Ben Foden may be a top rugby star in his own right when he turns out for the Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership or for England in the Six Nations’ tournament, but he is also proud to be a doting father off the field for his two-year-old daughter Aoife Belle. He has even gone as far as to state that he feels just as at home changing nappies as he is when on the rugby pitch.
With that thought in mind, he has decided to back a government drive that is hoping to encourage fathers to take their parenting roles more seriously and to increase their involvement in helping to raise their #Children from when they are born. He voiced his belief that nowadays “women can just as easily be the main breadwinner as men”, clearly recognising the talent and earning potential that his own wife has as a member of the successful girl group “The Saturdays” (they are valued at around £2.5 million at present). The full-back dismisses the historic stereotype of the man going out to work, while his wife (or partner) remains at home to look after the home and their children, thus sacrificing any hopes of a career of their own.
His views are not universally backed by other celebrity (and non-celebrity) fathers, as evidenced by the thoughts of another man who was faced with the same dilemma in recent years. X-Factor’s Simon Cowell was adamant in his views, asserting that “I’m not doing that, 100 percent absolutely not going near that” when asked if he would be changing nappies.
Foden’s backing comes at a time when the government is introducing changes to the law to allow parents to share their ‘maternity’ leave for raising newborn children, a policy change that applies from April 5th this year. Under the revised law, as much as 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay may be utilised across the parents involved instead of just being for the mother of the child. That begins after an initial two weeks granted for the mother to recover from childbirth itself. Presently, the only option for the man is to take two weeks off as ‘paternity’ leave.
Employment website “Glassdoor” held their own survey in an attempt to establish whether the changes were likely to have backing, with a tell-tale three-quarters of men from the 2,000 men and women asked being against the changes. The government’s own forecasts have the figures at somewhere between 2% and 8% of men taking up the option for sharing the leave in the first year.
It remains to be seen how many fathers would actually be willing to roll their sleeves up and share the duties on a more formal footing, rather than when time permits after their working day ends or at weekends. Many may outwardly welcome the opportunity to share the duties but inwardly (secretly) be glad to escape the rigours of childminding for a few hours. The novelty of being with their newborn may soon wear thin after a while, when the reality of feeding, washing, looking after a sick or teething child and mopping up after the child has thrown up, besides all the other chores around the house have been factored in. There is no guarantee that the father would actually be any good at childminding neither, despite their apparent well-meaning intentions. #WorkforceSome fathers may also see it as hampering their career earning potential or lowering their perceived status within the workplace, as other workers are able to progress their careers while they are away from work. The jury seems to be well and truly out on whether or not this policy change will bear fruit.