I wonder if the new dads in question—even the progressive ones who are helpful around the house and actually want to film every second of the baby’s life—consider this a cause for celebration
I’m not sure how I feel about Virgin’s new paternity leave policy (yes, yes, virgin paternity is hilarious but moving on). If you haven’t heard, Richard Branson has been making headlines once again. This time, for a new paternity leave policy—new parents get year-long paid leave to spend time with their newborns. How cool is that, right? Except, not so much for the exhausted mom who has just pushed a three-kilo baby out of her body while the supportive husband threw up as she got her epidural. Since I was actually this mom (except, it was a c-section, the kind where you’re numbed but awake), I can say with some level of authority that this mom is going to feel somewhat cheated. I mean, she does all the hard work (and by that I mostly mean caffeine deprivation for nine long months) and she’s the one who’s going to have to wake up every two hours through the night for the next three months ‘cause the breasts are attached to her. But the father who got her into this mess in the first place, will now get to putter around the house—I’m sorry, “watch the baby grow”—with paid leave for one whole year, thanks to this new policy.
Do I sound bitter? I’m really not bitter. I know that there are so many fabulous dads out there and it is absolutely heartening to watch them do adorable things only fathers can do. It’s just that this was the one thing that was ours, you know? Maternity leave was a privilege that had to be earned with blood, sweat and tears—literally! And to think that it’s now just being handed out…I mean, if you really want to give the new dad something, how about a participation certificate?
Also, I wonder if the new dads in question—even the progressive ones who are helpful around the house and actually want to film every second of the baby’s life—consider this a cause for celebration. After all, it’s an established fact that there are few things that will drive you to the brink of sanity as spending every sleeping and waking second with a new mom. And this is true for the entire animal kingdom—I remember when our German Shepherd had her first litter and growled the hell out of her little room when anyone so much as set foot within ten feet of her precious little ones. Even though she was the kind of mom who rolled her puppies up and down the staircase and dropped them inside her bowl of milk for fun. It is just New Mom Logic: We may not know what we’re doing but we’re very sure that no one else can be trusted with the job.
I’m sure Richard Branson means well. But we’d have to wait and see how this pans out. Meanwhile, if he really wants to make a difference and lead by example, he should probably consider giving his women employees, menstrual leave—just the first two days of the cycle, every month. Screw tampon vending machines and campaigns to destroy the taboo around talking about your periods. It’s too late for that. I have been grossing out male bosses with vivid details of my period long before it became cool. And while I’ve had the nicest bosses, I don’t think anyone should be made to ask for sick leave when everyone knows the ‘sickness’ is going to show up every month.
And I know a lot of women who might have objections to this because they confuse the word ‘equality’ with ‘sameness’ and try to pretend they can do everything their male colleagues do even when they’re having a particularly awful period. To them, I say: You are an idiot. There is a gnawing pain in your legs that makes you want to chop them off, your back is begging you to lie down, there is basically Armageddon going on in your uterus and you are bleeding for days. You are not okay. You need rest. Period.
Oh, and almost forgot—Happy Father’s Day to all you fabulous dads, and thanks for everything you do. I’m just not one-year-paid-paternity-leave thankful.