospect of shared parental leave hasn't gone down well with British men, according to a survey in the Daily Mail . Seventy-five per cent of men are opposed to the new law, rising to 80 per cent for the over-45s. Only 10 per cent said they'd like to take full advantage of this new entitlement.

I can't say I'm surprised. It's not the prospect of having to compete with women on a level playing field that frightens men, but the thought of having to look after their babies for a year. As a father of four, I still have vivid memories of getting tangled up in nappies and spilling sterilised breast milk on my MacBook Pro. The fact that, until this week, men were only entitled to two weeks of paternal leave was a godsend.

After almost 12 years of family life, it's hard for me not to conclude that women are more suited to this work than men. My wife took to parenting like a duck to water, whereas I found everything to do with babies endlessly perplexing. Indeed, it all came so naturally to Caroline that she simply couldn't understand why I found it so hard. Often, she would angrily take over a task I was struggling to perform, such as assembling a collapsible buggy, and then accuse me of deliberately mucking it up in order to avoid doing it again. I went from being the head of the household -- at least notionally -- to being my wife's bungling assistant.

Defenders of the new law will point out that it's not mandatory for couples to share paternal leave. If they decide that Mum is better placed to take advantage of the leave than Dad, then they're free to do that. But in some households it will be more convenient for the men to take time off, whether it's because the women are earning more, or because the men would actually prefer to spend time at home. Prior to this week's change in the law, that would have been more difficult because only women were legally entitled to 50 weeks' leave, 37 of them paid, albeit quite meagrely. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.