Well, why not? If, that is, it were available at any point up until the child was 18 or left school, whichever happened later.
I am all in favour of paternity leave. But I cannot see why it should only be available so early in the child’s life. Especially if the child is still breast-feeding, what, with the best will in the world, is the father actually doing all day?
Whereas a teenager, in particular, might very well benefit enormously if his or her father were in a position to say, “That’s it, I’m taking that bit of paternity leave I’ve been owed all these years, and since I’m either back at work the following Monday morning or I lose my job, then this will be sorted out by that Sunday night at the latest, oh yes it will be!” And I do not only, perhaps not even primarily, mean a male teenager.
So let him be able to take it. And let there be a legal presumption of equal parenting, the restoration of the tax allowance to fathers for so long as Child Benefit is being paid to mothers, and the restoration of the requirement that the providers of fertility treatment take into account the child’s need for a father.
There have many hostile reactions to the first of these suggestions, even though it is apparently an expression of mainstream feminism (not something of which I am often accused), when I have written about it in the past. And I know why.
Yes, there is the fact that this would kill off a good skive. Just what is he doing while, in particular, the child is still being breastfed? I mean, apart from being paid?
And yes, there is the fact that this is a challenge to one of the flagships or totems of New Labour smugness, namely paternity leave as presently arranged. They are terribly, terribly proud of having introduced it, and they simply assume, as is their wont, that everyone agrees with them.
But there are three rather deeper reasons for my interlocutors’ ire.
One is that I want the ability to sit around watching the television and feeling self-satisfied while the wife changes nappies to be replaced with an ability, and thus a firm expectation, that proper paternal authority will be exercised, not least in adolescence.
The second is that that authority requires an economic basis, namely high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as very often only the State can actually deliver.
And the third is that I do not regard, and cannot understand, the simple presupposition on the part of my critics that childbirth is some horrific freak occurrence, rather than something for which - now see if you can take this in - the female body is designed, so that women have been having babies for ever.