Bob McCoskrie: Twenty-six weeks paid parental leave should just be for mothers

Stuff co.nz 30 November 2017
Family First Comment: It is currently being proposed that the 26 weeks of paid parental leave (due to be fully delivered in 2020 – why not immediately?) is shared between both parents. We believe mothers should receive their full entitlement to paid parental leave, and dads should be given a separate entitlement. By sharing the entitlement between parents, it means that mothers have to compromise valuable bonding time with their baby, and the policy is inconsistent with the Ministry of Health guidelines for 6 months of breastfeeding.

OPINION: As any parent will tell you, the period immediately following the birth of a child is one of the most demanding and difficult times for families. Mums are battling sleep deprivation, recovering from childbirth, breastfeeding, and coping with the existing demands of siblings.

Paid parental leave values mothers and parenting in general. There is growing evidence of profound beneficial neurobiological effects a mother’s physical presence has on her young child that cannot be achieved by anyone else, especially during the pregnancy and the crucial first three years – referred to as the “1,000 days”, starting from time of conception.

Mothers have been undervalued, and New Zealand is undergoing a timely and long overdue re-evaluation of motherhood.

Early childhood education is receiving $1.7b taxpayer funding every year, and yet our investment in hands-on parenting in these early crucial formative years has nowhere near the same investment. It’s time that changed so that parents can make a real choice. In reality, this policy would represent about 0.2 per cent of the total government spending.

But it is also completely appropriately, and in fact desirable, that the father is involved in this crucial period of adjustment and to support the mother. This will promote hands-on parenting by fathers, which is a good thing.

Research is now showing us that it is important that fathers be actively involved with their children and are not an optional extra. Fathers are fundamental to children’s healthy development as their involvement can improve the health, emotional well-being and educational achievement of their children. Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children are also less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighbourhood.

That’s why Family First made the first call for paid father leave of up to four weeks when the extension of paid parental leave was first debated in 2015. According to the latest OECD report, on average, OECD countries offer nine weeks of paid father-specific leave.

It is currently being proposed that the 26 weeks of paid parental leave (due to be fully delivered in 2020 – why not immediately?) is shared between both parents. We believe mothers should receive their full entitlement to paid parental leave, and dads should be given a separate entitlement. By sharing the entitlement between parents, it means that mothers have to compromise valuable bonding time with their baby, and the policy is inconsistent with the Ministry of Health guidelines for 6 months of breastfeeding.

Having children is a season of change and challenge for both the mum and the dad. As a society, we should do everything we can to enable and support new and young parents. It’s an investment that will yield great returns.
Bob McCoskrie is the National Director for Family First NZ
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/99391492/bob-mccoskrie-twentysix-weeks-paid-parental-leave-should-just-be-for-mothers

facebook_icon

Share